Surfing looks so easy. Little swim out, then sit on a board for a while chilling out, shooting the shit, waiting for the next big wave to come. But don’t underestimate the need for surf fitness.
It’s only when you’re a regular surfer who takes a break, or actually starting to surf for the very first time, that you realize the amount of concentration, dedication, strength, skill and training that it takes to catch a wave and ride it to the end, controlling your board with precision and confidence.
There’s nothing worse than having to cut short a surf session in epic conditions because your body is giving up. Aches and pains frustrate your progress in the water and probably last for a few days after.
If you don’t surf regularly your level of surf fitness will take a hit as you go about your day to day life. Normal workouts in the gym won’t effectively hit the muscles needed for strength out on the break.
Having said that, there are certain work outs which focus on specific muscles and skill sets which can enhance your surfing and help you stay in shape when you can’t hit the waves.
The bad news is – you’re probably gonna have to devise a routine yourself from the suggestions below as traditional gym classes and training are rarely geared to the particular skill sets and strength that you need for surfing success.
Whether you’re surfing regularly and suddenly need to take a hiatus from the waves, or you’re a beginner concerned with training the right muscles to improve your surfing performance, here are a few ways you can put together a surf workout for the break.
1. The Swim out
Think about it: the first set of muscles you’re going to be exercising are your back and shoulder muscles. Swimming out to the break is extremely physically demanding, and unless you’re riding a shortboard, you don’t have your legs to help you out.
The swim out demands extreme strength from the arms, but also an emphasis on the back muscles.
Doing laps in a pool with weights on your legs can be really useful, as can swimming laps keeping your legs fairly inactive during the workout. Don’t worry about being top heavy, because you’ll be working on your legs for the pop up.
2. Pop up
Vinyasa yoga, with its emphasis on combining breath with movement and the similarity between the vinyasa sequence and the pop up, is a perfect dry-land replacement when you can’t hit the waves. Many beginners – and many experienced surfers who took a little too long of a break – struggle with that movement from supine, lying on the board, to jumping up to a ‘warrior 2’ position on the board.
Maintaining that bent-legged warrior 2 requires enormous quad and calf muscles which squats and, again, yoga can help with, while a ballet ‘balance board’ can improve your balance hugely. Legs need to be strong enough to hold a squat position for a considerable length of time while using your feet to control your balance and maneuver the board.
3. The core
What holds everything together and helps you use your feet on the board is your core strength – the strength of your abdominal muscles which act as both your fuel, your core and your anchor while surfing. Any ab strengthener will work great on maintaining this strength – pulls up, push ups, sit ups, circuit training – but pay attention to detail and ensure that you’re pulling that tailbone down, tucking that chin without using it to shorten the ab contraction.
You need to get the full benefits, which means it’s going to hurt. The benefits will pay off when you feel the strength and security this will give you riding the board.
4. Aerobic exercise
Any kind of aerobic exercise which incorporates sprints is perfect for getting aerobic levels up to surf fitness par.
Try running with a heart rate monitor, doing 30 second intensive sprints up a hill, monitoring your heart rate back to a normal rate (around 80 or so), and then repeating.
You’ll find that doing this once or twice a week rapidly increases your recovery time, meaning that your body becomes more efficient at burning energy, and faster and stronger when it’s under aerobic stress.
5. Anaerobic exercise
Any kind of anaerobic exercise such as yoga, pilates – even ballet – which lengthens and stretches out the muscles while working on strength – can completely unknot those tired surfing muscles.
You’ll often see more experienced surfers stretching before they get in the ocean – but strangely you rarely see anyone stretching after surfing, when it’s probably just as important that those contracting muscles short of energy and oxygen get a chance to relax and breathe.
Surf fitness wrap up
We only scratch the surface of surf fitness in this article. The best way to get surf fit is to get a professional program and follow it as part of your daily routine.
We like the Surf Training Success program from Cris Mills of Surf Strength Coach – it’s designed specifically to keep surfers at the top of their game.
So when you get out for a session you can stay in the water for as long as the waves are pumping. And then not suffer the aches for days afterwards!
With the Surf Training Success program you will:
- Rebuild your body so you can move the way a surfer needs to
- Be able to surf without hurting, and not missing surf-time because of your aches and pains
- Deeper duck dive with increased upper body strength and stability… faster paddle-outs!
- Learn the tricks to dealing with your shoulder aches and back pain that is ruining your surfing
- Stop wasting your time and damaging your body with ineffective exercises
Bottom line, you’ll be able to catch more waves, and at the end of the day, have a lot more fun. Check out more details about the program by clicking the button below.