5 Ways to Improve Your Surfing Fitness

Surfing Fitness

Surfing is a physically demanding activity which many people underestimate and requires a good all round level of fitness. You need a combination of upper body strength, a strong core, good balance, flexibility and stamina. It may sound too much like hard work but it will make a massive difference to your technique and above all, keep you surfing for longer.

Here are just some ways that you can improve your surf fitness:


This is the closest thing to surfing you can get. But I’m not talking about a few easy lengths of breaststroke. Front crawl is the stroke you use when paddling out on your surfboard and you will be using your shoulders, triceps and back to drive through the water. Done correctly, front crawl will determine your swimming speed and efficiency.

It’s also great cardiovascular exercise which will improve your lung capacity, preparing you for wipeouts.

Get down to your nearest pool and if your technique could do with some work, or you need some pointers, consider having lessons. You could also use a Power Stroke bungee chord for times when you can’t get in the water.


Yoga is not only amazing for your mind and soul, but its fantastic for surfing. It will help you to increase your flexibility, balance, stamina, co-ordination and strength. It also helps to replenish your energy, balance your body and is great for helping to prevent injuries by rebuilding and restoring muscle tissue.

You can also use yoga as a pre-surf warm up and as a recovery aid from long sessions.

Similarly, Pilates will also help you develop the same things as yoga, with less emphasis on the spiritual aspect.

There are many types of yoga with classes in most major towns and cities. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try a surf specific yoga or pilates DVD which you can do at home.

Plyometric exercises

Also known as ‘jump training’, plyometrics is all about increasing muscle power and explosiveness in short intervals. These type of exercises mimic the explosive movements in surfing, particularly popping up and the sudden burst of energy required when paddling for a wave.

Plyometric exercises for surfing include jump squats, jump lunges, mountain climbers and everyone’s favourite, burpees! The great thing about these type of exercises is that you don’t need gym equipment – you can do them at the home.

Cardiovascular exercise

This will increase your stamina and lung capacity which is essential for surfing, particularly if you’re going to be spending long periods of time in the sea. There are many ways to get your heart rate pumping including swimming, running, cycling and rowing, and if you lack motivation to go it alone, join a class or buddy up with someone.

HITT or High Intensity Interval Training is a form of cardiovascular exercises and involves alternating periods of short anaerobic exercise with a less intense recovery periods. For example, alternating running on a treadmill with walking. It’s something that can improve your aerobic capacity, and is a more efficient way of doing cardiovascular exercise but its something you need to build up to.

Strength and core training

A good strength programme will involve working on your upper body, core and legs. It is crucial to give you the power needed to go through the mechanics of a pop-up (from lying down on your board in prone position through to an explosive push up). Its a movement that you do repeatedly during a surf session and strength training will give you the endurance needed to do it again and again.

Using free weights or weighted machines in a gym can help you to build up strength in your upper body and legs.

Equally, a strong core is essential for balance and there is a range of exercises you can do and equipment you can use to strengthen that mid section – from swiss and medicine balls to bosu balls and Indo boards.

Top surf fit tips

  • Get some advice from a trainer – Don’t try and work it out for yourself as this could result in injury. They can also put together a programme for you focussing on what you want to achieve.
  • Focus on surf specific exercises – If you can, try and find someone who can put together a programme that focuses on surfing
  • Find the right balance – Train regularly but don’t overdo it. Mix up your programme so that you’re not doing the same routine repeatedly as this will lead to boredom.
  • Eat right – What you put in is what you get out so for optimal performance, energy, and muscle rejuvenation, ditch the junk food diet! Eat regularly, stay hydrated and lay off the alcohol. If you are weight training, make sure you are getting the right amount of protein either through natural sources such as chicken, or by supplementing with protein shakes
  • Challenge yourself – Make sure you are progressing during each training session. Set yourself some goals by increasing the amounts of press ups you can do each session for example. If it doesnt challenge you, it wont change you!
  • Motivate yourself - This can be hard, especially during the winter months, but if you are a fair weather only surfer, think how fit you will be when you next hit the water. You will be glad you didn’t spend the dark nights huddled up in front of the tv in your onesie!


Image Credit Anthony Goto

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