Surfing fitness for surfers and non surfers

Surfing originated in the pacific where, 4000 years ago, Peruvian fishermen built and rode "caballitos de totora" to transport their nets and collect fish.  However, it is the Hawaiian Waikiki beach boys who are credited with mastering the art and exporting it to mainland America, New Zealand and Australia in the early 20th century. The sport has grown in popularity. Today more than 23 million surfers worldwide have responded to the lure of the waves in beaches from Cornwall in the West coast of England to Manipal in India.

Once considered and extreme sport for super fit adolescents and young adults, surfing has become much more accessible. Who wouldn’t want to ride the waves like an ancient Hawaiian king, conquering the sea as if walking on water. Surfing definitely still attracts the thrill seekers, but enthusiasts of all ages are now enrolling in surfing classes.

Surfing requires a considerable amount of coordination, core strength and endurance in order to be able to swim out to catch a waves; then pull yourself up to a standing position and balance on a board while the mighty waves do their best to shake you off. However, ask any surfer and they will tell you that the dedication and training required is worth it, even if you only manage to catch one perfect wave per session…or even per season!

Whether you want to actually take the plunge and paddle your board out to ride on the "white water horses" or are just looking to spice up your regular training routine, getting fit surfing is a great cardio work out – ideal for toning your body. When was the last time you saw a surfer that didn’t look well toned?

The best surfing workout programs incorporate both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. They also include muscular strength and endurance exercises for overall muscle conditioning and toning. Surfing places demands on both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Switching between the two systems while targeting the muscle groups involved in surfing is crucial.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) works both aerobic systems and can be done using specific programs on cardio equipment. The good news is that all of Technogym’s cardio equipment have built-in HIIT programs.

In addition to cardio fitness, there are a number of very specific surfing skills that one needs to master in order to be able to go out on the waves:


Paddling, this is when you lie on the board and use your arms to propel the board through the water. To be a good surfer you have to be proficient at paddling in order to get out past the breaking waves, manoeuvre into position, and paddle to catch one. Paddling requires a lot of upper body strength so exercises that work the arms and upper back muscles, such as lat pull downs, suspended push ups or tricep extensions will improve your paddling and the strength and tone of your arm and back muscles. Great if you are looking to show off your arms in your short sleeve summer attire.

Technogym’s Kinesis Personal is an ideal piece of toning equipment for those needing to work their muscles in multiple ways. There are over 200 different exercises that can be performed with Kinesis Personal, without having to make a single adjustment. The Excite + TOP not only provides the best cardiovascular upper body training on the market, it also does a great approximation of simulating the actual movements involved in paddling.

Pop up

Pop up – surfing’s lingo for the manoeuvre that takes you from laying on your belly on your surf board to standing up right to ride a wave. There is no surfing without the pop up so it is important to practice it before taking to the seas. Good exercises to help with the pop up technique are those that work the legs and the arms. For example, hamstring curls, front and side leg raises performed on a fixed weight machine like the Unica. Since your entire body weight is carried by your legs, developing pop up skills and fitness provides a big boost to overall wellness too.

Standing on the board

If you are going to balance on a fast moving surf board, you require core muscle strength as well as muscle endurance. The core muscles are the anterolateral abdominal wall, low back muscles, hip flexors, hip extensors, and hip rotators. These muscles provide stability and help you maintain your posture. A strong core is an essential part of overall wellness and can help prevent and reduce lower back pain. So e ven if you aren’t going to be skimming the crest of a wave, these exercises are a good addition to your fitness program:

Use the Wellness Ball Active Sitting as a platform for stability push up

  1. Squat thrusts – this is also a great exercise for simulating the pop-up
  2. The plank – hold for 20 seconds and build up to a minute
  3. Use the Wellness Ball to do back extensions
  4. Lateral jumps – a great way to build strength, endurance and balance.

Flexibility, a fundamental element of total fitness, is important for avoiding muscle soreness given the rigours of surfing. Between paddling and taking the impact from the waves when you fall off your board, surfing is quite demanding on the body.  A good stretching regime before and after you exercise will increase your recovery time and reduce the chance of injuries.

Now go catch some waves!