surfing exercise
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Surf Fitness: Exercises for Surfing

Surfing is quite a physically demanding sport. See how you can improve your surf fitness with the exercises recommended by the OMBE crew.

surfing midair

Surfing requires you to use lots of different muscle groups. You need to paddle a lot, especially in the beginner stages, so you’ll need quite a bit of upper body strength, including your back, chest, and shoulder areas. You need to expand and contract through your knees, hips, and ankles when you’re riding a wave, so you need flexibility and balance in your lower body in addition to strength.

During twists and turns, you’ll depend on your spinal mobility, and airs will require an overall athletic ability. Occasionally, you’ll need to curse the weather and waves, and if you want to do it in innovative ways, you’ll need some strength in your creative muscles. 

Although we're not qualified to offer you a course on creative writing or thinking when it comes to cursing in more and more innovative ways, we can make a list of surfing exercises that’ll immensely benefit you and prevent you from cursing.

If you engage in these exercises on a constant basis, not only will you navigate the dangerous waters of the ocean with more refinement, charisma, and gusto after a little while, but also you’ll look great when waiting in line for your decaf latte made with gluten-free milk at your local coffee shop. Nobody will mind waiting for your complicated order to be taken with pinpoint accuracy since you look, well, amazing.

To make things easier, we divided the exercises into three main categories: strength, balance, and mobility. Without further descriptions depicting how great you’ll look in mundane situations, let’s get on with it.

Strength Exercises for Surfing

lifting weights

The importance of strength in surfing is a multi-layered one. First comes the paddling strength, which will enable you to reach the wave of your liking. Without a strong upper body, even if you reach the wave in the end, your ride is likely to be uncomfortable. 

Similarly, that strong upper body will help you when you’re about to take off since an accomplished pop up depends on the strength of your back and shoulders, and don’t forget that pop ups are what set the tone of your surf session.

Additionally, you’ll need an exceptional hip joint and sturdy knees to maintain balance on your board and do turns and twists. So, exercises that aim to improve your lower-body muscles are essential for a good surf workout.

All these considered, the strength exercises we’re going to recommend below are a must, especially for beginner surfers who want to kick off their surfing journey on the right path.


doing pushups

You probably wouldn’t imagine that surf workouts would start from such a basic and boring point, such as push-ups, but that’s the sad fact. What’s worse is that push-ups aren’t likely to go anywhere just yet because they’re one of the greatest exercises for improving your upper body muscles. Considering that your upper body will be in the water when you’re paddling and popping up, strengthening it in the best possible way becomes even more important.

So, how do you do push-ups properly? The key is to correctly assume the plank position. Make sure that your head doesn’t drop down and your neck forms a continuous line with your back. Also, don’t let your hips stoop too low. Otherwise, your back will hurt, and your push-ups won’t be efficient. If you’re not sure that you can get it right, do it in front of a mirror without falling in love with yourself.

If you’re not used to doing push-ups properly, you might be uncomfortable at first. Your joints might make sounds like those of a ship sinking slowly. However, if your pains go beyond rustiness, you should immediately see a medical professional.

If you don’t feel any pain, though, you can spice up the exercise. Bring unstable gym rings to the equation to put more strain on your shoulders. Be careful, though; you might easily injure yourself if you’re not ready. So, also doing some shoulder injury prevention exercises using high-rep bands can be helpful.

In addition, there are burpee push-ups that require you to do something very akin to a pop-up on land. It won’t only help you strengthen your upper body, but your balance will improve as well since you end up in a standing position after each push-up.


squat exercises

Riding a wave is not really about what you’re actively doing on a wave; it’s about how you react to the force of the wave. In other words, professional surfers absorb the force and pressure of the wave through their boards and bodies and channel it to return to shore with pride and vigor.

Of course, most beginner surfboards are made with that absorption in mind. Therefore, they’re not as responsive as, say, fun boards or high-performance shortboards. Still, if you want to progress quickly, you need to make sure that there’s enough power and potency in your knees and hips because they are the instruments you’re going to use to absorb the wave. Hips are important to maintain your balance, and you’ll compress and decompress your knees to receive and channel the energy of the wave.

