Surfing Fitness: How to get fit for surfing

Where did my surf fitness go? That’s a damn good question!


Do you ever wonder how some people can paddle faster than you? Carve a deeper bottom turn, or spray the hell out of the top of a wave? One word: FITNESS. It is the biggest challenge your average surfer faces. The typical surfer who grovels for an hour before work. The surfer that sits in front of a screen for 8 hours. For that surfer and all other water enthusiasts, good surfing fitness can have a MASSIVE effect on the quality and length of their surf sessions.


Now I know the key to getting better at surfing is “surf no matter what”….and  Stab Law #001 tells us“you wont get better at surfing by going to the gym”. And as much as I agree with this, when it’s flat you need to work on your paddle fitness in the gym or outside following these few simple techniques.

Surf Fitness

First thing’s first, for strong surfing fitness you need to have a well rounded, surf specific training program and it is important to keep your heart rate up in-between sets. There are four key training factors that are vital to supporting your surfing fitness. These will help you catch more waves, paddle harder and charge longer and stronger in the ocean.



A great surfing fitness warm-up: the pop up burpies


Starting off in a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor. Then jump your legs back into a push up position. Lower yourself to the ground like a press up and as you push back, spring your feet into a perfect surfing position: front foot between your front two hands and back leg bent (like it is resting on the tail pad). Now jump up as high as possible and repeat.


Do this 10 times in between each key training factor set… choose one out of the two exercises and repeat; completing 3 sets of 12.



1. Core stability

Swiss ball tuck
Start in a press up position with your toes on the top of a ball. Now pull your knees into your chest with your feet up beneath you, then stretch your legs back out to the start, press up position.


Weighted abdominal twist
Sit on the floor with your knees up and feet just off the ground, with your back lifted to 45 degrees. Hold a weighted ball in front of you above your head and twist your arms and shoulders to each side of your body placing the ball to the ground each time.



2. Upper body strength

Press ups
Get into a press up position, either on your knees or feet, widen your hands and slowly drop to the floor and push back up. Make sure you hover just above the floor and don’t touch the floor. If you want to work on your triceps, bring your hands closer together, and directly in line with your shoulders – this will replicate the push up part of the pop up surfing manoeuvre.

Hayley Shaw-McGuinness training at the beach
Hayley Shaw McGuinness taking her training outside


Weighted downward rope
Pull on a weighted rope from head height in a straight line until your arms are stretched fully in front of you. Make sure to control the ascent and descent of the rope and really squeeze your muscles.



3. Lower body power

Ball push squat
Start off standing feet shoulder width part with the weighted ball held out in front off you with straight arms. Squat so you are 90 degrees to the floor. As you straighten and push up in an explosive movement, take the weight and your arms straight above your head. The next step is to throw the ball up in to the air and catch it on the way back down.


Surf / Snowboard twist
If you can do this on a bosu ball even better. Start standing with your knees slightly bent, back straight. Pop and spin 180 degrees. Lower back to a squat gently after you land your spin, using your knees to absorb the impact of the ground. Do only 3 sets of 6. Slowly and controlled but with explosive energy.



4. Mobility, flexibility and balance

Yoga Yoga Yoga
As we learnt from Alexa’s article on Kelly Slaters diet and fitness, King Kelly practices yoga to prevent injuries and keep himself in shape.


“A lot of my injuries come from stiffness, imbalances”


Creating a balanced and good range of motion in your body is vital for anyone looking to maintain and preserve their fitness. Any repetitive movements will cause strain on the body and often not in equal parts which can lead to injury. Kelly has been known to flow in and out of yoga throughout his career, falling back on it as method to bring that range of motion and concentration back to his body and mind.


Heated yoga is the best for those who want a more intense workout though not necessarily Bikram yoga. Yoga can help develop strength as well as improved flexibility and tone, which every surfer needs :)

Hayley Shaw McGuinness surfing fitness
Hayley Shaw McGuinness gets moving on her lunch break in Sydney


… so now when you head out in to the surf you will be stronger, surf harder and get the most out of your time in the water.

Good luck!


Thanks to Hayley Shaw McGuinness for sharing her inspirational surfing fitness photos with us. Make sure you check out her beautiful blog Her Who Dreams where she writes on surfing, fitness, nutrition, travel and all things beautiful.


Passionate about all extreme sports, I am driven by adventure and find the most joy in deep powder or hectic surf. I built enough confidence to chase my own dream, and built a career where I can work from anywhere in the world. Now I split my time between optimising websites from a laptop in front of a surf break, to breaking all the rules of how one is supposed to live.


  1. Thanks for sharing Sarah. Every time I am fit and strong my surfing improves so quickly. Your article has given me some new ideas and motivation to get my core even stronger. Now we just have to wait for waves!


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