Surfin' Bird
January 17, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Real novice surfer, caught the bug last summer, but landlocked in London UK most of the time. In what ways can I train to make myself fitter for the times when I do actually get to the waves? Basically I'm looking for methods by which to become a better surfer without actually surfing.

The next time I'll be able to be at a beach with a surf board is mid March. What can I do between now and then to maximise my time and make it a better experience when I get there? I'm open to as detailed suggestions as you have (I've read yoga is good, any surfers out there who can corroborate this? Any specific moves in yoga?). I'm coming from the place of a previously fit woman who over the last couple of years has done little to no exercise.

So I guess I want the tools to both a) get better surfing skills and b) get fitter.

Thanks for any advice you can give me
posted by stevedawg to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, 20-year surfer here from Santa Cruz, California. Well, as you know, the best thing to do to improve your surfing is to actually surf, but you can't. What I would do, if I could, is the following:

1) Swim laps. Especially do some of your laps with a pull buoy, so you're only using your arms. This isn't the same as paddling, but it's about as close as you'll get.

2) General cardio. Surfing is more a cardio sport than anything, even though people don't realize it. Swimming is good for this as well, so you can kill two birds with one stone that way, but when the surf is small here I ride my bike.

3) Something that's good for balance. Skateboarding is the obvious choice. People will recommend longboard skateboarding, but I don't think there's anything special about it. Any type of skateboarding that challenges your balance is good. A regular skateboard is probably actually better because trying to do tricks and things will help your balance more than just cruising around. Don't hurt yourself, though.

I don't think strength training is particularly important, especially for a new surfer, but it certainly won't hurt, especially if you can add some muscle to your shoulders to help you paddle.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:36 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

There is not much you can do to substitute actually being in the water. I believe there's something deep in the hypothalamus where the critical skill of timing develops. Nothing can teach this other than moving water (and salty ocean water at that). You can watch dozens of surf films and change to slow motion when the subject catches a wave. But this is not from the surfer's perspective.

You could see about paddling on a lake, or in a pool. There are certain muscles along the shoulder and back that are worked only by paddling on a surfboard.

Ashtanga yoga --since it's generally very difficult and detailed and since the latter half of primary series involves "jumping through," a lot of movement simultaneously involving core compression.
posted by ezekieldas at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Indo type balance boards are pretty solid. You can ever make a DIY version on the cheap.
posted by ACEness at 9:40 AM on January 17, 2013

Speaking as a pretty novice surfer (now learning to turn), the things I did that helped were as follows.

Popups/Pushups: Surfing for me involves tons of falling off. Being able to do a pop-up easily without getting tired and then repeatedly over the day is very useful. Practice popups or pushups/burpees.

Running/swimming: As others said, good cardio helps. Swimming builds similar muscles to paddling, although paddling seems to use some secret ones in your back too. If you've very novice, paddling won't be that much of an issue yet though.

Yoga: Improving mobility in hips, ankles, knees, shoulders is good - you're moving those, and crouching while on the board so good movement there can help.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 10:09 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi. Daily surfer in San Diego here. In addition to what tylerkaraszewski said, just focus on your overall fitness level and flexibility (run, stretch, repeat). Surfing is exhausting, more-so if you don't have a good level of cardio fitness, but it also engages so many tiny little muscles that trying to replicate it with strength training is near impossible.

It's been flat here for the past week and I can feel my paddle-fitness slipping a bit, so in addition to pushups and shoulder-presses to keep my upper body in shape, i've been doing pop-ups on the floor.

Basically, lay a golf club on the floor. Lie down next to it. Place your feet at the tip of the clubhead and pop up so your feet are close to the face (many youtube videos on how to pop up, depending on if you are on a longboard or shortboard). Repeat x 50. In addition to building the muscle strength needed for popping up, it will start ingraining the muscle-memory of the pop-up so it will be second nature when you are actually on a board.

But, yeah, there is really nothing you can do on land to substitute time in the water.

Big swell forecast for this weekend, tylerkaraszewski I hope you guys up there get some good ones!
posted by remlapm at 10:10 AM on January 17, 2013

I live in an area with inconsistent surf, so this is a challenge that I've dealt with for a long time. We get long flat spells, then sudden tropical systems or winter storms with challenging conditions at beachbreaks with tough currents and no easy paddling channels. Swimming and other steady-state aerobic exercises can be helpful, but what has really made a huge difference for me, especially as I've gotten older and don't have time to play basketball or soccer several times a week like I used to, is Tabata and other forms of high-intensity interval training that boost anaerobic fitness.

Along with a regular regimen of body-weight (pushups, pullups, burpees, etc.) and dumbbell exercises, I do 2 to 3 Tabata sessions per week on my stationary bike and one 30 - 40 minute ride per week. I've found that if I keep up with my routine, I can drop what I'm doing, paddle out and have a great time whenever nature decides to cooperate. As for the balance aspect, I've always ridden a skateboard and now I ride several times a week with my sons. Not everyone agrees that skateboarding translates directly to surfing, but I think it helps.
posted by gimli at 10:26 AM on January 17, 2013

Have you thought about surfing the Severn bore?
posted by elsietheeel at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2013

I grew up surfing, but do not do it anymore. But I am about to go to Hawaii to visit an old friend, and surfing will be very much expected of me.

I am doing this routine every other day (it may be more suited for a man than a woman, since it is in Men's Health, but I do not see why).

And then, alternate days, swimming as many laps, slowly as possible. It is a good tip to just swim with arms, and I plan and doing that next time I swim.
posted by Danf at 11:30 AM on January 17, 2013

Thanks for all these great answers people, gonna get to it this week. Much appreciated. (Severn bore looks terrifying!)
posted by stevedawg at 4:47 AM on January 20, 2013

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