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California Workout – Surfing Workouts to Catch More Waves

Californian surfer chick on the beach, about to catch some wavesIf you are a surfer and want to improve your fitness so that you can spend longer out catching waves, and increase your chances of getting your first tube pipe, then you most likely need to get fit for surfing. And here’s how you do it:

Swimming is really the best exercise to do to improve your surfing fitness levels. Being able to paddle through the wave quickly, without tiring, is essential for all surfers, so off season practice with a lot of swimming. Concentrate on front crawls with power – think Michael Phelps – build a stronger upper body so that you can get out to the good surf and still have the energy to stay on your feet, and on your board.

A good paddler will only need to dig their arms in twice to catch the wave, whereas weaker paddlers will flap there arms around and not really get anywhere. Dig deep when paddling, do not splash!



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As well as plenty of swimming practice in the pool, we also recommend this “dry workout” to help build stamina and strength for both surfing and swimming:

Dry Workout for Surfers:

There are three parts to this workout, rowing, swiss ball and cross trainer/cycling.

1. Rowing Machine: Warm up, ideally on a rower for 10 mins, using moderate to high intensity. Remember to keep good posture.

2. Swiss Ball

The Swiss ball is the main dry fitness exercise for surfers – a combination of core strength and balance with upper body weight lifting, aim at endurance rather than muscle growth:

  • Shoulder press: sit on ball and raise dumbbells up above your head. Do 2 sets of 15. Use a weight that is heavier enough to challenge you on the final 5 reps.
  • Chest press: sit on ball and roll out so your head and shoulder’s are resting on it, keep your back straight and raise weights above your head. 2 sets of 15.
  • Lat raises: lie with your chest on the ball and arms in front of your, wrists together, raise arms so they are parallel with your head. 2 sets of 15.
  • Pylometric press ups: (not on the ball) like a normal press up but “jump” your arms off the floor when coming back up. 2 sets of 15 (this helps with popping up if you can do this, then actually pop up)
  • Crunches: on floor or ball. You don’t have to raise your body or twist it. The key is to tense your stomach muscles then do little ones. 3 sets of 15.
  • Sideball roll out: kneel on a mat with your knees together, have one of the balls to your side and rest your arm on it, then roll it away from you and back again. Works the side and back where most surfers get injuries. 3 sets of 15 on both sides.
  • Back extension: lie on the ball on your chest and do small raises. 3 sets of 15.
  • Toes to floor: this looks so silly! roll over the ball so only your feet are on it, kinda like when you do a wheel barrow race, then roll the ball using you legs till your feet almost touch the floor. Helps build balance and strength. 3 sets 10 on each side
  • Superman: Lie on the ball on your stomach and then raise your left leg and right arm, then your right leg and left arm. Builds balance and strength. 3 sets of 15.

3. cycle or cross-trainer

Do 20-25 minutes on a hill/interval programme. This will help to keep your heart rate elevated with short powerful bursts.


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Often surfing is a waiting game, and perseverance is essential. Building up a combination of stamina, agility, balance and upper body strength is essential to remain fit all day long. Many a surfer has gone home early tired only to here that they missed the best surf of the day.

If you wish to increase you strength further then check out the strength section which provides various weight training programs.

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  3 comments for “California Workout – Surfing Workouts to Catch More Waves

  1. May 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Great tips! Ending a session early due to lack of fitness is unacceptable–and preventable!

  2. Clayton
    August 6, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Functional training is very important for surfers. It will help improve your core strength, balance, paddle fitness and increase your wave count.

  3. Rory O'Brien
    February 25, 2011 at 5:14 am

    Sweet, thanks for the tips! can’t wait to try em out in the pool, and at the gym.

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