And what better exercise to make sure that you have the necessary strength in your lower body than squats? Obviously, if you’re not used to doing squats, we cannot start by recommending you split squats with dumbbells. First, you need to do some basic ones and see if you’re fit enough and whether you have something particular to work on.

Just do ten squats in three sets as a trial session and see whether your knees, spine, and hips are comfortable and whether you lose balance when moving vertically. Similar to what we said about push-ups above, if you feel like there might be serious concerns about your joint health, immediately seek medical advice from a professional.

Other Squat Exercises 

elevated lunges

You don’t have any pain or ache other than the expected fatigue? Oh, you just completed your sets perfectly, and you want more and more challenging ways to work on your hips and knees? Well, there are lots of squat types you can add to your daily surf training routine.

  • Split Squats: When riding a wave, you need to lock one leg to the front, and the other leg will be your wheel at the back. In that sense, split squats are actually more compatible with the proper surfing stance. Moreover, it’s more demanding since the weight of your body (and you can add dumbbells, too, if you want) falls just on one knee, unlike basic squats.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: We don’t know what instigated Bulgarians to come up with such a strange split squat exercise, but regardless, it’s quite the challenge for anyone. Place a chair or bench behind you and put one leg on that chair with the top of your foot touching it; then, do squats as if that’s a perfectly normal position to be in. You can also add weight to the equation if you want to make it even more challenging.
  • Jump Squats: You might not be interested in overcharging your knees, and you might be looking for an exercise that’ll improve your mobility and athletic capacity as well. Well, in that case, jump squats, where you jump after every squat-down, are your friend.
  • Barbell Squats: After all that jumping and some Bulgarian fun, barbell squats might be a bit on the boring side since they only require you to have a barbell over your head when doing basic squats. Do you really need to do it to become a better surfer? No. But they will surely move you a step closer due to all the lower body strength you’ll have in reserve.


regular lunges

All things considered, the lunge, especially the variation known as the dynamic lunge, is quite an underrated exercise. Not only does it strengthen your hip and knee joints to a great extent, but also it endows you with quite the mobility and stamina.

If you don’t want to take our word on it, you can just take a look at some YouTube videos of the surfing greats and see how they move. When they’re taking off, when they’re generating speed, or even when they’re getting ready to bust an air, their stance and hip movement are quite similar to the dynamic lunge.

Moreover, once you start bringing weight into the exercise, you’ll realize that it’s also quite helpful to improve other areas like your core strength. The overhead walking lunge that requires you to hold a weight over your head (yup, no surprise there), for example, will need you to engage your abdominal muscles as well.

Chin Ups

chin ups

Some of you might have reservations against doing chin ups because—let’s face it—it’s a way for men to assess who’s more masculine when they’re doing their military service in Hollywood movies. Once they’re discharged, some of them grow a beer belly and start living in trailers, and others go on and become part of black ops. Neither fate could be appealing to aspiring surfers.

However, despite all the smear campaigns against chin-ups, they still remain the best exercise to build core strength, which is imperative for pop ups and paddling. Of course, if you’re not interested in going to the gym on a regular basis, it requires you to install a chin-up bar in your house. So, it requires you to have sturdy door frames, and unless you only host sensible guests, there's a good chance that it’ll cause some injuries to them.

Turkish Get-Ups

The last entry to our list of strength exercises for surfers is also named after a nation, and we don’t know why either. Yet, the Turkish get-up is one of the best, most hardcore exercises for building up strength in your abdomen, chest, back, and shoulders. Just three sets of 10 Turkish get-ups might actually be equal to a day of paddling.

Moreover, similar to the lunge, the Turkish get-up is quite a dynamic exercise as well. In that regard, it’ll also contribute to your athletic ability a great deal. In that end, you’ll witness an increase in your mobility, spinal flexibility and stability, joint health, and shoulder and core control and strength.

Let us warn you, though, that if you’re rusty, it’s not an easy exercise. You need to hold a dumbbell in one hand when lying down on the ground and try sitting up with it while also raising or bending the leg that’s on the same side with the arm carrying the dumbbell. Well, good luck with that.

