For most people, walking into a surf shop for the first time means being confronted with a picture like this one above.
If you’re like me, your first response might be something like, “How that guy get himself into a position like that?!” or “What kind of kung fu/yoga/martial arts does he practice?!”
Well, the answer is that this guy is a professional and he’s probably been in great shape for years. But for people who don’t get paid for their athleticism (99% of the world), getting in shape can be an uphill battle.
Many people are surprised to know how much of a workout surfing can be, and how much athleticism can be involved when you’re looking to get to a high level. If you are dedicated to learning to surf, it can be a great motivator for getting in shape.
Fitness for surfing comes down to 3 major parts: cardio, balance and core strength. You need cardio for paddling, balance to stay on your board, and core strength to control your body. Of course things like overall strength and flexibility are also important, but for now well keep things simple (if you’re interested in flexibility, I recommend reading our recent blog on yoga. We’ll be writing more on that subject, so stay tuned).
We don’t need to spend time proving the effectiveness of cardiovascular training. It’s useful for any sport, as well as for overall good health and fitness. Having good cardio means that you can do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, physically speaking.
For surfing, it comes down to paddling. The more you can paddle without getting tired, the more waves you’ll be able to catch.
Now we all know that running is a great way to build cardio, but let’s take it a step further. If you are near a beach, consider running there. The soft sand will make your muscles work harder, get you tired faster, and provide the added bonus of strengthening the small muscles that you use for stability. To kick it up a notch, go barefoot.
Since you’re already at the beach, and you don’t like running, consider swimming. It can be just as effective as running, but it also has the added advantage of having no impact on your joints.
Having a reasonably high level of balance is pretty obvious when it comes to surfing. After all, you’re not gonna get many waves if you can’t stay on your board. Luckily the surf fitness industry has really popularized balance training. A quick google search will introduce you to the many types of balance boards that are available.
If you’re not interested or not able to spend money for more equipment, you can easily improve your balance with a few specific exercises.
If you think about it, we’re balancing everyday. Just the simple act of standing is a balance exercise. But let’s take this a step further. If you’re already exercising from a standing position (barbell curls, squats, etc), try varying your stance. If you usually keep your feet shoulder width apart, try moving them closer together. You’ll work on your balance while getting in your other exercises. Just be sure to keep your core tight while you’re doing this.
If you want to challenge yourself even more, try using one leg. Any exercise you’re doing while standing, just lift one leg. I find one-legged squats to be an excellent challenge in both strength and balance. This one can be tricky. You’ll probably have to put your leg down often when you first start out, so keep at it.
Here’s something simple that most people don’t consider: your eyes. Try closing your eyes as you exercise. You might be surprised at how much your eyes help you balance when you’re no longer using them. This can have a double effect, as there will be plenty of times in your surfing when water splashes you in the face as you’re riding a wave.
Having a solid core is helpful in just about any physical activity. Not to get too mystical here, but it makes sense that strength from the center of your body has so much of an effect on your fitness level. As they say, strength comes from within.
The great thing about core strength training is that there are so many different exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. It doesn’t just come down to crunches. In fact, adding multiple core exercises to your routine helps attack all the different areas of your core for a more complete workout.
Since we’re not saying anything that hasn’t already been said, let’s get an expert to show us some various core moves. Check out this 2-minute youtube clip for a full core routine in less than 10 minutes.
Surfing by itself is an awesome workout. But unless you’re 16 years old and have boundless energy, exercising on dry land will help improve your surfing immensely. A simple routine using cardio, balance and core strength will get you fired up and ready for your best surf session ever. We look forward to seeing you in great shape, attacking the next wave.