Exercises for Surfing: Improve Your Balance and Surf Strength

Exercises for Surfing: Improve Your Balance and Surf Strength

I know firsthand the importance of staying in shape when it comes to surfing.

As a busy father, my fitness, specifically for surfing, has sometimes taken a back seat - And as we know, surfing requires a unique combination of strength, balance, and endurance that can only be achieved through specific exercises.

In this article, I will share some of my favorite exercises for surfing that have helped me get back on track with my fitness goals, and they will hopefully help you too! 


One of the most important aspects of surfing is balance. Without proper balance, it is impossible to stay on your board and catch a wave.

Exercises such as yoga, balance boards, and stability ball workouts can help improve balance and stability on the board.

These exercises can also help prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles that support the joints.



Another crucial aspect of surfing is endurance. Paddling out to the waves and riding them requires a lot of energy and stamina.

Cardiovascular exercises such as running, swimming, and cycling can improve endurance and help surfers stay in the water longer.

Strength training exercises that target the upper body, such as push-ups, pull-ups, and shoulder presses, can also improve paddling strength and endurance.

Surfing Basics

Understanding Waves

It's essential to understand the behavior of waves - Waves are created by the wind, and their size and shape are influenced by the wind's speed, duration, and direction.

Understanding how waves break and how to position yourself in the lineup will help you catch more waves and improve your skills.

Surf Check

Surfboard Types

Choosing the right surfboard is crucial to your success as a surfer. There are several types of surfboards available, including longboards, shortboards, and funboards.

Longboards are great for beginners because they are stable and easy to paddle. Shortboards are designed for more experienced surfers who want to ride waves with more speed and power.

Funboards are a hybrid between longboards and shortboards and are perfect for intermediate surfers.

If you are just starting out, make sure you choose a board with enough volume - you need to be able to paddle before you can start catching waves. 

Balancing Techniques

Maintaining balance on a surfboard is critical to staying upright and catching waves.

There are several techniques you can use to improve your balance, including keeping your weight centered over the board, using your arms to balance, and keeping your eyes focused on the horizon.

Practicing these techniques on land can help you improve your balance and become a better surfer.

Pre-Surf Warm-Ups

I know firsthand how important it is to properly warm up before hitting the waves. Here are a few pre-surf warm-up exercises that I find helpful:

Pre-surf stretching

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a great way to prepare your body for surfing. It helps to increase your range of motion and flexibility.

I like to start with some leg swings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and swing one leg forward and backward, then side to side.

Repeat on the other leg. I also like to do some arm circles and neck rolls to loosen up my upper body.

Core Activation

Your core plays a crucial role in surfing, so it's important to activate those muscles before hitting the waves.

One exercise that I find effective is the plank. Get into a push-up position with your arms straight and your body in a straight line.

Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. You can also try some leg raises while lying on your back to engage your lower abs.

Shoulder Mobility

Surfing requires a lot of shoulder mobility, so it's important to warm up those muscles before paddling out. I like to do some shoulder circles by standing with my arms out to the side and making small circles with my shoulders.

I also do some arm swings by standing with my arms straight out in front of me and swinging them back and forth.

Remember, taking the time to warm up properly can help prevent injuries and improve your performance in the water. So don't skip your pre-surf warm-up!

In-Water Exercises

Paddling Drills

When it comes to surfing, paddling is one of the most important skills to master. To improve paddling strength and endurance, I like to incorporate a variety of paddling drills into my training routine.

Surfer on the beach

One of my go-to drills is to paddle out to a buoy or landmark, and then sprint back to shore as fast as possible.

Ok, you might feel a bit kooky, but it helps to build both speed and endurance and also simulates the feeling of catching a wave and paddling back out.

Another great drill is to paddle for a set amount of time without stopping, then rest for a set amount of time and repeat.

This helps to build both aerobic and anaerobic endurance, which is essential for long sessions in the water.

Pop-Up Practice

The pop-up is one of the most important movements in surfing, as it's what gets you from lying down on your board to standing up and riding the wave.

To improve your pop-up, I recommend practicing on land first. Find a soft surface, like sand or grass, and practice popping up from a lying position.

Focus on keeping your weight centered over your board, and using your core and leg muscles to push yourself up. Once you feel comfortable on land, try practicing in the water.

Start by paddling into small waves and practicing your pop-up technique, then work your way up to bigger waves as you improve.

Duck Dive

Duck diving is another essential skill for surfers, as it allows you to dive under oncoming waves and get back out to the lineup quickly.

To improve your duck diving technique, I recommend practicing in shallow water first. Start by paddling towards a wave, then dive under it using a combination of your arms and legs.

Focus on getting as deep as possible, and using your body weight to push yourself under the wave. Once you feel comfortable in shallow water, try practicing in deeper water and with bigger waves.

Remember, the key to a successful duck dive is timing and technique, so keep practicing until you feel confident in your abilities.

Balance and Stability

Indo Board Routines

Maintaining balance and stability on the board is crucial. One effective way to improve these skills is by incorporating Indo Board routines into your workout regimen.

