Blame Jeff Spicoli for popularizing the unflattering, not to mention untrue, stereotype that surfers are brainless and lazy. Not even considering the fact that many surfers get up at 4:30 a.m. to sneak in a few hours of their favorite pastime, the act of surfing takes a tremendous amount of strength and endurance, along with athletic assets like balance, coordination and agility. You can’t learn to surf in a gym, but some well-spent gym time can make learning to surf a whole lot easier. Here are some areas to focus on before you hang ten this summer.
Upper Body: Mobility
People think surfing is all about riding waves, but to get to the waves, you have to paddle, an experience that can be hell on tight and unconditioned shoulders. “Weekend warriors have those tight shoulders from being in a seated position, what we call ‘forward rounding of the shoulder.’ They don’t get that extension and that full range of motion they need when they paddle,” says Doug Balzarini, CSCS, a trainer at Fitness Quest 10 in surfing-obsessed San Diego.
Prescription: Balzarini recommends using a foam roller or exercise ball to open up those cramped shoulder joints. Lie on top of the ball or roller (running perpendicular to your spine and across your shoulder blades) with your arms fully extended to your sides, palms open and facing the ceiling. Relax into it, letting the natural weight of your arms carry your hands toward the ground.
Homework: Once or twice a day, spend five minutes on an implement that helps open your shoulders.
Lower Body: Explosiveness
In surfing, the transition from paddling to standing is crucial so that you can explode onto your feet from a prone position. “You want your hips and legs to be strong and flexible,” Balzarini says.
Prescription: Balzarini recommends the kettlebell swing because it builds power in the glutes, hamstrings and the rest of the posterior kinetic chain, while the relatively high rep range improves total-body conditioning. To perform a kettlebell swing, grab the handle with both hands and stand in a shoulder-width stance with your weight hanging in front of you. Slowly squat down while reaching back so the kettlebell travels behind your feet and glutes, then explosively contract your glutes and hams to drive your hips forward and up as you raise the kettlebell waist-high, keeping your arms straight the whole time. The force of your hips snapping forward should propel the kettlebell.
Homework: Twice a week, add five sets of 20 kettlebell swings to your usual gym routine.
Even if you can paddle out to the waves and pop up on the board, you’re going to be in for a short ride if your core has the stability of a piece of dental floss. For surfers, Balzarini eschews the overused crunch for planks, instead.
Prescription: A plank is performed by holding a standard push-up position but with your forearms on the ground rather than your hands. Your body should maintain a straight line, from your head all the way to your feet, for the entire time you hold the plank. You can also perform a side-plank exercise, during which you support yourself on one forearm with your ankles, knees and hips stacked and your body in a straight line.
Homework: Twice a week, add five plank intervals to your current workout. Perform one minute of work followed by one minute of rest, working up to it, if necessary. If one minute is too easy, perform it on an unstable surface or add some weight to your back.