As a beginner surfer, you would wonder what the quickest way to improve your paddling and surfing is.
Surfing requires strength and endurance in multiple muscle groups. If you do not have adequate strength, it won’t be easy to perform basic maneuvers to surf.
Strength training is not essential to improve surfing skills, but for individuals with low strength, strength training may assist in performing specific tasks such as catching waves and pop-ups.
Let’s look deeper into the strength training and see if you should do it too.
Do You Have To Be Strong To Surf?
Fundamental strength is required to be able to surf, which includes pushing your body weight off the board with push-ups, paddling for 5-10 minutes on your stomach with your chest up, and maintaining a squatted position when riding a wave. Therefore, for surfing, a combination of strength and endurance is required.
This does not mean you must go to a gym and start lifting weights. Even if you do not have strength, surfing 3-4 times a week will help you develop strength and endurance over time.
Please note that building endurance and strength takes time; within 6-12 weeks, you will notice a considerable change in your surfing.
What is the Advantage and Disadvantage of strength straining?
Strength training can help you find the strength required when you need a sudden burst of strength, such as catching waves, pop-ups and duck-dive. Some may argue that it’s more skill than strength However, without essential strength, all the skills will be useless.
Carrying extra muscle mass might be disadvantageous for surfers as it increases weight which sinks the board further, making paddling and catching waves more challenging. Also, extra muscles around the arm may reduce the shoulder’s mobility, negatively affecting the paddling.
For someone to be negatively affected by muscle gain in surfing, it takes months to years of serious training and diet. So, most people should not worry about making surfing worse with strength training.
How Do You Build Strength in Surfing?
While many beginners or non-surfers consider building lower limb strength for surfing, Upper body and back strength is most important to surf. This is because most surfers spend over 95 per cent of their time paddling or sitting on the board rather than riding a wave.
To build paddling strength, you should consider doing endurance training. This includes paddling exercises while you are surfing.
Start paddling practice at a self-rated exercise intensity of ‘somewhat hard’.
Start building insurance from 5 minutes and build up to 20-25 minutes with breaks during the training when required. Ideally, you need to do this minimum of 3 times a week, or if you would like to maximise improvement, five times a week.
So, don’t skip the small or flat wave days. Use it for paddling training sessions.
If you do not have access to beaches close by, do strengthen/endurance training, mimicking surfing or improving freestyle swimming. Despite body mechanics being slightly different, there are many similarities between surfing and freestyle swimming. Therefore, swimming can be an excellent option for endurance training.
Apart from swimming, focus on building back, neck and leg muscles to help while paddling.
Lie down on your stomach, with your shoulder blades back together and head off the floor. You can also bring your arm forward and back to resemble actual paddling.
You can time yourself and see how long you can hold it. Have a break and repeat the process three times a day, five times a week. You will quickly develop endurance muscles within three months.
If you want more information on paddling: see how to paddle effortlessly.
D Build Strength for Duck-diving; Duck-dive require upper body strength to push the board into the water with your elbow straight and then hold it down using your body weight. Muscles required for this action are good grip strength, triceps, serratus anterior and pectoralis muscles.
You can train these muscles by pushing what’s called push-up plus. Please add a regular push-up into this push-up, plus then you have exercise targeting all the major muscle groups required for duck diving.
Like paddling, you can practice duck-diving repetitively and get strong. Here is a video tutorial on how to perform duck diving.
Before practising duck diving on your board, you need an appropriate surfboard. It is not easy to duck dive minimal or longboard. Even with shorter boards, if you have a round nose-shaped board, it’s difficult to duck dive compared to a traditional shortboard.
Is Surfing Good Exercise?
Surfing is an excellent exercise for gaining upper body and back strength and endurance. It is a low-impact exercise with a low risk of injury and provides health benefits from aerobic exercises. Other benefits of using include
- Improve Mood.
- Lose weight. ( See here for how many calories you burn during surfing)
- Lower the Stress Level.
- Improve confidence.
However, surfing may not be a suitable exercise for some people: (Please see here for 9 disadvantages of surfing).
To be a good exercise, you must do it consistently to get the full benefit. However, one of the problems of surfing is that surfing is heavily environment-dependent. So, several things can go wrong, preventing you from surfing.
- Waves are too small or too big.
- Water is polluted.
- Too much wind.
- You can only Surf when the Sun is up.
- Not Enough Time.
1. Waves are too big or too small.
You will not find the perfect conditions for surfing most of the time. Waves size is one good example. As a beginner surfer, waves of 1-2 feet are the optimal sizes to learn. Waves bigger than 3 feet size will be challenging, and too small waves are not ridable. Unfortunately, you cannot choose the size of the waves on your surfing day.
2. Water can be polluted.
Surfing in the rain is one of the most amazing things you can do. However, with heavy rainfall, the ocean can be polluted even a couple of days after the rain. After heavy rain, it is recommended that you check the pollution level on the appropriate website.
3. Too much Wind
Any wind stronger than 20knot will make surfing very challenging. Even clean offshore wind can create water splash as the wave breaks, blocking the vision. Also, it can throw your board around making it unsafe.
4. You can only Surf during day time.
There are plenty of exercises that are not time-dependent. For example, 24-hour gym, running, and swimming are possible regardless time of the day. Surfing, however, requires sunlight to see the wave and be safe.
