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At first glance, the phrase “surfing workout” can seem to be a bit of an oxymoron. After all, isn’t surfing about free-spirited self-expression on the waves? It’s not a traditional sport where a trainer guides you through a routine of strength-building exercises right?
We imagine surfers meditating and doing yoga on the beach, not pumping iron in the gym. There’s not a bench press in the back room of your favorite surf shop. But, while we’re not pushing for excessive gym time and protein shakes, surfers stand to gain a lot by doing a few simple exercises at home. That’s especially true if you don’t get to surf as much as you’d like.
Surfing well requires a high level of fitness that drops off quickly if you don’t stay active. No, it’s not a traditional ball sport where being able to spring a quick 100m dash is the goal, but still, exercising at home can make a huge difference in keeping you fit and prepared to surf at your full potential. So here’s a list of our top five exercises that you can do all year round to help improve your surfing.
Nobody likes doing core workouts, but they’re one of the best ways to stay fit and avoid injury surfing. Without a strong core, it doesn’t matter how fast you can paddle or how good your balance is, you’re not going to be able to surf well. So a whole gamut of different types of crunches is an important part of your workout routine.
The goal isn’t just to show off a sixpack when you get out of your wetsuit, although that is a nice byproduct. Instead, you’re trying to build a strong core fitness foundation that other exercises and techniques can build off of.
We recommend just sprinkling sets of 30 or 50 crunches throughout your day. A set right after you wake up, a couple breaks from work to crank out a few more sets throughout the day, and maybe one more right before bed is a good starting place. Investing in your core is always worth it, especially for a sport like surfing.
When you watch strong surfers, focus on their thighs, this is where most of their power and precision is coming from. This is one of the strongest muscle groups in the body, and it drives every turn and slash on the board. And the best way to keep those thighs in shape is squats. If you have a weight setup available, you can do traditional squats. But you can also build those thigh muscles without a gym. You can do unweighted squats just about anywhere, heck, you can even just jump up from your desk and crank out a set right there.
While traditional squats are great for building surfing muscles, dynamic squats are even better. Try leaping up out of the top of the squat, trying to channel explosive energy through your legs and feet. Do a set where you alternate jumping right and left, building those dynamic moves to help you drive the board through whatever the wave throws at you. Strong thighs make for strong turns.
Another good way to build those thigh muscles and also work on stabilizing muscles and balance is dynamic lunges. Drop deep into each lunge, and then pop out of it, focusing on keeping your ankles stable and your feet loose. Those leaps to landings will help build up the muscles that protect your joints and help keep you from popping or tearing something while you surf.
If you watch any surfing video, one of the most dynamic movements you’ll see taking place is when riders pop up from paddling to riding their boards. That’s where the ride is made or lost, if you can’t pop up quickly and confidently, it doesn’t matter how good of turns you can make, you’re not catching that wave. That’s where burpees come in, as they translate perfectly to this movement. This is also a good opportunity to not just build fitness, but also technique. Head into a surf store and start a conversation about different forms of getting up.
Watch how other people stand up, watch how they stabilize the board, and ensure that their feet end up in the right stance. And then use a mirror or a friend to analyze your technique. We all have room to grow in this arena, and you want your pop up to be second nature. So what better way to perfect it than to create a routine of a hundred or so burpees up into your ready position each day.
Paddling is one of the most exhausting aspects of surfing. Look at any pro surfer’s shoulders, they’re usually very built out. But you don’t need a gym full of expensive equipment, or a private pool to build your paddling muscles. All you need is a simple pullup bar. The key to building surfing muscles with your pullups is to vary your grip. Do sets with your hands facing in toward you, with them facing away, with a wide grip, with a narrow grip.
You want to make sure that you’re not just building muscles to do one specific type of pullup, instead, you want to exercise all the small stabilizing muscles in your shoulders as well. So do every kind of pullup you can think of, you’ll be thankful as you paddle into waves faster and catch them with ease.
Rylie is freelance writer, fitness blogger, and travel junkie. Originally from Toronto, she currently resides in Lima, Peru but is always on the move to discover new adventures.