Surf Strength & Athleticism for Beginner Surfers

Feeling like a fish out of water? Dying for your next surf session? Don’t want to risk losing the progress you’ve made so far in the water? Want to learn about surf strength & athleticism for beginner surfers?

Well there is good news my friend. You do not need to be in the ocean to practice the physical strength exercises necessary to become a good surfer.

This post will focus on the most fundamental movement patterns required for surf strength & athleticism for beginner surfers to get better at the sport.

Workouts outside of the ocean can definitely behoove beginners who are eager to step up from beginner to intermediate.

There are plenty of different kinds of home workouts that are simple to set up, cost nothing, and help strengthen the body in preparation for your next surf session.

While we won’t get into the specific workouts here, all you need to do is google “surf workouts” and you will find a plethora of creative exercises that are completely sufficient at developing the muscles and movements necessary to improve. (And check out our other blog post on pre-and-post surf exercises!)

Make a habit out of these workouts and it is guaranteed that you will become a stronger and more prepared surfer the next time you paddle out.

What physical qualities are key for surf strength & athleticism for beginner surfers?

1) Endurance

A surfer needs to have high endurance levels in order to be able to paddle out to the lineup, paddle hard to catch waves, and then paddle back out to line up again after you’ve ridden a wave to your satisfaction.

Endurance increases over time, with consistent practice. Cardiovascular health is vital to have high endurance and to be able to push yourself to increase your endurance levels even more. Surf strength & athleticism for beginner surfers is essential. 

2) Flexibility

Surfers need to be flexible so that they can put themselves in odd positions that we normally wouldn’t find ourselves in during our daily lives.

Going from lying prone on your surfboard, to popping up quickly, fluidly, to then riding the drop and turning into the line of the wave – your body naturally starts to flow with the wave.

Being rigid in your pop-up means you won’t be able to do it quickly enough to successfully stand up in time for the drop.

Back flexibility – mobility in your cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spine – is key to becoming a good surfer.

3) Strength

No matter how well you understand what you need to do in order to catch waves successfully, you won’t be successful in matching the speed and momentum of the wave if you have weak paddling skills.

In order to become a good surfer, you have to work on your surf strength by routinely exercising the basic muscle groups used in surfing.

4) Balance

Surfing requires balance.

When you understand basic wave mechanics, you begin to understand why having a good balance is so important in surfing.

Similar to needing sufficient surf strength, it won’t matter how much you know what to do out in the waves if you have poor balance. Surfers must be able to find where their center of gravity exists while riding their surfboard.

Not being able to balance well while moving with the wave will result in having great difficulty landing your pop-ups successfully.

Good balance entails having good lower body strength and good mobility.

What are the most important types of movements to strengthen to get better at surfing?

There are four fundamental movements that anyone new to surfing should practice in order to feel confident in the water:

  1. PUSH
  2. PULL
  3. LUNGE
  4. SQUAT

Workouts that incorporate all four exercises amount to a full-body workout.

When exercised regularly, this helps beginner surfers strengthen the right muscle groups that get you ripped and ready to surf with confidence.

If you already have some experience with surfing, this type of full-body workout should make sense – we push down when we duck dive, pull the board in close as we turtle roll under a wave, lunge as we pop up into our stance, and technically we stay in a dynamic squat pose on our board after dropping in, bottom turning, carving, pumping, etc.

If you are someone who dreads working out but really wants to learn how to surf, there are a lot of positives to this type of full-body surf strength training program that you should be aware of before deciding to forego regular practice.

All you need is 20-30 minutes to spare.

We’re not talking about an hour and a half a day of workouts.

If you want to get ripped, you really only need to find a spare 20 minutes during your day to complete a surf strength training program consisting of these four basic exercises.

Warming up (mobilizing) and cooling down (stretching) are not fruitless wastes of time and can be accomplished by dedicating another 10 minutes towards your training routine.

20-30 minutes a day, 3 – 5 times per week would be sufficient to look and feel noticeably different the next time you surf.

Keep in mind that everyone is different; this only gives you the right idea, but of course, the frequency and intensity of your training routine depend on your unique body, history of injury, etc.

Bodyweight exercise

You do not need to pay for a gym membership in order to get yourself into good surf shape outside of the ocean.

All of the four fundamental movement patterns can be trained with bodyweight-only exercise routines.

If you want to get fancy, consider finding a local playground with pull-up bars and other rails that you can use creatively to do dips, pulls, and pushes.

Consistent practice

Beginner surfers who enjoy it the first go around and want to come back the next day and the next day quickly realize that your body simply isn’t ready for daily surf until you have reached a level of surf athleticism that your body can physically handle.

Every surfer needs a rest day, but every surfer also needs to actively strengthen their muscles in between surf sessions.

If not, the muscles atrophy. As a beginner surfer, being a “weekend warrior” – going all out to the max on the weekend before going back to your full-time desk job – can cause issues later down the line.

It is important to keep your body used to the feeling of pushing, pulling, lunging, and squatting, so that you can see a physical change in your body strength, and also so that you can prevent injury.

Excited for your first surf experience, or to take your surf skills to the next lesson? Check out HOKALI’s home page for a complete list of destinations where you can book a lesson!

When starting, surf strength & athleticism for beginner surfers is important, but knowing how surfers communicate is also important, check out this post to learn more!

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