Surfing is a sport that builds up your physical and mental well-being and increases your ability to absorb oxygen. It is a great overall exercise that works out your core muscles and upper body muscles. However, surfing should not be used as part of an exercise routine for beginners because it can exhaust the body and cause some injuries.
Surfers are known for being ripped or in top shape and condition. That is why it can be a little intimidating to learn how to surf, especially if you are not really as fit as you’d like to be.
There really is no fitness requirement for people who like to surf. If you’re just an occasional surfer or just want to try and see how it feels to ride a wave, you can do so without any high level of fitness.
Indeed, a moderate level of fitness is enough to paddle and catch a wave, but the fitter you are, the easier it is to paddle and pop up on your board, so it’s worth getting fitter before surfing. Surfing itself already gives a great whole-body workout, but to help you get the most out of your surf sessions, you have to build strength, endurance, and balance. That is why we have made this guide to help you get fit for surfing.
Set a Goal
To get you in top shape and help you make the most out of your surf sessions, you first have to determine what you want to achieve before you start training. Below is a list of goals and the best surf training methods you can implement for each.
To be able to paddle for a long period and maximize your wave count
Improve your posture
Pilates is very effective for correcting your posture, but if you have shoulder injuries, it is best to find a trainer or physio who can guide you in improving your posture.
Hit the water and practice paddling, even if there are no waves. Surf regularly, even twice a week, to keep you reasonably fit.
Swimming is nearly similar, but not the exact replica of the surfing paddle position. Do short bursts that mimic your surf sessions, rest, and go again. A good breathing rhythm is also helpful.
For strength and mobility
You should have a good strength training routine that will identify your mobility weak links and fix them.
To overcome pain and injuries
- Get assessed by a trusted medical professional.
- Do the recommended exercises to relieve any pain and recover.
For staying sharp
If there are no waves or if you do not have access to the beach at some point, you can go to the nearest skateboard park and practice turns and learn other maneuvers.
Pop Up Practice
You can do this by using an old surfboard on top of your carpet and working on your stance and turning technique.
Watch Surf Clips
This will help you visualize and get the feel of it. Plus, you might even learn some new moves.
To feel confident in heavier waves
Think before paddling out
If you think that you are comfortable with the sets and conditions, then go for it. But if it looks very challenging and outside your comfort zone, do not pressure yourself and train until you are ready to hit such kinds of waves.
Get fit for paddling
This will help you build more confidence to be out there and brave more challenging waves. Surfing regularly can also improve your paddling, confidence, and surfing technique. However, if it isn’t possible for you, do something fun that can help you get fit without exhausting your body. Below are some of the factors you need to work on to get fit for surfing.
What does it take to learn surfing?
You need a decent level of endurance to learn how to surf because you are likely going to be out there moving continuously for a long time. You will develop more endurance as you keep improving your surfing skills, so challenge yourself with new moves and spend time surfing regularly, if possible. However, you can really see the benefits if you take time between surf sessions and work directly on your endurance. Find an activity or exercise that you enjoy and get your heart rate up, then make it part of your weekly routine. These exercises can consist of running, swimming, cycling, and skating.
When paddling, you use your arms and shoulder muscles a lot, as well as your core to keep you balanced and stabilized. Your bottom also helps control your movements over the waves. So, if you want to be able to execute moderate to advanced moves, you need to build your surf strength. One or two strength training sessions per week will allow you to build the functional muscles you need for surfing efficiently. You can do squats, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups, and rows by only using your body weight when you are just starting. Target your core, legs, and arms, and as you become stronger, add resistance or use weights to keep you challenged.
Practicing yoga can help you become more flexible, improve your surfing skill, and help you avoid injuries. Slacklining is also a good and fun way to help your surf skills.
Stay as active as you can. You can try walking, which is a great low-impact exercise to boost your fitness, without hurting your body. Skateboarding, skating, snowboarding, and skiing can also help keep you stay in shape.
Exercises / Surf Training
Here is a list of exercises that can help you get fit for surfing. If you are injured, consult a medical professional before doing these exercises to avoid further damages.
- Start in a standing position.
- Squat down, then place your hands on the floor.
- Jump your legs back in a pushup position.
- Lower yourself to the floor like a press-up.
- As you push back, spring your feet into a surfing position with your front foot between your two hands and your back leg bent.
- Jump up as high as possible and repeat.
