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Monday, December 22, 2014

Total Fitness for Surfing, Part 6

Posted by William on August 31, 2012

Laying supine on a bench with the pulley above and behind your head will result in the greatest degree of difficulty being experienced as the handle approaches the end of the range of motion. This is where the arms would be just before leaving the water when paddling. The resistance in this variation would begin in the position just below the mid-point between the pulley and the shoulders. You may not be able to pull the bar all the way down, unless a length of chain is attached by carabiners to the handle on one end and the cable on the other end.

If one attempted to stand facing the pulley machine to achieve the same effect, the abdominal muscles and the weight of the torso would remove a substantial portion of the resistance from the muscles of the upper extremities. More simply stated, even the best of us would be inclined to cheat to lift the weight using momentum and abdominal strength. Securing the torso helps isolate the upper extremity muscles involved in paddling.

All abdominal and lower body exercises have some application to increasing power and preventing injury when doing various maneuvers on the wave such as cut-backs, off-the-lips, etc. It is difficult to simulate these motions in weight training because they usually occur in more than one plane.

More advanced trainees can also do plyometric training with the medicine ball or plyometric tables to translate the increased strength into power and speed. Medicine ball movements simulating paddling, chest passes, sideways bounding, hopping and twist passing drills, sit and throws all can help improve speed and power for surfing applications.

Showing or describing these drills is beyond the purview of this article. These exercises can be found in the upcoming article Plyometrics, a Beginners Guide. A qualified strength and conditioning coach or trainer with education and experience in this area should be consulted to assess suitability for each individual.

Balance and Skill

Balance for wave riding is best developed by surfing. However, other activities such as gymnastics (specifically balance beam and tumbling) or martial arts help if you can’t always make it down to the water. Skateboarding, downhill skiing and snowboarding all develop skills directly transferable to surfing.

If you remember footwork drills from other sports such as basketball, football, volleyball and soccer, do them to help develop a sense of where your body is in space. Ball tracking drills from the aforementioned sports help improve reaction time to visual stimuli.


In conclusion, beginners, returning veterans and surfers trying to avoid injury or push the performance envelope can all benefit from a program of regular stretching, aerobic exercise and strength training. Additional benefit may be realized with advanced training in balance, agility or power.

Watching live and videotaped surfing, if watched analytically instead of for entertainment, can be help you learn more about how waves break and what to do in certain situations. Watching videos of you surfing can be an enlightening and humbling experience, especially if watched with an experienced surfer, or, better yet, an experienced surfing instructor.

What you are doing in the water and where you need improvement, can be seen more clearly, and pointed out to you. Once you are shown what your weaknesses are, it can be decided which areas need the most work. However, a good surfing instructor may show you where you are lacking in surfing technique or wave knowledge, they may not be qualified in developing conditioning programs.

That is why you should consult a certified personal trainer who is familiar with the requirements of surfing, your goals and present level of fitness and experience. Don’t just automatically take the trainer the gym sends you to or somebody a friend recommends, comparison shop. Observe and talk to the trainers in your gym. Call different ads in the phone directory and newspapers.

Find out what education and experience the trainer has and if he or she has ever surfed. The trainer doesn’t necessarily have to surf to know what is required if they have strong analytical skills.

The expense of hiring the trainer will save a great deal of time and effort in developing an exercise routine that improves your surfing performance safely and effectively.

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