Surfing is physically demanding and comes with a learning curve, but once you pick it up, it’s one of the best ways to spend a day at the beach. And having a high level of physical fitness, endurance and balance can help you to pick it up faster and hone your skills.

Here are nine exercises that can help you perform your best every time you’re on the board.


1. Planks – abdominals

Comprising the very center of your body, your abdominals serve as the foundation for many compound movements. Planks are great for strengthening your abs, which can add extra stability to your surfing.

Lie face down on an exercise mat, propping your torso up on your elbows. With your toes flexed against the ground, lift your body up until your legs and spine form a straight line. Keep your head aligned with your back and your upper arms directly below your shoulders. Hold this position for as long as possible.

If a full plank is too difficult, leave your knees on the ground. If it is not challenging enough, make it real! On the waves, you’re dealing with dynamic forces. Add less stability to this movement by teaming up with a partner. While one person performs a plank, the other person gently yet unpredictably pushes the other person’s hips, shoulders, waist, etc. to simulate an unpredictable environment. The person in the plank position tries to stay as stable as possible.

2. Russian twist – abdominals, lower back

Lie with your back against the floor, knees bent, and feet planted on the ground. Anchor your feet under a stationary object or have a partner hold them down. Raise your shoulders and upper back off the ground so your torso forms a V with your thighs and stretch your arms out in front of you. Twist your torso to one side and hold the position for a moment, keeping your arms extended. Then, twist to the opposite side. Repeat for your chosen number of repetitions.

To increase the difficulty of this movement, try holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands. Alternatively, perform this movement with elevated legs.


3. Dumbbell walking lunge – quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings

This compound movement works your entire lower body and can also improve your balance.

Choose a space where you will be able to take several long steps forward. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with one leg and sink into a lunge. Your front knee should bend at approximately a 90-degree angle and your back knee should nearly touch the floor. Keep your torso upright throughout the movement.

At the bottom of the lunge, curl the dumbbells up and then rotate and extend your arms out to one side. Then return the dumbbells to center and step forward with your back foot to return to a standing position. Alternate which foot you lunge with and which side you choose for the dumbbell raise. To increase the difficulty, extend your arms to one side and then the other with each lunge, bringing the dumbbells back to center before shifting to the opposite side.

Continue alternating sides as you lunge across the entire length of your chosen space. When you reach the end, turn around and lunge back to the spot where you initially started.

4. Standing bird-dog – glutes, hamstrings

Your glutes are one of the most powerful muscles in your entire body and can help you control your surfboard.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core for stability and lift your right knee to hip height. Bend your elbows to 90-degree angles. Then, lean your torso forward and extend your right leg backward. Fully extend your right arm forward while you kick back your leg. Your right leg, torso, and right arm should form a parallel line with the ground. Hold this position for three-to-five seconds before slowly returning to a standing position. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions and then switch sides.


5. Hug knees to chest – lower back, glutes

This stretch can help limber up the muscles you need for stabilizing on the surfboard.

Lie flat on your back on an exercise mat or comfortable surface. Pull your knees up against your chest and wrap your arms under your knees. Stretch your upper legs toward your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.

6. Arm circles – shoulders, traps

Arm circles can help relax the joints you need to paddle your board to and from the shore.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands hanging at your sides. Arc both arms forward and up in a full circular motion. Focus on using your full range of motion and loosening your shoulders. Continuing circling your arms forward for 15 seconds. Then, switch directions and circle backward for 15 seconds.

If you have shoulder impingement issues, try swinging your arms forward until they are nearly parallel with the ground, but do not raise them over your head. Stop if you feel any pain.


7. Burpees – quadriceps, calves, chest, hamstrings, shoulders, triceps

Burpees can help develop the muscles used to “pop up” into a standing position while surfing.

Begin from a standing position. Reach down and plant your hands on the ground in front of you. Hop your legs backward and bend your elbows so you end up in the lower position of a push-up. Then you want to pop up to your feet. To add a surfer twist, challenge yourself to pop up from the push-up position with one foot forward and one back in a surfer stance. Alternate which foot is forward with each burpee repetition.

From the surfer stance, explode off your feet into a jump with your arms raised above your head. When you land, transition back into the lower push up position and repeat. The above movements should be performed as one fluid motion with no pause between steps.

If the full-strength burpee is too difficult or you need a lower-impact exercise, try making the movements less explosive. For example, when moving into the push-up position, step your legs backward one at a time instead of hopping them back together. Then, when you rise from that position, lift yourself onto your toes and raise your arms overhead instead of jumping.

8. Running – cardiovascular performance

Being in good cardio shape can help you expend quick bursts of energy, like when you’re racing to catch a wave.

For days when you’re not near the water, try high-intensity interval sprints on the treadmill or outside on a track. Interval training is an efficient way to improve your overall athletic performance. To get the most benefit, alternate between short periods of high exertion that get your heart rate up and lower-intensity recovery periods.

9. Swimming – endurance

Swimming is an excellent way to develop endurance, and its relevance to surfing is obvious.

Not only can swimming give you a low-impact full-body workout, but should you ever find yourself in a riptide or rough surf, strong swimming skills could save your life. For a well-rounded fitness plan, schedule a few days of steady-state cardio activity, such as swimming laps, each week to complement your higher-intensity workout sessions.

These nine exercises were chosen because they can improve cardiovascular conditioning and help develop key muscle groups used in surfing. Try fitting some or all of them into your current exercise routine, or work with a personal trainer to develop a fitness plan specific to you.

Surfing may be a summer sport, but by training year round, you’ll be able to perform better on the surfboard and enjoy all of the benefits of living an active lifestyle.