Exercise to Surf

February 12, 2014 0 Comments

Exercise to Surf

There are a lot of us out there that refer to surfing or any other form of ocean play as our exercise. The preference being, to have fun with the byproduct of getting fitter along the way.

So if surfing is our exercise why would we want to do more exercise just to go surfing? Let’s start with that shortness of breath on a long paddle out or the dull tired ache in the arms and shoulders after catching a few waves or having that feeling of being a touch slow to your feet to take that late drop. Apply that to any water sport that involves being in the unpredictable dynamic that is the ocean.

Unfortunately for most of us – surfing is a past time, not a profession. Which means, to be the best you can be, to paddle better, surf more explosively, for longer and with less injuries you will need to supplement your surfing with further exercise. Even the world’s best follow very strict training regimes to get them into peak condition for performance at the highest level. The odd surfing in isolation is simply not enough.

As if being unfit wasn’t bad enough, injuries in surfing are also relatively common. These range from traumatic to progressive (over time) injuries. Not counting where we try to bash or impale ourselves on our/other boards, sand or reef etc , some of the most common injuries are to our shoulders from using them relentlessly to propel ourselves and strains to the back from torsion required to execute turns. Some of this is down to poor technique (learning) and some to wear and tear. A lot of this could be mitigated through better flexibility. As a demographic we are notoriously bad at stretching, so in the mad rush to get that extra time in the water we open the door to a more prolonged leave of absence.

Some food for thought: (according to Hyde and Gengenbach):

  • Risk of significant injury doubles for a surfer in his 40s or later when compared to as a surfer younger than 20 years of age.
  • The older, more advanced, and braver (big surf) you are, the more likely you are to incur a significant injury.
  • The majority of injuries happen in smaller waves.
  • Surfing in overhead waves increases the risk of more severe injuries.
  • The occurrence of significant injury is twice as likely in overhead surf as in waves waist high or smaller.
  • Take off and tube riding are the maneuvers most commonly leading to injury.

So what does this show?

  • The older and less flexible and fit we get the more prone we are to injury – this is nothing new and applicable to all sports/activities
  • The more experienced/advanced we are, the greater the risks we are prepared to take and when we come unstuck the consequences are more severe
  • We underestimate smaller wave conditions to our peril

So what to do?

  • If you do nothing else, then at least devote time to stretching before each and every session. That 10min on the beach will earn you far more waves down the track.
  • Develop better flexibility through yoga or stretching exercises.
  • Improve your aerobic fitness to paddle longer
  • Look after those shoulders and upper body
  • Strengthen your core for better balance and power

Here are some links to get started on or check in with your trainer in the gym about developing a program specific to your activity – any trainer worth their salt should be able to do this.



There is also a handy iPhone app called Joel Parkinson Pro Surf Training – put together by Wes Berg and Joel Parkinson. Which takes you through the same routines as Joel and is highly rated by those that use it.


I am in no way a medical professional and any opinion I have is solely my own. This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. For professional advice – seek a professional.

Russel P
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.

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