• Without Walls: Summer Surf Training

    Anyone who’s ever attempted to catch a wave knows the surfer-as-beach-bum stereotype is total crap. Surfing requires some serious athletic skills, not to mention mental stamina. And when the ocean’s flat, surfers don’t just take the day off—they train.

    So how do they stay in wave-riding shape? Forget gimmicky group classes and expensive gym memberships; a study from the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand studied pro surfers to figure out exactly what a surf session requires of your body.

    Here’s the verdict: When you’re surfing, you spend half your time on low-intensity paddling and the rest of the time either maintaining your position in the water in high-intensity bouts of all-out paddling, balancing on the board, or recovering post-ride. In other words, you’re going to need endurance, power, and plenty of core strength.

    The best part of surfing is its simplicity—all you need is a board, a bathing suit, and a decent forecast—so why should your workout be any different? Here’s our no-frills training plan for getting in shape just in time for summer surf season.




    Step 1: Run, Run, Run
    Love it or hate it, the easiest and cheapest way to build up your endurance is to just start running.  Ease your body into it and prevent injury by committing to one mile every other day. Then gradually ramp up your efforts by a quarter mile per session after the first week. You should be able to hold a conversation while running, but just barely—if you’re feeling completely out of breath, transition to a quick walk until you feel you can pick the pace back up. Joint issues? Score a membership to the community pool for some laps or bust out the road bike. The longer you can last on land, the longer your surf sessions will be.

    Step 2: Meet Your Middle
    Don’t mistake six-pack abs for core strength; your core is actually made up of all of the muscles around your middle (if you wrap a string around your waist, any muscle the string touches counts as your core).  Three days a week, focus on movements that engage and challenge that area, but don’t rely solely on crunches. Instead, think about static moves (like planks) or moving through exercises slowly (try double-leg lifts or v-crunches). Pick five moves per session and repeat for as many reps as you can.

    Step 3: Get Armed
    Here’s your new fitness mantra: weak arms miss waves. Paddling to catch a wave, swimming to get back on your board, and launching yourself to standing position all require arm muscles that are primed for fast, explosive moments. Translated, that means you’re going to need guns if you want to be a good surfer. Start with this sequence to build strength: push-ups, planks, triceps dips, and pull-ups. Do 10 reps of each for a total of four rounds a few times a week, adding more reps as you feel ready.

    Step 4: Balancing Act
    Flexibility and balance are the two areas surfers ignore the most. Sign up for a yoga class or subscribe to online yoga videos to learn effective stretches and proper form. Can’t see yourself on a mat? Perform basic exercises while standing on a stability ball or try slacklining—both will improve your coordination and engage tiny stabilizing muscles all over your body.

    Step 5: Integration Station
    One of our favorite ways to get in shape comes courtesy of Seea surfer Mele Saili: instead of booking time specifically to train, incorporate bodyweight exercises into more practical, everyday tasks. No waves this weekend? Clean out the basement and carry the heavy stuff up the stairs piece by piece. Instead of parking right next to your favorite break, take the spot at the far end of the parking log and lug your board across the beach while holding it above your head.

    Photos by Nick LaVecchia, words by Johnie Gall