Lastly, your lower limb does not get much exercise unless you are a good surfer who catches many waves during the session. Therefore, if you want leg exercises, you may want to include some separate exercises for legs apart from surfing.
How Often Do You Need To Surf To Stay Fit?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 150 minutes per week is required for an average healthy adult per their exercise guideline. Therefore, it would be equivalent to 2-3 days of surfing ( 2 hours per session) a week.
If you have done quick math, you would be shouting, saying 2 hours per session and three times a week is well over 150 minutes. However, it would be best to consider non-exercising time during your session. Most surfers sit or lie down on the board for nearly 50 per cent of total surfing time.
If you are a beginner surfer, you would miss a lot of waves and may give waves away to someone else due to your positioning mistake or lack of confidence. Therefore, during a 2-hour lesson, if you exercise 30-60 minutes, you must surf 2-3 times a week to stay fit.
How Often Do You Need To Surf To Get Good At It?
3-4 times a week or more is required to increase your surfing skill as fast as possible. This is because surfing 3+ times a week will improve your aerobic exercise capacity and give you more chances to increase your wave count.
To improve your aerobic capacity, you need to exercise 150-300 at moderate intensity exercise per week. If you surf for 2 hours a session, actual paddling time and surfing time would be around for half an hour to an hour for the most beginner surfer. You must surf at least three times a week to make 150 minutes (= 1.5 hours) a week.
For wave count, it goes with improving aerobic capacity. You cannot catch waves when your arms are all jelly. Therefore until your stamina grows, your waves count will be relatively low, and it can be pretty slow progress for the first few months, depending on your baseline fitness level.
Once your stamina and wave count improves, your surfing skill will improve at a quicker pace.
See here if you would like to know different tips on improving surfing.
How Many Waves Do You Ride Per Session?
Generally, beginner to intermediate Surfers would ride 5-10 waves per 2-hour session. The wave counts if vastly different depending on where you live and how fit you are. Surfers often may not catch a single wave during a 2-hour session due to wave quality and crowd.
The crowd plays a significant role in wave count. If you surf in a point break with surfers with high skill levels, it’s pretty challenging to get your fair share. Check this footage of Snapper Rocks, Australia. Notice how hollow the waves are and how CROWDED this place is.
Positioning yourself in the lineup and trying to catch one of those will be tricky.
Why Are Surfers So Attractive?
Humans are naturally attracted to people who are in good physical health. Surfing is a great exercise to keep fit and improve upper and lower body musculature making the surfers more attractive.
Surfing also is an effective way to lose weight by burning calories. See here how many calories surfing burns.
Let’s look into where surfers build their muscles to have a balanced body.
- Neck and Back Extensor muscles.
- Deltoid, triceps, biceps and Forearm muscles.
- Upper back – Trapezium, rhomboids and Latismus Dorsi
- Glut muscles
- Hamstring and Quadriceps
- Calf muscles.
As you can see from the list, surfer train pretty much all the muscles with more focus on shoulder and back muscles. With lean body mass and increased muscles in the upper body, it’s not surprising how attractive surfers look.
Also, there is the psychological component where surfing is considered extreme and dangerous. People tend to admire others when they engage in something complex and challenging. Therefore surfers may be viewed as more attractive.
Surfing also improves moods like other exercises, making people more energetic and seem to enjoy life.
Lastly, there is a chance that we only remember the attractive surfers. Let me tell you; there are plenty of not-so-amazing-looking surfers like me!
What Is The Most Important Skill In Surfing?
The most critical skill for surfing is paddling, which helps surfers catch waves and move around on the water. Most surfers spend more than 95 per cent of the time paddling or sitting on the board waiting for waves.
The fact that surfers spend less than 5 per cent of their time surfing waves surprises many beginners or non-surfers. Even at professional levels, surfing time is short: Professionals at the tournament catch around 5-8 waves during 30 minutes of heat with the help of a jet ski. Each wave riding last 10-20 seconds (on long waves like Bells Beach Australia, the wave can go for 30+ seconds).
So if you surf on a beach break without much of a rip to use, you are more likely to catch less than ten waves an hour with less than 10 seconds of the ride.
You will spend considerable time paddling and sitting on the board, so paddling power and efficiency is very important. If you want to read more about efficient paddling, read here.
When the opportunity comes, you’d better not let your tired arm let you down!
Will Surfing Make You Ripped?
Surfing alone can help you to develop a well-balanced body with little fat. However, it will not help you get big muscle mass as it does not involve heavy resistance training.
If you look at typical top-level surfers or talented local surfers, they tend to be moderately built. They tend to develop broad shoulders from paddling, but you may not see many Arnie-like muscular guys on tour.
Most professionals lift weights to gain extra strength, but most surfers do not need to do this to surf better.
Do Surfers Need Strong Legs?
Most beginner and intermediate surfers do not require extensive leg strength. This is because unless they ride amazing long waves, they would not have enough riding time requiring big leg strength.
However, as surfers learn how to pump, float and turn, leg strength becomes increasingly essential to maximise the surfing time on a given wave.
One of the best ways to improve leg strength for surfers is by riding a skateboard or surf skate. They not only improve leg strength but also improve skills which is difficult to practice on natural waves.