Surf Fitness

After lessons and paddle camps a lot of people have been asking, “How do I train for surfing when I can’t get to the beach?” Personally, I’ve never been one to go to the gym to work out. Surfing has been my exercise for the majority of my life. But as I get older I’m learning that surfing alone is not enough to stave off injuries. In fact, I’m finding that surfing, if not augmented by other wellness and fitness practices, can be the cause of a variety of joint and tendon injuries, mostly to the knees, hips, and shoulders.

These days there isn’t a pro surfer without a personal trainer or who has not designed his or her own surf-focused personal fitness regime. Just follow the top 49 pro surfers on Instagram. Kelly Slater posts pics of his largely plant-based diet; Sally Fitzgibbons documents her runs; and it’s not uncommon to see pics of indoor training facilities by shredders like Courtney Conlogue and Nat Young. Everyone in the surf world has caught the fitness bug. Being fit, flexible, and mindful helps you avoid injuries and surf better, at any level.

There are many upshots to this new trend, but I think one of the best is that these pros and their trainers are coming up with a variety of surf specific practices that a lot of other people in the fitness and wellness industry are blind to. And they’re creating videos and apps so that the rest of us have access to this information.

Here are my top two favorite surf exercises*, with links to some surf-focused fitness sites:

  1. Holding “plank.” This is the basic pose in Vinyasa Yoga between Downward Dog and Upward Dog (via the pushup) where you’re holding your body like a “plank”. It can be done on your hands or forearms. The goal is to get your body in as straight a line as possible without sagging or arching your lower back and butt. This activates your whole core and works on both your front and back abs. The back abs are crucial for all things surfing—paddling, popping up, duckdiving/turtling, sitting on the board, and riding the wave. Do plank multiple times a day and see how long you can hold it. Men’s Journal has an article on plank here. Another useful link from Greatist is available here.  


  2. Surfer pop-ups or surfer burpees. Practicing the pop up (or glide-up as the case may be) at home can fast track your surfing success. Top surfing fitness pros agree that surfers of any ability level can always improve in this area. Simply lay down on the floor, put your hands in pushup/pop up position (thumbs pointed towards nipples, index finger pointed straight forward) and pull/push/twist yourself into your surfing stance (right foot forward for goofies and left foot forward for regulars). Start with 10 a day and move up to 20 or 30. Also good to do in front of a mirror to check hand and foot placement.


Wes Berg and Joel Parkinson’s Pro Surf Training

Johnny Gannon and Taj Burrow’s Surf Fitness TV

Paul Hiniker and Taylor Knox’s Surf Fit

Rochelle Ballard’s Surf Into Yoga

How to Stay Fit on Surfer Magazine

Kai “Borg” Garcia’s Volcom Training Program,
and Kai on getting and staying clean (pretty inspiring)

Chris Mills the Surf Strength Coach and an article in the Inertia on surf shoulders

I also recommend the videos by Beach Body (P90X and T25, etc.). You have to be careful with these, though, because they're intensive and you can get injured without proper supervision.

*No matter what your regime, it's important to get in a least one session with a personal trainer or yoga instructor to make sure that you're doing the exercises properly. Find out your particular weak spots and go easy.