Surf Workout: Surfing Exercises to Include in your Training

Surf Workout: Surfing Exercises to Improve your Surfing

Surf Workout: It’s all about Mobility and Balance.

So, your new years resolution was to focus on your fitness, and improve your surfing. Now, it’s nearing the middle of the year, and you’re on struggle street every time you head out to surf.

Surfing is fun, it’s incredibly fun- and even more so when your fitness shows up to the party. There’s nothing worse than having to exit the water in pumping conditions, tail between your legs, because your surf fitness just isn’t up to scratch.

Keeping your body in a good physical condition, so you can get into the water and do what you love is essential. It’s all about balance and mobility.

We’ve researched the fundamental movements and exercises that will help make things easier for you in the water. Cris Mills, from Magic Seaweed states that the main athletic components that surfing demands are as follows: Strength, power, flexibility, endurance, coordination, and balance.

Here’s our breakdown of the basic surfing exercises you should be incorporating into your surf workout routine.

Surf workout infographic explains easiest way to keep high mobility and balance.

1. Improving your Overall Balance 

Surfing requires a high level of balance. For this reason, it might be a worthy investment to get yourself a balance board. Standing on a balance board and doing a collection of squats and lunges can be highly beneficial in improving your balance.

Yoga is also a great way to improve your balance. Start with a light form of zen yoga and work your way up to more advanced or strenuous forms like Ashtanga yoga. Check out our yoga surf retreat.

2. Paddling & Upper Body Strength

The average surf session requires around 50% paddling, compared to 5% wave riding (Mendez-Villanueva & Bishop, 2005).

Push Ups:

Seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it? The thing with pushups isn’t just doing the push ups, it’s about doing them correctly. Ensure your core is engaged, your spine is aligned, and your shoulders are controlled. Not sure you’re doing it correctly? Watch this video. Or, you could watch one of the billion other options available on Youtube.

Why this exercise helps with surfing: A strong upper body is crucial for surfing. It helps with the fundamentals: duck dives and pop-ups.


Paddling is essentially pulling yourself through the water. This makes rowing a great imitation exercise. Work on your endurance with 2-4 sets of 12-20 reps of rowing at a comfortable (but, challenging) weight.

3. Core Strength

Stronger core muscles help with balance and paddling. There are loads of core exercises you could incorporate into your surf workout.

We’d recommend starting with simple side planks with reach through: “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.” –

4. Leg Strength

Stronger legs help you stay in control of your board. Single legs squats help develop core, hip and leg strength.

How to do a single leg squat:

Step 1: Stand on your right leg, and hold a comfortable weight in each hand, at your sides. Ensure your palms are facing inward.

Step 2: Push your hips back and bend your knee to lower into the squat (as if you’re sitting). While you’re doing this: raise your arms up, to counterbalance your body. Keep your back straight, your chest up and your knee aligned over your ankle.

Step 3: Continue lowering until your thigh is parallel to the ground. At this point, your arms should be in front of your shoulders and parallel to the ground. So, ensure your arms and right thigh are both parallel to the ground.

Step 4: Drive through your foot and straighten your knee and hips to stand up straight, at the starting position. Repeat with your opposite leg. Do 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps per side.

Mobility Drills as a Surf Workout

To reach a higher level of surfing fitness, it’s important to keep your joints active and mobile. Getting a bit older, previous injuries or spending too much time at your desk can limit your joints’ range of motion. Mobility drills will help you to regain that motion, and you’ll notice the difference in the surf.

Why it’s important for surfing: Helps prevent common surf injuries in neck, shoulders & back. Having good flexibility is important for surfers from both a performance and injury prevention perspective. Being more flexible will  help your surfing by allowing you to paddle stronger and perform maneuvers more easily. The more flexible you are, the less energy it takes to move your body throughout its range of motion.

Here’s an example of morning routine mobility drills.

Surf workout Single Leg Squat Image Credit GAA Training
Single Leg Squat Image Credit GAA Training

5. Endurance: 

Surfing in heavy conditions requires full body endurance. You want your body to be able to physically withstand hours in pumping conditions. Endurance training helps your body prepare for extended periods of energy production. Interval training is perfect, as it gets your body used to using short bouts of explosive energy output. Try interval training with running, skipping/ jumprope, boxing or swimming. Start at a slower, light pace for 5 minutes, then speed it up for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and go back to 5 minutes at a slower pace.

Pre-Surf Warm Up:

Right before you paddle out, you’ll want to do a quick warm-up to loosen your hips and shoulders. A deep squat and overhead reach is an old faithful pre-surf warmup technique. Place your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Let your toes face slightly outward. Squat down (as if you’re sitting), keeping your torso and back straight and your eyes forward. Touch the ground with both hands, pause, and then stand back up. As you stand up, move your arms upward and reach toward the sky. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

There are so many different surfing exercises available online, and, like everything else with surfing- everyone has their own style and technique when it comes to their surf workout. After researching the topic, it became clear that the most important factor is consistency. Performing exercises that aid your mobility, balance and endurance on a regular basis, makes the world of difference. So, just get out there are get the ball rolling. Create a surf workout schedule, and stick to it. We’d love to hear more about your surf fitness journey- feel free to leave a comment below.

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