The Indo Board is a balance board that simulates the movements of surfing, making it a perfect tool for surfers to train on.

To begin, start with basic exercises such as balancing on the board with both feet on the board, then progress to standing on one foot.

You can also try incorporating squats and lunges while balancing on the board to improve your leg strength and stability.


Bosu Ball Workouts

Another great tool for improving balance and stability is the Bosu Ball. This half-ball shaped device can be used for a variety of exercises that target your core and lower body muscles.

One effective Bosu Ball workout for surfers is the single-leg balance exercise. Start by standing on the flat side of the Bosu Ball with one foot, and gradually lift the other leg off the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch legs.

You can also try incorporating squats, lunges, and other exercises while balancing on the Bosu Ball to challenge your stability even further.

By incorporating Indo Board routines and Bosu Ball workouts into your training, you can improve your balance and stability on the board, ultimately leading to better surfing performance - believe me, it realy works! 

Strength Training

Now onto the strength training - it's important to have a strong and stable body to help you ride the waves with ease. Incorporating these surf training exercises into your routine can help you build the necessary strength and endurance.

Here are some effective strength training exercises for surfing.

Leg Workouts

Strong legs are essential for surfing, as they help you maintain balance and stability on the board.

Some great leg workouts for surfers include squats, lunges, and calf raises. These exercises help strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Upper Body Exercises

Having a strong upper body can help you paddle out to the waves and catch them with ease.

Some effective upper body exercises for surfers include push-ups, pull-ups, and dumbbell rows.

Be sure to check out the Mavrex surf paddle trainer too - it's perfect for getting that in-water feeling when you can't to the surf. 

Core Strengthening

A strong core is essential for balance and stability on the board. Some great core strengthening exercises for surfers include planks, side planks, and Russian twists.

These exercises help strengthen your abs, obliques, and lower back.

Incorporating these strength training exercises into your routine can help you become a better surfer.

Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid injury.

Flexibility and Recovery

As a surfer, it's important to maintain flexibility and prioritize recovery. Here are some tips and exercises that I find helpful:

Yoga for surfers

Yoga for Surfers

Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility and balance, which are essential for surfing. Some poses that are particularly beneficial for surfers include:

  • Downward-facing dog: This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves, and spine, which can help with paddling and popping up.
  • Warrior II: This pose strengthens the legs and improves balance, which can help with stability on the board.
  • Pigeon pose: This pose stretches the hips and glutes, which can help with turning and maneuvering on the board.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that can help release tension in the muscles and improve circulation.

It's a great way to speed up recovery after a surf session. Some areas to focus on when foam rolling include:

  • Upper back and shoulders: These areas can become tight from paddling, so using a foam roller can help release tension and improve range of motion.
  • Quads and hamstrings: These muscles are used heavily when popping up and maneuvering on the board, so foam rolling can help prevent soreness and tightness.
  • IT band: The IT band can become tight from the repetitive motion of surfing, so using a foam roller can help prevent knee pain and improve flexibility.

Rest Days and Nutrition

Rest days are equallay as important as surf sessions. It's important to give your body time to recover and repair itself.

On rest days, I like to focus on stretching and gentle yoga. It's also important to fuel your body with nutritious foods, such as:

  • Lean protein: This helps repair and build muscle tissue.
  • Complex carbohydrates: These provide energy for surf sessions and help replenish glycogen stores.
  • Healthy fats: These are important for brain function and can help reduce inflammation.

By prioritizing flexibility and recovery, you can improve your surfing performance and prevent injuries.

Surfer dropping in

Mental Preparation

Mental preparation is just as important as physical training. Here's what I like to do. 

Visualization Techniques

Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you improve your surfing skills. Before heading out to the water, I like to visualize myself surfing the perfect wave.

I imagine every detail, from the sound of the water to the feeling of the board under my feet. This helps me to build confidence and prepare for any challenges that may arise.

Don't beleive me? Just ask Mick Fanning about how he used visualisation to win three World Titles. 

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are a great way to calm your mind and focus your energy.

I like to take a few deep breaths before heading out to the water, and then continue to focus on my breath while I'm surfing.

This helps me to stay calm and centered, even in challenging conditions.

Focus and Concentration

Surfing requires a lot of focus and concentration. To improve my abilities in these areas, I like to practice mindfulness meditation.

This involves focusing on the present moment and letting go of distractions.

By practicing mindfulness, I am better able to stay focused on the task at hand and make quick decisions on the water.

Remember, mental preparation is just as important as physical training when it comes to surfing. By using these techniques, you can improve your focus, build confidence, and become a better surfer.

Final Thoughts

For me, skilled surfing, or at least improving your surfing, requires at least a little bit of physical and mental preparation.

I try to build key skills through specific water exercises and complement my training with strength routines, yoga, nutrition, and recovery.

Equally important is mental readiness - I use visualization, breathing, and meditation to remain calm and focused.

By using just a few of these techniques, you too will find the feeling of flow that keeps us coming back. It's the reward of those moments that makes the preparation so worthwhile. 

Get started today! 

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