- Do this 10 times in between each training set below.
Core Strengthening Exercises
Swiss Ball Tuck
- Start in a press-up position.
- With your toes on the top of a ball and your knees onto your chest with your feet up beneath you.
- Then, stretch your legs back out to the press-up position.
Abdominal Twist (Weighted)
- While you are seated on the floor with your knees up and your feet off the ground, your back should be lifted to 45 degrees.
- Hold a weighted ball in front of you, right above your head.
- Twist your arms and shoulders to each side of your body and place the ball to the ground each time you do.
Upper Body Strengthening
- Start in a press-up position using either your knees or feet.
- Widen your hands.
- Slowly drop to the floor, and then push back up.
- Make sure you are right above the floor and don’t touch it.
- If you want to work on your triceps, bring your hands closer together and get them directly in line with your shoulders to replicate the push-up part when popping up on your surfboard.
Downward rope (weighted)
- Pull on a weighted rope.
- It should be from head height in a straight line and until your arms are stretched in front of you.
- Control the ascent and descent of this rope and squeeze your muscles.
Lower Body Power
Ball push squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a weighted ball in front of you with straight arms.
- Squat 90 degrees to the floor, and as you strengthen, push up, lifting the weight and your arms straight above your head.
- Throw the ball up in the air and catch it when you’re on your way back down.
Snowboard / Surf Twist
- Do this in a Bosu ball if you can.
- Start standing with your knees slightly bent and your back straight.
- Pop and spin 180 degrees.
- Gently place your lower back to a squat after you land your spin.
- Use your knees to absorb the impact of the ground.
- Complete only three sets of six, slowly and controlled, but energetically.
Balance, Flexibility, Mobility
- Do yoga sequences that you are comfortable with to prevent injuries and keep yourself in shape.
- If you are a beginner, do not push yourself in doing some positions that you are not comfortable with as this may cause some injuries or strains.
- Heated yoga is best for those who want a more intense workout.
- Practicing yoga can help develop strength, flexibility, and tone.
Do you have to be skinny to surf?
There is no ideal body type for surfing because everyone can become an accomplished surfer, whether they are tall, skinny, fat, short, weak, unfit, or athletic. The same goes with age; you can definitely surf whether you are young or old. While there is no ideal body type, there is a physique that best adapts to the requirements of surfing.
Surfing is an outdoor activity that involves a lot of constant adaptations to waves in motion and balance, and the body is repeatedly required to adjust to movements on all axes. These movements include paddling and finding your balance, trimming, taking off, popping up, and maneuvering. Therefore, we can say that an average-height person who adopts a healthy diet and exercises regularly will be fit enough and ready to challenge the waves, and maybe even become a good surfer.
Is there a weight limit for surfing?
Surfers come in all shapes and sizes. It is a sport for everyone because no matter what your size or who you are, there is a surfboard and a right wave for you.
There are no weight limit for surfing nor weight restrictions because surfboards are made to provide float for anyone to successfully ride waves. Hence, heavier surfers can simply ride bigger surfboards.
Nowadays, surfboard shapers can also customize your board based on your height and weight so you can easily control it and perform tricks and maneuvers with it.
Can I surf if I have an above average weight?
Yes, you can still surf whether you are fat, skinny, tall, or petite because you can get someone to customize a board for you, and practicing how to surf on it will help you learn how to pop up and stand up easily. Besides, here are some things you should know before hitting your first wave.
Big guys and girls can surf
If you feel unconfident, do not worry because you can absolutely do it, and it gets way easier the more you surf. You may not be able to catch a wave on your first try, but perseverance is the key.
Get a specialized board
A large, long foam board will be more stable and will support you better. Thus, if you are a beginner, do not go straight to a fiberglass/epoxy board since it is going to be more difficult and expensive. Instead, ask a surfboard shaper how much foam is needed to support you.
The 12-foot Surftech LS2 Soft Top Surfboard is the safest and easiest foam surfboard for bigger guys or girls. It is massive, which makes catching even the smallest waves easier, and is also super buoyant.
The Surftech LS2 foam surfboard is also available in 7’6”, 8’0, 8’4, 9’0, 10’0 and 11’0.
