Fit to Surf
Lots of people come to us to surf with little or no physical preparation and that’s fine. We would say however that just a little physical preparation for your course can help you be fit to surf, and let you get more out of your time with us.
If you’re already taking part in a regular activity or sport then supplementing your routine with some surf related fitness training can help too. This video will tell you more about what you can do before and after your surfing course to sharpen your surfing fitness.
We have some fitness routines and exercises for you on this page. Once you have been on a surf course with us we can give you some fitness programmes to help your surfing.
“Life is just like surf. It comes up, it goes down, but there’s always something happening. Perhaps the greatest lesson of surfing is the gift of spontaneous reaction- flowing with it on a wave is much easier than flowing with it back on the beach.”
Gerry Lopez Total style legend and Pipeline master ‘The way of the Surfer ‘ 2003 .
“As well as the fitness benefits and feeling of well being outdoors Surfing is a great way to meet people.”
Article on Surf School Lanzarote in Health and Fitness Magazine
Techniques to get you fit to surf
Firstly focus on being comfortable in the water and introduce some swimming into your routine. Try to vary not only your stroke but also the speed that you swim your lengths.
Flexibility is a key element in surfing so try to stretch regularly leading up to your course. If you’re not sure how to stretch there is so much on the internet about flexibility and stretching.
Don’t forget all that boring stuff we did at school as well…. You know the sit ups, press up, squat stuff we did. Well it costs nothing and of course could really help!
Surfing places some demands on the cardio vascular system and we know that those of you that take part in some regular CV training will really benefit from it while on the course. If you don’t and you’re not sporting at all then some gentle jogging and swimming will help too. Those of you that go to dance classes, spinning, circuits, aerobics or similar activities will find it all relates to your surfing.
All activities and sports are good for us and will enhance your surfing experience. If you have any specific inquires do contact us.
Once you have spent time with us then we can tailor exercise programmes to your needs, taking your surfing and your enjoyment level “upwards and onwards “as they say!
It really should be number 1 in our mindset for surf fitness, but often regular swimming is overlooked. Many times I will ask those who I coach, “why swim?” and the answers are just what you would expect: it’s like paddling, it’s all-over body movement, there is a low strain on the muscles, and it is a great cardio-vascular work-out. But often we miss the number 1 point that it’s really about confidence and safety. That leash is going to break one day, it’s not a safety device, it’s just for your convenience, and one day you are going to have to swim in. Just imagine, this leash has only been around since the early 70’s, and before then good swimming ability was an absolute must in surfing.
Let’s go back to the old days and put swimming high on our list of surf fitness regimes. If you don’t feel you swim very well, don’t be proud, get some lessons, swim underwater as well, this really does build confidence as well for those long hold-downs and difficult duck dives. Swim, swim, swim.
You could go running, you could go cycling… all really good, but what can you in your own home? There is so much that we can do that is cheap, free and will really benefit surf fitness. Those boring exercises we hated doing in school really work. Regular push-ups, press-ups, sit-ups and of course we have YouTube to tell us exactly how we should be doing them. What a wonderful invention the Swiss Ball is, it’s cheap and with a thousand different types of exercises that will enhance my fitness and of course increase my core stability.
But often completely overlooked, and probably the best of all is to practise your jump-up. One central marker line and jump, jump, jump. Have some fun and do it with you surf buddy, and you will be amazed at the results next time you hit the water. You don’t need to leave the house to achieve a solid level of surf fitness and a fast and effective jump-up and take-off.
At The Gym
There are many types of exercises and classes in gyms and sports centres that will really help maintain and increase your surf fitness. New activities such as spinning, boxercise and Pilates are all great, but there are some types of specific training we can do at gyms that will really help our surfing.
Surfing contains a lot of resistance work and weight training, whether with free weights, which I prefer, or machine weights can have fantastic results for surfers. Don’t just think of those aching shoulders, and solely train the upper body, surfing is all over body exercise. So weight train that way. Do make sure you get a professional instructor to teach you at first, as weight training incorrectly holds many dangers. If your instructor has never surfed you are going to have to tell them that you are a mixture of a swimming, a skater, a gymnast, a contact sport player, in fact a mixture of everything, and you need all round body fitness. Of course, what you learn from your instructor, using free weights, can be taken home and practised there. I often weight train in front of a surf DVD, quite motivating and it does cut down the boredom factor!
Those running machines and bikes you see at gyms can be great, but make sure it is the rowing machines that you spend most of your time on, it’s no wonder that when Olympic rowers are tested they come out as some of the fittest people on the planet!
Interval or circuit training is fantastic for surfers. Our hearts go through massive changes of rate during a surf. A high heart rate during paddle out, dropping in rate during waiting for waves, back to high during our riding phase, and absolutely bounding heart rate during a big hold-down. In my work with top international surfers in the past, I found that regular interval training gave some of the best results but it really works for us mortals too. Being able to cope with massive heart rate changes is an essential part of any valid training programme.
