Fitness & Surf: Why I Think Everyone Should Surf.

By October 13, 2012Blog
Fitness tips for surfing like the pros

Fitness Director for Peaks ‘n Swells, Gemma Yates shows what can be accomplished!

As a personal trainer, I am always looking for an all encompassing, complete body workout.

We all want to look great and feel healthy but don’t want to spend our lives in a gym or hours on a treadmill. There are only so many hours in the day, so to find one fun activity that improves both all the key elements of fitness is a real bonus. 

Well, I found it! 

It’s Surfing, and here’s why…

Imagine, from the moment your toes dip into the tropical Costa Rican waters, your workout has begun. Wading though the shallows, board at your side, you are using the water as resistance against your body and working your leg and butt muscles. Once deep enough, you lay on your board and start paddling, constantly using your core to stabilise yourself and your arm shoulder and back muscles to paddle. Your muscle start 

Strength and surfing fitness tips

Gem exerting strength as she performs a manoeuvre.

to require more oxygen and so you work your aerobic system. As a wave approaches you must use your anaerobic abilities to get through the white water as you hold your breath (and your board) and dive under the waves.

Once the wave has passed, its back on your board and paddling, switching between your cardiovascular systems.

Once you are out in the line up you use your agility to position your self perfectly for the next approaching wave. Paddling with all explosive speed, you catch the wave and push your self up to your feet. You must now use your major muscles for strength and your little muscles for all the fine tuned movements it takes to cruise along the breaking wave and control and guide your body through manoeuvres. Isn’t the human body an amazing machine!!!

Sounds like a lot to put in to catching and riding a wave, but you also gain a lot from participating in a sport such as surfing. During one surf session you can expect to be benefitting in the following areas of your fitness:

Strength –This is an infinitely complex concept that does not have a single definition. In fitness terms, there are at least 10 different types of strength that you can acquire and each one have many different factors that affect them. 

CardioVascular fitness for surfing improvement

Gem working her cardiovascular systems hard as she paddles out through the breaking waves.

Cardiovascular Fitness – Having a good level of cardiovascular fitness does not only mean that your muscles are provided with oxygen more quickly and efficiently so you can perform better, but that your body becomes more efficient at removing it’s waste products so you recover from exercise quicker as well.

Aerobic exercise, burns fat, relieves stress and anxiety, boosts your immune system, reduces cholesterol and therefore the risk of heart disease.

It improves your quality of sleep and improves mental sharpness, to mention but a few things.Surfing not only develops your aerobic or endurance fitness when you paddle out into the line up but also your anaerobic system improves as you strive to increase the speed of your pop up or your ability to drive through certain maneuvers.

Flexibility – 

Flexibility for surfing

Even the most sedentary of us need a certain level of flexibility. We need enough to perform our daily activities then we need a 

little extra in case of emergencies, such as when we slip or trip and our muscles and joints are taken beyond their usual comfort zone.

When you surf, you go through a range of varied but repetitive movements, like when you aim to get your front foot in-between you hands during the pop up or when your extend forward your arm to paddle.

It is with each of these repetitive movements that you are increasing your range of motion and therefore allowing yourself to gain a greater degree of flexibility. 

The added bonus of surfing with PNS in the warm tropical waters of CR is that you are able to increase your flexibility more safely and effectively in warmer temperatures, and stretching is certainly easier in a bikini or board shorts than it is an a wetsuit of workout gear.

With all of these elements involved, it is no wonder then that surfing is the most physically challenging sport I have ever tried.You can obviously train all these systems separately through many different methods, however, surfing encompasses so many of them. 

It is good to know that the more you surf, the more well rounded you are becoming as an athlete. I wholly advocate surfing as great cross training for any other sport or activity you may do and surfing is by far the best thing you can do to cross train for surfing.

surf stretches

Gem doing her post surf stretch or Gem’s stretching to reach her front foot in between her hands during a pop up.

I love to surf for so many reasons.  I have not found any other method of training that incorporates the 3 key elements of fitness to such a degree.

It is such a fun activity, an experience I can share with my family and friends and so it requires very little motivation for me to get out there and do it.

It gets me outdoors in nature and it is a sport that I can pursue as a solo hobby or use as an avenue to make new friends with similar interests. So what are you waiting for?

Even if you do not aspire to be the next Kelly Slater or Stephanie Gilmore, surfing is a activity every one should get out there and have a go at, especially as it will only benefit your long term health and happiness. 

Note: If you don’t live by the ocean or are wondering the best way to train for your upcoming surf vacation with PNS  then look out for our upcoming blog on cross training for surfing.