Workouts for Surfing

One of the often overlooked areas of affected how a particular surfboard performs is changing the surfer that’s trying to ride it – that’s you!

One of the common answers to “how do I get better at surfing?” is often surf more. And while that’s certainly true, it’s kind of a cop out.

Yes, to become a better surfer, you’re going to have to surf more. However, there are some things you can do that will help facilitate that goal.

If you’re improving your fitness level outside the ocean or in a pool, you’re going to get less fatigued when paddling and you’re going to be able to put your focus and energy into the actual surfing of waves rather than paddling out or paddling into waves.

For a lot of surfers just starting out or even experienced surfers who are out of shape, the act of paddling can gas them to the point where their surfing will suffer if they’re even able to get into a wave at all.

Surfing Exercises & Workouts

Effective surfing exercises that will help you in the water are ones that will:

  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Improve your breathing and lung capacity
  • Keep you flexible and limber
  • Strengthen your core
  • Strengthen compound movements and muscle groups

What you probably don’t want is to become a big beefcake that can barely move your arms.

If you like to surf a lot, making time to exercise outside of the water can be difficult.

When given the option between surfing and going to the gym – 99% of the time, I’m probably going to go surfing. But, when I do end up at the gym or exercising somewhere, I try to do things that will help me in the water.

Surfing Exercises At the Gym

Whenever I’m at the gym, I try to focus on compound exercises, core strengthening, cardio, and full body workouts.

If you go to the gym and do nothing but bicep curls, you’re probably not going to help your surfing. You might just end up having trouble putting your wetsuit on.

Some examples of compound exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Dips
  • Bench Press
  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Rows

All of the above can be varied and mixed up with different angles, pauses, etc. to keep things interesting.

When I’m lifting weights, I’ll aim for anywhere from 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. I try to increase weight overtime, but I’m usually not trying to max out on anything.

I try to rest as little as possible, and superset where I can – mostly because I’m trying to spend as little time as possible in the gym, but also to improve cardio.

The most important thing when lifting weights is to keep good form and don’t go too heavy. Otherwise, you’re asking for an injury.

I’ll usually finish my time at the gym with a few sets of core exercises and a little time on the ERG.

Swim Workouts in the Pool

Swimming is a great way to improve your paddle strength and breathing. Swimming in the ocean would probably be ideal, but is not often practical.

The problem with swimming workouts is that they can get real boring. For me, it’s important to add variety whenever I’m swimming.

You don’t have to go crazy – especially if you don’t have a lot of experience swimming laps.

Total yardage in the pool doesn’t really matter – as long as you feel like you’re getting a good workout. I go for all freestyle, unless I’m doing something underwater.

With that in mind, you might try structuring your swim workout for surfing like this:

  • Distance/Endurance Warm-Up: Anywhere from a few 200s (yards), 400s, or a 500 or two.
  • Sprints: Mix up some fast 50s and 100s with little rest in between.
  • Distance/Endurance: Mix in a few more 200s or 400s.
  • Underwater/No Breathers: Swim underwater or freestyle without breathing. Go easy and try to work up to a lap.
  • Warm down.

Wear goggles and wash off that chlorine.

If you really want to mix it up, hop out of the water and add some push-ups and jump squats between sets. Just remember – no running on the pool deck.

Yoga & Breathing for Surfing

Yoga and stretching are excellent for your surfing fitness. Staying limber and flexible is key for pulling over some more critical maneuvers on a wave, and it helps you recover better from situations where you would otherwise have fallen.

You don’t need a yoga membership or even watch yoga videos to add yoga to your surfing workout.

Don’t over think it – yoga is just stretching, breathing, and clearing your mind.

To add yoga and stretching to your surf workout, all you need to do is find some time and space. From there, just do what feels right.

Do some stretches you remember from highschool PE, mix in some yoga poses if that works for you, focus on your breathing.

That’s all there is to it.

Balance Exercises for Surfing

Balance is another great skill to have for surfing.

Yoga certainly helps here, but you can practice your balance specifically as well.

You can do single leg exercises with just your bodyweight like:

  • Single leg squats/pistol squats
  • Single leg deadlifts
  • Lunges

You can also buy or make a balance board. It’s not a 100% translation to surfing, but they can be fun and improve balance.

You can also just start trying to balance on random stuff as you’re walking around or just going through life. I.e. Walk on a curb ledge, stand on one leg.

Again, not something to overthink.

Good luck!

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