Surfing is a sport that you can enjoy for a lifetime. It's fun, exciting, and even cathartic at times. No matter what your skill level, you'll get a great workout surfing. But there are many surf exercises you can do to get your body and breathing in top shape before paddling out. Here's a few:
Surfing requires a high degree of balance, but most rides aren't long enough to have a dramatic training effect on your balance. Stand on a balance board and do a variety of squats and lunges. If you don't have a balance board, stand on one foot with your eyes closed. Try to stay balanced for 30 seconds or more. Like all skills, your balance improves the more you practice, so practice daily.
Core: Side Plank with Reach Through
Strong core muscles stabilize your torso to help your paddling, balance, and rotation through turns. The side plank and reach-through exercise emphasizes the oblique muscles and adds a rotational component. Prop yourself up on your side with your right side closest to the floor. Stack your feet and stabilize with your right forearm. Straighten your left arm toward the sky and look up at your left hand. Reach your left hand underneath and behind your body. Follow your hand with your head and eyes. Keep your torso braced and don't let your hips drop. Do 1 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.
Leg Strength: Single Leg Squats
Stronger legs help you stay balanced and in control of your board. Whether you are a high-performance surfer or just getting started, single leg squats will develop the core, hip, and leg strength to perform at your best. Stand on your right foot and lift your left foot about 5 inches off the ground. Keeping your right knee aligned with your middle right toe, lower down to a 45-degree knee bend. Keep your back straight and your head in line with your shoulders. Don't let your knee track too far past your toes. Complete 5 reps on each leg, holding for 1 to 3 seconds in the lowest position. For more challenge, hold a medicine ball at your chest or increase the depth of the squat.
Pre-Surf Warm Up: Deep Squat with Overhead Reach
Before you paddle out, you want a quick warm-up to loosen your hips and shoulders. Place your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Your toes can turn out slightly. Squat down, keeping your torso straight and your gaze forward. Touch the ground with both hands, pause, and then stand back up. As you stand up, circle your arms upward and reach toward the sky. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
A surf session is about 50% paddling compared to the 5% spent wave-riding (Mendez-Villanueva & Bishop, 2005). It's safe to say if your paddling muscles are not conditioned, you will have to cut your session short. The following pool workout will challenge your paddling endurance, strength, and power.
5 minutes of mixed strokes.
2 x 100 yards at a brisk but comfortable pace (endurance).
3 x 50 yards at a faster pace than the previous set, with 10 pushups after each 50 yard effort (strength).
4 x 25 yards all out (power).
Rest for 15 to 20 seconds between each effort. Rest for 2 minutes before repeating a second round.
Finish with 3 to 5 sets underwater. Swim one lap at endurance pace above the water. When you turn at the wall, swim underwater as far as you can while holding your breath. This drill simulates paddling and then having to duck-dive a wave. It also prepares you mentally if you get held underwater. For safety, make sure you do this drill with a partner. Work on staying calm and relaxed, especially when you feel the need to come up for air.
Scott Adams has been a fitness professional for 15 years. He holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and advanced certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (CES). He created the top-selling training video for surfers, Surf Stronger, The Surfer's Workout.