Surf Fitness: Strength, Balance, and Flexibility Exercises

Surfing is a water sport that requires the entire body to be strong, agile, and flexible. Surfers battle with and against big waves, so they must be able to react quickly, yet stay relaxed if they are knocked off the board. While obviously the best way to become a good surfer is to surf a lot, there are other ways to improve your overall and surf-specific fitness. To be a strong surfer, you need strong shoulders and arms, good balance, and great core strength to keep you up on your board. Keep reading to find out how you can improve your fitness to become a great surfer.


Aerobic Conditioning

Surfers must be good swimmers; if they are knocked off their boards by a wave, they must be able to swim back to calmer waters in order to regroup and start again. If you are not comfortable with ocean swimming, start building some basic fitness in a pool, and gradually progress to open water swimming. Swimming also trains the shoulders, arms, and upper back muscles, which are important for paddling while lying on your surfboard. Surfing contains stops and starts; you can mimic the cardiovascular feeling and get fitter by doing interval training with jump roping, cardio and plyometric circuits, or running intervals. Try running or swimming hard for one to two minutes, then jog slowly for the same amount of time to recover; repeat this for up to 30 minutes.


Upper Body Strength Training

As stated above, surfers need to have strong arms, shoulders, and backs for paddling out with their boards and swimming when necessary. Use weights and machines to strengthen your upper body in integrated ways. Try dumbbell rows and lat pull-downs, triceps extensions, and push-ups. Wood chops with medicine balls or resistance bands will strengthen your entire body. If you have weak shoulders, do rotator cuff rotations, so you do not hurt them. In general, do three sets of ten to twelve repetitions of each exercise.

Lower Body Strength and Agility

Surfers' lower bodies must also be strong and agile in order to pop up to standing on the board, and then stay steady and balanced while riding waves. You should do some stationary and isolated exercises like squats, lunges, and leg extensions, combined with integrated, dynamic exercises like squat jumps and burpees. The burpee works the whole body and slightly mimics popping up to standing: start standing up with your feet together. Bend forward, bending your knees if necessary, and when your hands reach the floor, shoot your legs back to a push-up position. Do one push-up, then hop your feet in between your hands and stand back up. Repeat until failure.

Core Strength

Core strength is essential to good surfing; strong abdominals, hips, and backs will help prevent injury and give you better balance. Do integrated exercises like Russian twists with a medicine ball, forearm planks, woodchops with a medicine ball, bird dogs, and stability ball rollouts. Try to do 10 minutes' worth of core exercises with little to no rest; do any combination of exercises, switching every minute or so.

Balance and Flexibility

The last important elements to be fit for surfing are balance and flexibility. Your balance will improve by doing many of the strength exercises listed above, though you can also add exercises like one-leg balances or standing on BOSU balls. Yoga is a great way to keep you flexible and practice your balance; loose, flexible surfers can recover more quickly if knocked off their boards and have fewer joint injuries. Do 20 minutes of yoga three times a week to improve and maintain flexibility.

Of course, surfing is the best way to improve your surf-specific fitness. However, whether you are just starting or want to become a better surfer, you can benefit from extra cardiovascular conditioning, strength and flexibility training. Surfing, like other water sports, uses the whole body to paddle, pop up, balance, and repeat. You will need strong shoulders and upper back, along with a strong core and legs to keep you surfing from nine until noon.

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