Staying Surf Fit When You’re Miles From The Ocean

Put in some work when you’re not in the water, you’ll thank us later

We love to surf. No, WE LOVE TO SURF! The thing is, we can’t get in the water nearly as much as we’d like to. And truth be told, when we do get out for a surf, it’s probably after a long hiatus and we can’t help but notice that people are paddling back out a whole lot faster than us. Is that the ocean we taste on our lips? Or is that the salt of our sullen tears as we see people peeling off on waves that could be ours? If only we were in a little better shape.

The good news is that you stay surf fit sans waves. In fact some of the best exercises for surf training require little to no equipment.

Man Paddling Surfboard

Paddle, paddle, paddle. Look, we know it might seem silly, but if you have access to a body of swimmable water, and you won’t get kicked out of that water if you’re on a surfboard, then get in there and paddle. Your paddle fitness is the most important thing to increase the enjoyment of your next surf trip. Paddling for surfing requires both strength and endurance. It’s important to build both. To focus on power, try paddling on surfboard and take 6 strong strokes with each arm. Commit your whole body to a deep, powerful stroke, determined to make an imaginary wave on that 12th stroke. Experiment with more open fingers, researchers have proved that the optimal width between fingers is 20 to 40 percent. When paddling for power, make extra sure that your non-stroking hand isn’t causing unnecessary drag. After your have done six strokes with each arm, take a rest period with 10 easy strokes each side, this is one set. Do this without rest for 5 sets. Consider getting a prone paddle board or a standup paddle board. Both are fun ways to build endurance, shoulder, bicep and tricep, and core strength.


Swim. If you can’t get out for a paddle, get in the water and swim. In fact, swim as well! Swimming is one of most physically beneficial exercises which is low impact on joints and ligaments. It also helps train you physically and mentally for staying calm while not being able to breath as you normally would. A good entry level swim workout for surf would be:

– 200 meter slow, easy warm-up freestyle
– 100 meter pull, freestyle arms with a kick bouy in-between your legs if you have one, if    not just don’t kick. Again focus on powerful strokes, hands cupped, but not tightly  clenched with space between your fingers
– 100 meter freestyle
– 100 meter pull, freestyle with kick bouy
– 100 meter freestyle
– 200 meter cool-down

Ramp up the distances as your strength and endurance increases, and throw in swimming distances underwater to build confidence and lung capacity.


Cross training/Circuit training. Surfing is a whole body workout. So if you’re going to train for surf, you’d better train everything. One of the best ways to get both a cardio and strength workout is to circuit or cross train. Circuit or cross training incorporates multiple exercises in succession which strategically work different muscle groups, giving you a whole body workout.

An example circuit for surf training would be:

–Bear crawl 10 meters
–Do 10 tuck squat jumps
–Do 12 pushups
–Hold a one minute low plank on your forearms
–Up into a 45 second wall sit

Rest for two minutes and repeat the whole thing two more times. Mix it up, and sequence in high impact exercises which don’t work the same muscles back to back. There are plenty of bootcamp/circuit training groups which help make staying in surf shape fun and social. Check out November Project, a free circuit training group which has ‘tribes’ in many major cities globally.

A good resource for surf specific exercises can be found at Surfer Today’s website.


Yoga. We’re not huge into yoga. There, we said it. But we have done it, and we know it gets us into and hold positions that aren’t real comfortable but definitely work muscles we otherwise wouldn’t. Also, yoga is great for balance and flexibility, or something… I don’t know, we heard that. Yeah, so, yoga is totally great for helping you stay surf fit. We don’t know much about yoga, but watch this, it seemed pretty good when we googled yoga for surfers:

Seriously though, yoga is great for developing and maintaining core strength, flexibility, and body awareness, all hugely beneficial for moving in and on the water.

For more out of water surf fitness tips, training ideas and inspiration check out Elise Carver on Instagram (@littlebantamsurftrainer).

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