Surf Fitness: Urban Surfer’s Guide to Keeping Yourself in Top Shape For Surf!

Surfing is one of the most enjoyable sports, however it is also one of the most physically demanding. In order to be a strong surfer, we need the physical strength to paddle out, catch a wave, balance on the board and finally ride the wave! Effective surf training will help you to achieve more in the water, it will also help to keep you injury free! In this article I have broken down the elements of surf fitness into four categories and have given some exercises and tips for each one:  

  • Power
  • Single Leg Strength and Balance
  • Endurance and Stamina
  • Full Core Workout

These can be worked separately (i.e. work on a different element each day) or can be trained in one day. It is important to remember that if you are doing a full workout, you need to consider the order in which you complete the exercises. You need to place the most demanding exercises at the beginning of your workout so that you are still fresh. Power exercises must be trained before strength. Strength drills come before endurance. Single leg work should be kept at the start of a workout, these can be hard and particularly demanding on the nervous system. I tend to leave core exercises to the end of my workout.

Warm Up

Warming up is ESSENTIAL! The benefits include improved mobility and flexibility in your joints, less stiffness in your muscles, it boosts your heart rate which in turn improves circulation, and it allows for better reaction times and proprioception. This is also a crucial step towards both injury prevention and better wave riding! This warm up can be performed prior to hitting the waves, or before your surf workout! The goal of warming up the body is to prepare yourself both mentally and physically for any upcoming activity, thus allowing you to get the most out of your performance,

A solid warm up should include movements and mobility exercises which mimic some of the movements in surfing. The goal of your warm up should be to increase your heart rate, release any tightness in tissues, loosen up your joints and get your nervous system ready for action!

I like to start my warm up with a light jog, or a couple of minutes of skipping rope. Once I have raised my heart rate a little bit I go through this routine. This is a great dynamic warm up that hits all of the necessary muscles and joints needed for surf. It combines stretches and dynamic movements, it is pretty complete. Another great drill to throw into a surf fitness warm up are some good old-fashioned burpees! These are a great way to raise the heart rate and they also mimic the pop up on the board!

Power Training

Power is an essential tool for any surfer. It is essential to increasing your power production for bottom turns and carves. It will improve your general work capacity and cardio endurance. Simply put it will help you develop the strength to catch more waves and start ripping!

Working on power and explosiveness involves predominantly hip work. Exercises include:

  • Sprint work (uphill of course!) Sprints are a fantastic way to develop explosive power in your legs.
  • Kettlebell Swings are one of the best tools to teach athletes how to actively explode their hips.
  • Box Jumps are another great way to teach explosiveness. There are variations of box jumps allowing us to work on vertical and horizontal power. Check this link for more information on correct technique and the different variations.
  • Surf Specific Plyometrics – Plyometric exercises refer to those exercises which develop explosive power. This site has developed three great surf specific drills.
  • Olympic Lifts – for those Olympic Lifters out there, or CrossFitters, this is one of the best ways to work on power and explosiveness. Try a high hang snatch to completely isolate your hips!

All of these drills teach your body how to generate massive amounts of force, in a very short period of time, and that ladies and gents is exactly what power is! Explosive, strong movements that occur in a less than a second. Be sure to work on these movements at the beginning of your workout while your muscles are fresh. These exercises should NOT be performed under fatigue.

Single Leg and Balance Work

Single leg training is one of the best ways to work on ankle-knee-hip-core stability, balance, and strength. By developing single leg strength, it allows you to develop equal strength in both legs, so you are strong and powerful in every direction that you need to move in. Single leg drills also activate stabiliser muscles which help to protect your ankle and knee throughout dynamic movements.

  • Single Leg Deadlift helps to build stability and flexibility in the hips, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It challenges our balance and resistance whilst in motion.

Much like with Plyometrics, keep single leg drills early on in your workout in order to gain the most benefits, and avoid any potential injuries.

Endurance Work

In order to be a strong surfer, you need flexibility and strength for heavy paddling. Muscular endurance is another extremely important element of fitness needed to sustain stamina for an entire session.

  • Swimming: When training for surfing, one of the best elements of swimming is that it develops stamina. The all-around strength that you’ll achieve from training in the water is extremely beneficial to get your body used to spending a long period of time doing hard exercise. Read this for some advanced swimming endurance drills!
  • Skipping, is a great cardio exercise and requires very little space. We can carry skipping ropes with us wherever we go! Check the Surf Strength Coaches drills for interval skipping!
  • Interval Runs: one of the main goals of endurance training is to test our heart rates. Interval training is one of the best ways to do this.
  • Rowing: the rower is a great tool to drill endurance! Rowing Reviews have got some great ideas for endurance workouts on the rower.

Core Work

Contrary to popular belief our core consists of more than our abs. It is extremely important to work our full core and back muscles.

  • Plank variations: The plank is such a great exercise! Try 30 seconds plank on your hands, 30 seconds side plank on your left, 30 seconds side plank on your right and finish back where you started with 30 seconds in regular plank hold! For more plank-spiration check this link!
  • Rotation Work: is great for the core, this can be in the form of a Russian Twist, or a Swiss Ball Torso Twist, even Cable Oblique Twist (this can also be performed with a rubber band!).
  • Dead Bug: is one of my favourite core exercises. Like the beloved plank, there are numerous variations!
  • Push Ups: engage your entire body, reinforcing the core, aligning the spine and improving shoulder control. To challenge your core more, try performing push ups on a Bosu or Indo Board.
  • Back extensions: engage those glutes and work your lower back! Try doing these on the Swiss Ball to change things up!

In Conclusion

There are plenty of options for Surf fitness nowadays, The Indo Board is a fantastic tool for surfers! Yoga plays a major role in surf training it will assist you in lengthening and freeing pressure on the spine, opening the chest, working on some much-needed torso rotation, and opening your hips to help rebalance your body after surf. Wakesurfing is another incredible way to train for surf endurance, and to work on your board skills! It goes without saying that nutrition also plays an incredibly important role in surf fitness.

What do you do to keep in shape for surfing? Comment below!! Want to start surfing but not sure where, check my article on the UK’s top spots!

Stephanie Contomichalos

Stephanie Contomichalos is a sports enthusiast. She is an avid crossfitter, wakeboarder and has recently qualified as a Level 1 CrossFit coach. She is also an advocate for women’s sport and for using sport as a tool for development. She is currently living in Athens, Greece.

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