Surf’s Up

By Tim Burkhart, PT

Swimming and Surfing

Swimming has a wide acceptance as the best exercise for surfing because of the similarity to with surf paddling. Without good paddling fitness a surfer won’t catch many waves. They also won’t be able stay out and surf very long! It is best to swim for strengthening in the ocean rather than in a pool, and that will get you in tune with the ocean and better prepare you for surfing.

Competing Swimmer

Image of Swimmer in Competition

Understanding Cardio and It’s Effect On Your Ability to Surf

While swimming does help with cardiovascular fitness, it is recommended that participating in weight-bearing aerobic exercise is important. Surfing does require and improve standing balance, but it does not do much to build muscle strength in the legs. Cross- training with cycling or swimming can increase strength and musculature. It is also a recommendation to mix in exercises to improve dynamic standing balance. Two pieces of exercise equipment that work on balance are the Indo Board and the BOSU, both of which can mimic a surfing stance.

High Intensity Training or HIT

When you surf in the ocean you are engaging your body in short to high intensity bursts due to the resistance created by the waves. These bursts are for short to moderate durations. Because of this you may want to engage yourself in CrossFit or other HIT physical training sessions during your training away from the board. It is important to remember that while being flexible is important, You also need to be strong throughout your full range of motion. This is how pro surfers train for their events. Also, an emphasis on global upper body endurance is important as well. Lastly, Remember being able to stay calm as you get “rag dolled” underwater for what seems to be forever at times is a must for all surfers.

Does your Core Affect the way you Surf?

The popularity of “core” strengthening and Pilates fits well within a training program for surfing If you don’t have access to formal group classes or a personal trainer, most exercise balls come with instructions for a well rounded core strengthening program. Since surfing requires muscular endurance, most of these exercises can be performed at home with light dumbbells, tubing, bands, or body weights. For a double whammy, you can do them while sitting or laying on an exercise ball to work on trunk strength.

JOI Rehab Surfing

Endurance for Surfing


Let’s face it, stretching is boring. However, general flexibility offers the surfer a reduced risk of injury. Some people enjoy stretching, or need to go to a gym for stretching or a yoga class, sometimes included in membership cost. You might try a yoga video which is designed specifically to show you how to increase flexibility and add the strength needed to be a good surfer. So, paddle out and have a great time, and make sure to you remember surf etiquette.

Image of a man stretching the right calf to relieve a charley horse by JOI Rehab

Man stretching the right calf for surfers

By: Tim Burkhart, PT

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