It’s simple: getting fitter will make you a better surfer. There’s no advantage to carrying extra weight with you into the lineup. Fitter surfers catch more waves and make the most out of the waves they do catch.
Likewise, practicing good fitness habits goes a long way towards preventing injuries that can hamper your ability to surf well or even prevent you from surfing at all.
In this guide, you’ll learn the best surfing exercises to guard yourself against injury and turn your body into a surf-shredding machine. It will feature exercises to help when paddling out and when actually riding the waves you catch. Lastly, it will suggest a few stretches to include in your warmup routine to use right before you hit the water. Improving your ability to execute at these critical junctures will go a long way towards significant improvement in your surfing, whether you’re old or young, a beginner or an expert.
It’s important to remember that exercise is only one component of fitness. If you complement a killer workout routine with potato chips, fast food and ice cream, your ability to surf will suffer.
Target Activity: Paddling
Whether you are paddling out after catching a wave or sprint-paddling to be in position for the set that’s stacking out on the horizon, you need to be a strong paddler. These exercises focus on your deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboid muscles.
Prone Reverse Fly: Lie on your stomach on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand placed on the ground. Keep your feet on the ground for stability. Lift the dumbbells about one foot off the ground, using your shoulders and shoulder blades for power. Hold them at their apex for about a second, then slowly return them to the ground.
Kettle Bell Squats: While standing, hold a kettle bell or another balanced weight with both hands directly out in front of you. Start with your arms extended at 90 degrees from your body. Squat down while keeping your back straight and bending at the knees. Swing the kettle bell between your legs. As you return to a standing position swing the kettle bell back so your arms become extended in the original position.
Overhead Triceps Extensions: In an upright seated position, hold a dumbbell in your right hand over your head with your arm completely extended. Then, bending at the elbow, dip and raise the dumbbell. Be careful not to overstress your elbow; stop and modify the exercise if you begin to feel elbow pain.
Pushups: No, it’s not some fancy surf-specific exercise. But the simple pushup might be one of the best paddle-strengthening exercises out there. To focus on your rhomboids and upper back, place your hands closer together. For triceps and shoulders, spread them farther apart.
Target Activity: Waveriding
The best surfers rely on the strength of their core and legs while they’re actually on the wave. There are a few exercises that will test and train your body in ways that mimic the type of work it will be doing when you snag that first set wave.
Burpees: This exercise simulates the surfing pop-up and strengthens your core, legs, and upper body. Begin by doing a simple pushup. Then, at the highest point of your pushup, hop forward, placing your feet shoulder-width apart just behind your hands. Then raise your hands above your shoulders. Come to a standing position, bending at the knees and the waist. Complete this motion with a small jump. Bending at the knees and the waist, return to your original pushup position.
Box Jumps: Stand in front a of a sturdy knee-high surface. With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at your knees and jump onto the surface. Then jump off. It’s that simple. Do this a few times and your legs will begin to burn like you’ve made it through the Supertubes section of J-Bay.
Side Plank Rotation: In the plank position, raise your right arm and rotate so that your shoulders open to your right side. While keeping your left hand on the ground, curl your right arm back under your body so that your right hand crosses your left arm. Then uncoil again, extending your arm skyward and opening your shoulders. Repeat for one set on the right side, then switch to the left.
Flat Back Toe Touches: Lie flat on your back with your arms completely extended above your head. Raise your legs, keeping them straight and bending at the hips. Keep your arms straight and, using your abdomen muscles for power, touch your fingers to your toes. Return to the original flat position.
How many professional athletes have you ever seen begin their games or heats without warming up first? It never happens. Yet many surfers just hop out of their cars, grab their boards, and paddle straight into the lineup. This places them at increased risk for injury and limits their ability to excel in all facets of surfing.
Perform these movements quickly, but evenly. Long, slow stretches will do little to mobilize your muscles and prepare them for the quick muscle releases and contractions of surfing. Quick jerks also do little to help and place you at risk for injury.
All of these should be performed in multiple repetitions. Build a warm up routine for yourself based on how many reps it takes you to get loose.
Arm Rotations: These are simple but essential. Make small circles with your arms extended to the side, then gradually expand the circles until your shoulders are making the maximum rotation possible.
Ankle Rolls: Rotate each ankle for at least 20 seconds. It’s easy, but often overlooked.
Lunges: Facing forward, take one large step with your right leg. Keeping your back foot in place, move your core forward and downward until your back knee comes close to touching the ground. Then pop back up and return to your original position. Repeat with the left leg. For an added twist, rotate your upper body when you reach the lowest point of the lunge.
Lying T-Twists: Lie flat on your back with your legs raised at a 90-degree angle. While keeping your back flat on the ground, rotate your knees to the right side of your body. Return to the original position, then repeat on the left side.
Zombie Walk: With arms stretched forward, swing your right leg forward, then backward, as if your hip is a pendulum. Return it to its original position, then repeat with your left leg. This will stretch your hip flexors and hamstrings and help with balance. Practice gently; it’s tempting to swing your leg to its maximum stretching point at both ends, but this can shock your muscles and prevent them from getting loose.
Each surfer will need to tweak these surfing exercises to suit their body type, surfing style, and the kind of waves they ride. You should add weights and structure repetitions to suit your current fitness level.
Lastly, while you’re out in the water, don’t get lazy. Push yourself to be faster, stronger, and more active. There’s no better way to train than by actually surfing.