Surf Work Outs: Staying Conditioned, Healthy and Ready For Surf

For those days that you can’t surf, whether you’re landlocked, have a crazy work schedule, the waves are not on or whatever the reason is thats keeping you from surfing, the most important thing is to keep your body conditioned so you’re feeling fresh, energetic and have maintained that strength for when you get back in the water. In this post, I’ll take you through a few key elements for achieving the goal.

Once I graduated high school and had a more open schedule and was able to surf more on my own time, I quit doing any works out at all at the gym because it was effecting my surfing, I was either too sore or too tired to surf. Once I came to that realization, I quite my gym membership all together.

There is no worse feeling than not surfing for a few days, a week or month and not feeling in control in the water due to your strength, stability or stamina. This lack of strength, stability & stamina can be detrimental for many reasons:

1) Safety: depending on the condition of the surf, if it’s heavy out there, you can actually be putting your life at risk by being out in the water when you’re not physically capable or just plain out of shape.

2) Crowds: do you surf in a crowd? Well, no matter the pecking order or your spot in the line up; if you’re tired and can’t surf because you’re out of shape, guys will be paddling circles around you, literally, to catch the next wave. Truly an environment of survival of the fittest. 

3) Satisfaction: I have my best surfs about 2-3 days into consecutive surf sessions. That’s the point I feel like I have gotten into my groove, my body is stretched out and limber and I’ve recovered my strength, stability and stamina. 

Why is strength, stability and stamina important? I believe these are the three, simple elements to success in surfing. Quick disclaimer, success to me is having fun, not becoming pro, I’m not a pro, though I have fun surfing therefore I’m sharing my success factors: 

1) Strength: surfing is a unique sport in that, there are really no everyday activities or sports you may have played in the past that can prepare your body for the sport of surfing. Surfing takes some odd muscles to paddle, balance, stand up and surf. I’m not going into specific muscles, though, the reason you can spot a beginner in one second is because they haven’t developed those muscles yet, muscles you can only develop from surfing consistently. Beginners look like a rag-doll held up by a string, paddling with the nose of the board in the air and their arms flailing all over the place. You know what I mean? What you need is a mixture of upper abs, chest, shoulders, upper and lower back. And of course your legs, hips and core once you’re actually up and surfing.

2) Stability: finding that stability, that spot on the board that you need to paddle and move forward efficiently, that method of keeping your body in a perfect form that makes you a shark in the water, giving you the ability to paddle quickly, duck dive smoothly and catch waves while moving and using the ocean, waves and environmental elements to your advantage. Learning how to move through the water eloquently saves energy, is more enjoyable and keeps you out in the water longer, mostly all products of balance and stability while on your board.

3) Stamina: stamina is huge. For so many reasons. The ocean is powerful, you need to have stamina to stay alive and stay safe. Know your limits, if you’re too tired, get out of the water. Stamina also keeps you in the water throughout changing tides and conditions so you can experience that change in your local spot where it’s starts to get good when others had to get out. Stamina keeps you going around that crowd. Keeping your stamina has a lot to do with conditioning and acclimating your body to surfing, though I would say even more to do with how you’re treating your body. If you’re hungover, eat junk and have lack of sleep, chances are, unless you’re under 25, you won’t last long out there. Drinking is interesting, I notice a difference in my surf the next day if I have two or more drinks the night before. I also notice a difference with the lack of carbs eaten & water consumed within the last 24 hours. Treat your body right and your surf session will be more enjoyable. 

So, lets get into the works outs. I touched a little bit above that, you need to surf often and take care of your body to have fun out there. Though, if there’s something keeping you away from surfing and you want to be prepared when you get back out in the water, here are a few cheap and easy surf workouts to keep your upper body conditioned to give you strength, stamina and stability out in the water. All these can be accomplished daily for free, at your home in 15-30 minutes.

1) Push Ups: surfing is basically 100s of pushups. Every time you duck dive or stand up, you’re pretty much doing push ups. Push ups are great because they are compound work outs, meaning, you’re working out multiple muscles at once, which is extremely efficient, especially considering that they can be done anywhere for free. Muscles worked are chest (pectorals), triceps, shoulders (deltoids), serratus anterior (under arm pits & sides of chest) and the coracobrachialis (narrow muscle that runs from shoulder blade to the biceps). I find that 25 per day keep my body in check and ready for the water.

2) Pullups & Chinups: easy, simple and effective, this is also a compound workout, conditioning your lats, biceps, triceps, pecs and upper and middle back. 10 of each, daily.

3) Triceps: these will help you paddle and also standup/duck dive. You can work out your triceps by doing a diamond pushup or tricep dips at your local park, park bench, couch, what ever you can find. 10-15 daily.

By doing these three surf work outs and adhering to the principals above, you’ll keep your body conditioned for surfing when you can’t get out in the water, so you’re more refreshed and have that strength, stability and stamina when you need it most.