At Iguana Surf, we’ve taught over 125,000 beginner surf lessons in our 30-plus years in Tamarindo, and in that time we have seen people of all ages and fitness levels get up on the board for the first time. That being said, surfing is a workout. It involves carrying your board to the water, paddling, getting up on the board (pop up), and jumping off (or bailing) into the water. While you won’t need to do much paddling while learning to surf in Tamarindo, thanks to the beginner waves being close to shore, you will need to be able to handle the basic moves, such as popping up to catch a wave. And for those looking to try out more challenging surf breaks, you will need to have some core strength to handle it. That’s why we are exploring surfer body workouts.
The Coveted Swimmer’s Body
Probably one of the most important core exercises for surfing is swimming. You will need to paddle your board to get to the waves when surfing most surf breaks. Swimming develops your shoulder, chest, upper back, and arm muscles, which will definitely help with paddling. In fact, doing the freestyle stroke in a swimming pool is very much like paddling on a surfboard. Swimming is arguably the best exercise you can do to prepare for your surf trip, even if you just do laps once or twice a week, your endurance will be vastly improved by adding this exercise to your routine. Added bonus: you’ll get that coveted swimmer’s body you’ve always wanted.
Get Balanced with Yoga
Surfer body workouts include a lot of core exercises, such as swimming, but stretches are also important to keep from getting hurt while you weave and twist amongst the waves. Adding a yoga practice to your fitness routine can be very beneficial for your surfing ability. Yoga is great for improving your balance and agility, something very useful for the surfer trying to stay up on their board. The flexibility you can gain from yoga will be helpful for surfers looking to perform maneuvers. Lastly, breathing exercises and meditation offered at most yoga classes will help you achieve a calm mind, which can be crucial when facing a brutal wipeout amongst the beating waves of the ocean. Some great yoga moves for surfers include the downward facing dog, pigeon, and lunges.
Hit the Ground Running
If you don’t have access to a swimming pool, running is also a great way of building up your endurance. A very popular pastime amongst serious surfers, long distance and sprinting build both endurance and lung capacity. While long distance running can put you into a calm headspace, often referred to as a “runners high”, sprinting can help you get ready for the short bursts of energy often needed while surfing. The great thing about running is you don’t need to join a gym or have a lot of equipment. Just grab a pair of running shoes and pound the pavement! Of course, conditions may not be ideal during the winter months in some locations. Those running outside in a cold environment should dress in layers.
Dreaded Gym Class Workout
Speaking of needing no equipment, those good old fashioned gym class exercises you hated as a kid are the perfect surfer body workout. The classic pushup strengthens all the key areas for surfers, including shoulders, arms, upper back, and chest. It is also an ideal core exercise for surfing and helps to align your spine. Sit-ups develop core strength and better balance and stability by strengthening those often weak hip muscles. A strong core will help reduce back pain and injury. Sit-ups can also strengthen the diaphragm, helping the surfer to take deeper breathes before being plunged under the waves. The movement of squatting mimics the pattern of both crouching on your surfboard and turning, which is critical for surfing. Training with squats will increase strength in your legs and activate the muscles around your spine. Last, but not least, is the dreaded burpee. We know that just the mention of this exercise can send you into high school gym class flashbacks, but the explosive action of a burpee is very similar to the action of popping up, or jumping to your feet from a prone position on a surfboard.
Get Carved with Carve Boarding
Carve boarding, or surf skateboarding, has been gaining popularity recently and for good reason. Carve boarding is basically as close to surfing as you can get on dry land, which means it’s fun, fast, and furious! These boards are a unique kind of skateboard with an extra axis of rotation that allows the board to gyrate in an additional plane, mimicking the actions of surfing and snowboarding, except on pavement. Practicing on a carve board will help you improve your surfing techniques by improving your balance, teaching you to adopt the right stance, and helping you learn turning and carving like you would on a surf board. Also, generating speed on your surf skate is the same as the pumping movement you need to build speed on your surf board. A well-practiced carve boarder, long boarder, or skate boarder will definitely have the advantage when trying out the waves on a surf board for the first time.
Seesaw your Way to Surfing
If flying along the pavement on a skateboard isn’t for you, there’s a simple piece of equipment designed specifically for training surfers out of the water that can be done in the safety of your own home. The Indo Board was created by surfer and skateboarder Hunter Joslin over a 30-year period. Essentially your own personal seesaw, the Indo Board was made for balance training. The Indo Board is considered a fun and effective way of improving balance, agility, and coordination.
A True Surfer Body Workout
Nothing will get you that surfer body workout quite like surfing. Besides building strength in your legs and upper body, surfing provides a cross training effect that is ideal for your core. While feeling the burn in your muscles, you’ll feel the burn in your heart and lungs as well. Surfing is a great cardiovascular workout as well as a core exercise. Did you know surfing is also good for your mental health? The concentration on your surroundings from moment to moment that is required for surfing allows the surfer to be in the moment, creating what researchers call “mindfulness in action”. It is also a “blue health” activity, which refers to the health benefits of doing activities in or near bodies of water. Overall, the health benefits of surfing are higher than any single one of the aforementioned exercises. Bonus: we think a surfer body is even sexier than a swimmer’s body.
Getting into shape for surfing isn’t all about shedding weight or getting rock-hard abs, although these exercises very well could lead to that result. These exercises are meant to help you maximize your experience while surfing or learning to surf. It will inevitably make surfing easier, more enjoyable, and more fun. Plus, doing a surfer body workout minimizes your risk of injury, and the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself on day one of a week-long surf camp. Therefore, if you want to do whatever you can to improve your surfing, or your learn-to-surf experience, a workout routine that includes balance, strength, and endurance exercises is key. Add these exercises to your pre-trip checklist and you’ll be more than prepared for your first surfing lesson. These routines can also take an experienced surfer to the next level. However, if these exercises don’t make it onto your pre-trip checklist, don’t worry! We’ve got boards for all shapes and abilities and have taught surfing lessons from young to old at Iguana Surf. Whether you come fully prepared or come as you are, we will do our best to get you up on that surf board riding waves!
By Jennifer LaCharite