Surf Fitness: Ride the Waves and Go with the Flow


Want to catch some waves? Then get surf-fit with these sport-specific exercise tips that will keep you out there riding the breakers for longer.

Surfing is one of the few sports that require all aspects of fitness:

  • Aerobic Endurance
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Proprioception

Your traditional gym workouts will take care of your strength and aerobic requirements, and your yoga class will be more than adequate for flexibility. However, for surf-specific coordination, agility, balance and proprioception, you will need a surf-specific workout.

What is Sport-Specific Training?

In the past decade, sport scientists have begun to reevaluate the way we get fit for a specific sport. Past sport training programs usually involved isolation exercises, which strengthened the muscles used for the sport. However, according to movement science research, traditional strength training does little to enhance sport-specific skill. As such, trainers are now using the dynamic pattern theory of motor learning, which states that the brain is more efficient at memorizing movement patterns than it is at muscular isolation. For example, consider the traditional leg extension machine. Its movements are in no way similar to those used in surfing. Now, imagine a squat, performed in a surfer’s stance on a Bosu or wobble board. The exercise now resembles the movements of surfing, and is therefore a better way to enhance surf-specific skills.

Surf Balance

Let’s start with balance training. Surfing requires three different types of balance:

Dynamic Balance is balance in motion. This is in sharp contrast to the postures you perform in yoga class.

Anticipatory Balance is related to agility. It means that you can anticipate the next pattern of the waves, and prepare accordingly.

Transitional Balance is required for movement fluidity.


When choosing exercises for a surf-fitness program, it’s important to select workouts that enhance all three types of balance. Fortunately, with the excellent variety of balance-training tools on the market, it’s possible to cover all three aspects in one exercise. For example, the Stability Ball Toss and Catch is a superb exercise for developing core strength, agility and balance.

You will need a partner for this exercise:

·        Partners sit facing each other on the ball, about one foot away. One person sits upright. The other holds the ball from the “crunch” position.

·        The person holding the ball tosses it to her partner. This brings her to the upright position.

·        As the partner catches the ball, she goes into the crunch position.

Only do as many repetitions as you can perform using good form. Stop if either partner feels the exercise in their neck or lower back.

Bosu for Surfers

The Bosu is another fantastic piece of surf-fitness training equipment. There are two sides to a Bosu; the dome side and the platform side. The dome side exercises are similar to those performed on a stability ball, while the platform side is similar to a balance or wobble board. As such, the Bosu is an excellent investment for anyone who does not have the funds and/or the room for a stability ball and a balance board.

The Bosu is an excellent tool for developing proprioception, which is your body’s awareness of its position, posture and alignment in space. Since water environments are not similar to the typical concrete on which we walk, proprioception is extremely important for surfers. Proprioceptive skills also enhance dynamic, anticipatory and transitional balance skills.

Try this Bosu Proprioception Exercise: Start by simply standing on the Bosu. Now close your eyes. You will probably feel an exaggeration of the body’s mechanisms for adjusting to balance challenges. Open your eyes and raise one arm. Follow it with your eyes. Keep following your hand as you bring it down, to the left and right, and back behind you. Repeat this using your opposite arm.

When you become comfortable with the Bosu, turn it over and use it as a wobble board. Stand on the board and shift your weight forwards and backwards, and then side to side. Try a few squats. Can you keep the board centered?



Plyometric exercises on the Bosu are great for developing surf-specific strength, balance coordination and agility. Check out the Bosu Jump, Toss and Squat

  1. Stand on top of the Bosu. Feet are parallel, and open to the width of your average surf stance.
  2. Inhale and jump
  3. As you exhale, land in this sequence: Toes first, then the ball of the foot, then the heels, then squat. If you body is in correct alignment, there will be minimal wobbling of the feet upon landing. However, don’t expect to be paralyzed! Remember, athletic balance is dynamic. There may be some small degree of motion occurring.

You can add agility training to this exercise by tossing a medicine ball in the air as you jump up, and catching it when you land in the squat.

Surf’s up! Are you ready? Get on board with a surf fitness plan!

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