Consider surfing on a standup paddle board
SUP boards have a lot of foam in their construction, meaning they’re incredibly buoyant and can ride waves like surfboards. They are also much easier to balance on due to their sizes. The downside of using a SUP board to surf, however, is that surfers may not like the fact that you are getting more waves or getting in the way because of the size of the board.
However, if you want to own a SUP board and try surfing with it, here is a list of the best standup paddle boards to help you decide which one to get. The boards in this list are non-inflatable, easier to manage, and offer higher performance.
Take a surf lesson
Taking a surf lesson will help you learn all the basics, and having an instructor will help you get going faster than you ever could on your own. A one-on-one lesson can be helpful, and a good instructor can get you up and riding waves fast and easily.
Balancing on a surfboard or SUP board is very different than on a snowboard, skateboard, or longboard because water is not as hard as the pavement, skate ramp, or even snow. Therefore, when it comes to balance, you have to make sure you are standing right on the surfboard and perform proper stance or form to make it easier. If you are heavier, practice popping up and standing up on a surfboard or do strengthening exercises to be able to carry yourself while popping up the board.
In some places in the surfing world, people discourage weighty people, so be prepared because they can be extremely rude and not understanding of what it’s like to be in your position. But, don’t let the negativity get to you. You are not the problem, so just be kind and don’t get discouraged.
A good tip
Some surf shops do not allow weighty people to rent a surfboard, but you can always buy one for yourself or get one customized to suit your weight and height.
If you are a weighty person and really love to surf, do not get discouraged. There are a lot of ways to become a good surfer.
Can I learn to surf at 40?
Yes, you can still learn to surf at 40 because there is no age limit for surfing. Regardless of your age, learning how to surf is achievable with enough time and determination. As stated many times, surfing can provide physical and mental health benefits for all ages.
If you’re learning to surf and are 30 and beyond, here are some tips for you.
Get comfortable with the surfing environment
Before you hit the water, you need to become a confident swimmer in the ocean because it is a powerful and complicated environment where conditions can change in the blink of an eye. Thus, be prepared to handle yourself and your board when the waves become unexpectedly rough. Practice freestyle, butterfly strokes, and breaststroke in the ocean when the conditions are minimal. You can also practice in a pool, lake, or bay. The more confident you are with your swimming skills, the more confident you will be while surfing in the ocean.
Surfing is a physically demanding water sport, which means you need to be in good physical shape to surf effectively. This sport provides a full-body workout that requires the use of every core muscle in your body, which is why you need to make sure you have enough strength before paddling out.
If you believe you are in poor physical shape, start going on short runs for cardio or do sets of push-ups for muscle strengthening. Aside from these, you must start stretching every day to avoid injuries and muscle cramps. Remember that the older you get, the more you should stretch before engaging in any kind of physical activity. Practicing yoga is a good stretching routine.
Book a surf lesson
Once you are physically prepared for surfing, we advise you to book a beginner surf lesson at a local surf shop or surf school. If you know a friend who is an experienced surfer, you can also have them teach you the basics. Going surfing by yourself with no proper knowledge can be dangerous, so make sure you take surf lessons from an instructor or experienced surfer beforehand.
Taking lessons will not only teach you the proper fundamental techniques and surf etiquette but will also provide an extra set of eyes for when something happens. Furthermore, a surf lesson is great because the instructors will take you to a surf spot where the waves are perfect for beginners.
Choose the right surfboard
You have to choose the right beginner surfboard, no matter how old or young you are because you do not want to end up with a board that is too small for your skill or fitness level as the wrong surfboard will be very hard to ride. The best surfboards for beginners aged 30 and above are funboards and longboards.
Longer, wider, and thicker surfboards are essential for learning how to surf around this age. Bigger surfboards, like longboards and funboards, will make riding waves and perfecting your form or surfing stance a whole lot easier.
Why are surfers so lean?
Surfers are lean because surfing is a combination of resistance training and aerobic workouts that use fatty acids for fuel and recovery from extreme muscle use and incorporates fatty acids for rebuilding and repairing muscles and restoring energy.
Surfers are lean because they exercise frequently and rest in between these exercises to allow their muscles to grow and rebuild. Paddling is the main upper body exercise that can efficiently burn fats. Good nutrition is another factor for muscle rebuilding, and combined with cross-training, to support the muscles needed for surfing.
Besides strength training, proper nutrition is also needed for you to become a more efficient surfer. Training diets for every individual may vary based on the level of surfing, specific needs, amount of training and competition, health and adjustment for growth in young surfers, as well as body composition goals.