I think that all sports have a great benefit for surfers, I wonder what Kelly learns on the golf course that has helped those 9 World Titles ?– don’t forget this man is a super keen golfer! But team and individual sports, even if they don’t seem related at all to surfing will always be of benefit, not just at a physical level but also at a psychological level too. There are some strange activities and sports that often have a relationship to surfing, and after 27 years of surf coaching, I know they are ones that you would often not expect. That little girl ballet dancer, often turns out to make an excellent surfer, not just because of her flexibility and obvious balance, but also her mind set of being able to practise, practise and practise the same skill time and time again. Horse riders, with their central balance point already similar to a surfers and their understanding of the need to control things that don’t always want to be controlled. Skiers of course are sliding, gliding and using vision. I’ve often come across martial artists with uncanny inner surfing ability and of course all the added flexibility, speed and agility.
Really all sports, if readily practised, would enhance your surfing ability. But be careful of the heavy injury prone contact sports before a planned surf trip. That mean game of handball against the opponents you don’t like, that heavy challenge on the football pitch, can often ruin a planned surf trip.
There are however sports that surfing has given birth to and that have a direct relationship to it.
Skiing is one of them, and not just snow boarding. In fact we know that snowboarders at first in their surfing can have a little problem with the change in stance, but of course skiing and snowboarding are a great help.
With the rise of kite boarding and wake boarding, I do see both skills having a relationship to surfing, but there is a major difference in stance, and that simple fact, one skill is where you are pushed and the other where you are pulled. But of course there is a board and there has to be similarities. Strangely I have seen many high level kite boarders with great moves on the wave face who can’t do that on a surf board! Often forgotten is wind surfing and wave sailing, and how similar these can be to surfing. It’s not unusual for me to see and accomplished wave sailor learn to surf far faster than an accomplished snow boarder. To begin with they are use to water but there is something about that larger board under their feet that makes sense to them.
Number 1 has to be skate boarding however, at its top level in ramps and bowls there is so much to be gained from skate boarding. Particularly in the high level manoeuvres such as good grinds and 50/50’s. It’s simple, your grind is your off the lip, and your 50/50 is you floater. But not all of us are going to want to take up the level of risk skate boarding ramps or bowls or even good street skating can produce. I love skating bowls and ramps and as my younger son often likes to tell others in a session, “Hey, how old to you think that guy is?….. He’s 50 plus!” as I hack into a big front side grind. And more and more I see my body suffering from the injuries skate boarding at that level can produce. But there is another type of skate boarding which can really enhance your surfing ability. The rise of the larger gliding down hill skate and carve boards has been great to see. Do look into Brad Gerlach’s invention “The Carve Board” and here we see one of the most sophisticated surf trainers on this planet. They teach stance, muscle memory, body position and I absolutely love them.
See any Carve board video and you will know what I mean. But also none of the riders are wearing any safety equipment, not really advised if you are not used to skating.
Totally overlooked by many of us is flexibility. I have coached so many fit, strong, athletic people who have the flexibility of wood and who are missing out one of the most vital components of surf fitness. You just have to be flexible. How many sports do you know ask you to lie down on a moving object while making a swimming movement and then jump up through the air onto that moving object in to a standing position? There’s just none, only surfing. Then to have the flexibility to withstand the wipe outs, being like a rag doll in the teeth of a terrier. The manoeuvres alone, wither short board or long board, all require high degrees of flexibility. How do you attain this? It’s simple, you stretch every day. You stretch before a surf, you stretch after a surf, you just stretch, stretch, stretch.
There is so much good information on stretching and flexibility these days, and yoga is new aerobics. Infact there are 3 DVD’s by Peggy Hall specifically designed for surfing. This series called “Yoga for Surfers” is a great start off point. Just attend a basic yoga course and the exercises you learn there will stay with you forever. There is a great debate now over static stretching and dynamic stretching. In my coaching at the moment I have
changed my ways and now use a dynamic stretching routine before a surf and a static stretching routine afterwards. However, nobody can tell you exactly what your own body wants, and there are those of us who have particular body parts that need more stretching and flexibility than others. I now stand and make imaginary off the bottom and off the top turns and cut backs as part of my warm up routine. I must admit I probably look like a complete nut, but after 42 years of surfing I have a very stiff back and neck and this routine really works for me.
Stretching and flexibility are of course injury prevention as well, and that is a major point. But also, consider the primitive instincts that a good stretch out, done in front of the surf can trigger. It’s no surprise why our forefathers danced around a fire with the deer’s antlers and the spears in their hands before a hunt, they were psychologically and physically preparing themselves and a good stretch routine can do just that. Taking time to stretch in front of the surf break provides vital knowledge of the conditions. But as I stretch I project myself onto the waves, riding completed and excellent waves and visually what I want to do.