There’s no getting around it: if you want to be a good surfer, there’s no replacement for getting out into the water and practicing. But life is busy — work and personal commitments may not allow for a trip to the beach. Worse, you could be landlocked with no practical way of getting to the breaks. No surf can be frustrating, but if you’re dedicated enough to becoming a better waverider there are a number of exercises and activities you can do out of the water to stay in tip-top shredding shape. The best part? The gear you need to do them is simple, compact and inexpensive.
Simple, Total Body Workouts
Surfing requires you to use all muscles, all the time. Your core, arms, back and legs will all be working together to maintain balance and power through the waves. So, the best training involves workouts that work multiple muscle groups at one time — pumping up glamor muscles will do you no good here. A few key exercises will work most of your body’s muscles, as well as incorporate a balance factor into your workout. These exercises can be done at home (or on the beach) with just a couple affordable pieces of equipment.
One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome for new or out of shape surfers is dealing with the instability of standing on a board out in the water. And one of the few pieces of exercise equipment that can simulate this instability is the swiss ball (or exercise ball, balance ball, etc). There are a number of workouts that can be done on a swiss ball that will exercise your core muscles and make them suitable for unstable waters, such as swiss ball pushups, jackknifes and squats.
A good home gym or exercise room needs a good dumbbell set, and if you’re starting from scratch we suggest some of these. Paired with a swiss ball, doing exercises like a swiss ball shoulder press, swiss ball dumbbell row and swiss ball dumbbell rotation will help increase the strength of smaller muscles that keep you stabilized on choppy surfaces. On their own, dumbbells can be used for overhead dumbbell lunges and dumbbell push-ups that help increase pop-ups and stability as well. Go lower weight, higher reps, especially when working on the swiss ball.
Another simple home gym staple, resistance bands are ideal for exercising your shoulders, biceps and triceps. For the most part, using bands for pull-downs and rows will exercise your triceps, biceps and shoulders and help increase your paddling strength, but drop-knee pivots and wood chops will also work core muscles that help you stabilize yourself though turns.
Working your muscles is one aspect of staying surf fit, but going through the surfing motions on dry land mimics your actions in the water and better prepares you for when the next swell hits. Look to other board sports to best practice surfing movements — namely skateboarding and snowboarding. Partaking in these activities during the off season will allow you to work on your balance, stance and movements. What’s more, they’re a hell of a lot more enjoyable than “feeling the burn”. It may not be exactly the same as surfing, but it’s as close as you’ll get without being in the water.
Skateboarding was actually invented when California surfers bolted roller skate wheels to wooden boards in an effort to go “street surfing” when the waves were flat. Skateboarding requires a similar stance, and the right ones can carve in a similar vein to a real surfboard. To emulate surfing movements on a skateboard, you ideally need a board that’s longer than your standard trick board (30 inches or more), and the board should have trucks with enough movement in them so you can do smooth carves. KOTA Longboards makes beautiful surf-inspired longboards, like the Nieuport 17, that are built to cruise and carve. Other great surf-inspired skateboard makers are Carver Skateboards and SmoothStar.
Riding powder is a lot like riding on water — the sport requires a similar stance and turning is accomplished by engaging a rail. While at their core, snowboards have always been inspired by surfboards, some manufacturers have taken more literal inspiration from surfing. One example is the K2 Cool Bean. The Cool Bean’s wide, one-directional taper makes it ideal for a floaty, surf-like ride that’s perfect for riding through powder. Another similar board is Jones Snowboard’s Mountain Surfer. If neither of those are hardcore enough for you, Grassroots Powdersurfing makes similarly shaped boards without bindings that will really test your balance.