However, regardless of whether you are a recreational surfer or a pro, nutrition remains the main factor to maintain endurance while engaging in this sport. Thus, eating a well-balanced meal is recommended, with a variety of the following:
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean meat
- Protein alternatives
Carbohydrates are your fuel and will help you have the energy for training. They are an important part of a surfer’s diet. Choose wholegrain carbohydrates, like cereals, bread, pasta, and quinoa, which all contain additional fibers and are slowly digested and absorbed by the body to provide long-lasting energy during a surf session. Consume whole-grain carbs 2-4 hours before training or opt for snacks like a tub of yogurt, piece of fruit, or muesli bar 30-60 minutes before training.
Surfers are at risk of dehydration, even if they are surrounded by water. Being outside and often in warm conditions for an extended period may lead to dehydration. Thus, hydrating before, during, and after surfing is important to prevent dehydration, delay the onset of fatigue, and replace sweat losses.
Dehydration is a barrier to maintaining optimal performance. Therefore, it is important to maintain optimal hydration, especially during surf competitions or when planning on surfing successively.
Alcohol can be common after surfing, but if consumed in excessive amounts, can delay recovery and affect energy levels and performance, thus impacting your overall health. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. And if you have injured yourself after a surf session, avoid it altogether to maximize your recovery.
What do surfers eat before surfing?
Surfers, especially competitive and pros, need both energy and fluid to sustain the high performance needed throughout the competition. They start each day of the competition well-hydrated and with optimum muscle fuel levels.
A surf competition normally starts early in the morning. Therefore, a quality meal should be consumed beforehand. A surfer must stay hydrated 24 hours before a competition. Check your urine color before an event as it is a good way to ensure you are well hydrated. Urine should be pale yellow on the morning of the competition.
Each surfer is different, but generally, eating a meal rich in carbohydrates 2-4 hours before their first competition starts is a good plan. Having quality carbs is another good idea for long-lasting energy. Here is a list of great options:
- Whole grain cereals with milk and fruit
- Raisin toast with nut butter
- Toast with avocado or eggs
- Yogurt with muesli or dried fruit and nuts
A light breakfast might also be preferred for heats or finals that are set very early in the morning. A sample of what a surfer eats during this time includes:
- Toast with a glass of hot chocolate or milk
- Banana and a muesli bar
- Crumpets with jam
- Rice cakes with cheese
If you get nervous easily, a liquid breakfast like a smoothie, acai bowl, or any liquid meal replacement may be your best option.
Surf competitions usually consist of numerous rounds per day, with some being as short as 30 minutes apart. Thus, it is helpful to develop an eating plan to fit in with the schedule.
If there are less than 60 minutes between each round, surfers eat light and easy-to-digest meals. These consist of carbohydrate-rich liquids that can rapidly be digested, such as:
- Sports drink
- Flavored milk tetra packs
- Yogurt pouches
- Fresh or dried fruits (grapes, banana chips)
If there are more than 1-2 hours between each round, a more substantial meal is preferred to top up energy levels. Such a meal may include:
- Pasta/noodle-based dishes
- Sandwiches with simple fillings
- Sushis or rice paper rolls
- Creamed rice with fruits
Regular sips of fluids are also important to prevent dehydration or stay hydrated. Although water should be prioritized, sports drinks are useful as well.
Recovery snacks and meals should contain proper amounts of carbohydrate, proteins, and fluids for muscle repair and development, as well as to replace electrolytes due to sweat loss.
Here is a list of recovery meals and snacks that are common for surfers:
- Crackers with tuna and/or cheese
- Fruit smoothies or milkshakes
- Homemade burgers with beef, cheese, and salad
- Grilled fish and oven baked wedges with salad
Surfing is a physically demanding water activity. That is why a good fitness level and proper nutrition is important to surf efficiently and prevent injuries. Getting fit for surfing does not mean exercising to look like a certain body type. Surfers are typically lean because surfing is an intense activity, but you can still definitely enjoy this activity no matter what body type you have as long as you have the strength and skills for it.
There are a lot of things that you can do to prepare for a surfing session. Aside from exercising and having a proper diet, there are other factors that you have to take into consideration to properly prepare for surfing. Use this article as a guide to create a surfing plan that will cater to what you need to help you get fit for surfing.