Balance Exercises for Surfing

One thing that everyone can agree on about the ocean is that it’s chaotic and scary. If you agree, imagine that you’re on it with only the mediation of a surfboard, and you’ll realize how important balance is.

The exercises we’ll recommend below will help you achieve an impeccable level of balance, and once you combine that kind of balance with strength and mobility, nothing can prevent you from having wonderful surfing sessions. Well, at least nothing that pertains to your physical abilities since an alien invasion is always a possibility.

Indo Board Exercises

Indo board

The Indo board is an indoor surfing trainer designed by surfer Hunter Joslin in the 1970s with the very purpose of helping board riders master their skills indoors. It has a simple design, too, which you can build (or even arrange) in the comfort of your home: a board that can go back and forth on a cylindrical object.

However, the possibilities such a simple design can open up are countless. Depending on the type of exercise you pick, it’s possible to focus on almost every muscle group in your body. If you spend a few hours with it on a constant basis, you’ll also start getting to know how your body reacts to the moves of the board, and how your board reacts when you start moving in different ways.

In the end, you’ll be able to strengthen all the necessary muscles and joints mentioned in the sections above: abdomen, chest, legs, knees, and hips. Additionally, once you get the gist of it, you’ll develop muscle memory that’ll help you with your balance.

When you’re comfortable on your indo board, you can combine strength exercises with balance exercises as well. You can do squats, which will allow you to have a sneak peek into how it feels like surfing, and you can do push-ups, which will feel like paddling and popping up.

BOSU Ball Exercises

BOSU ball exercise

Similar to the Indo board, the BOSU ball (BOSU standing for Both Sides Up) is designed for balance training, and the reason why it’s so beneficial for surfers is quite simple. When you pop up, you’re jumping onto the board, but more often than not, you don’t know how your board will react to it. Yet, you need to figure it out immediately to assume the proper surfing stance and ride on.

That’s what the BOSU ball is here for. It’s not possible to jump on it in balance, but ample practice with one can teach you how to achieve that balance as quickly as possible. It’s also a good way to assess bodily attributes and determine what aspects, if any, you need to work on. In other words, you can self-diagnose your mistakes when the ball starts rolling untowardly and readjust whatever’s necessary.

In addition, you can also use a BOSU ball to do dumbbell rotations or rows while lying on your back on it.



Have you ever been on a surf trip and spent a couple of weeks in a surf camp? If you did, you probably know that there’s always a yoga session in the daily schedules of these camps. That’s simply because yoga covers almost every mental and physical aspect a surfer needs to take care of.

It helps you focus your mind and alleviates stress, anger, and anxiety. Exercise the right poses, and you’ll find yourself stronger than you’ve ever been before. And overall, it’ll grant you both a mental and physical balance.

The OMBE crew already has a guide on the best yoga poses for surfers. You can head here and see for yourself.

Mobility Exercises for Surfing


Most of the time, when we see a well-built person, we tend to think that they lack agility since they look like a tank rather than a motorcycle. Needless to say, agility is much more important than strength in surfing. Although some of the exercises we mentioned above help with your athletic capacity and yoga contributes to your flexibility, there are still certain basic mobility exercises you need to engage in on a constant basis.

The first two kinds of mobility exercises that immediately come to mind are pretty straightforward: swimming and running. Swimming is quite akin to paddling, and the muscles you need for both are quite similar. In addition, it’ll be a great way to improve your endurance and athleticism. Similarly, running will increase your lung capacity, and you’ll be more agile in the end.

Furthermore, you can add mobility drills to your daily routine as well, preferably before you go on and start lifting heavy weights. If you do that, your joint health will benefit from it too as mobility drills are a good way to warm up.

Wrapping Up…

Yes, we keep saying that surfing is easy, but when you consider what bodily and mental strengths you need to progress smoothly through the stages of surfing, it might not come across as convincing as before anymore. Yet, that’s not the case.

If you don’t have a particularly weak build, all these exercises will only take a couple of hours of your day. And once your body is accustomed to them, you’ll feel fitter, happier, and more productive and comfortable on your surfboard.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching