Why Strength Training Is So Important for Surfers

Have you noticed that it seems like more and more surfers today are pushing the limits of surfing further than ever before by carving with incredible power, launching bigger airs, surfing larger waves and surviving incredible wipeouts???

surfing big wave 2

It’s no longer just a few of the top guys making big headlines by performing amazing feats in the surf. Times have certainly changed.

Today…great surfing can be achieved by anyone. And, training can have a huge impact on every surfers performance, enjoyment & personal improvement.

In recent years, the adoption of strength training in the surf community has been one of the most positive contributions to surf improvement and innovation. Every pro surfer and most aspiring young surfers today are somehow involved in an active training plan and program.

Here’s why…

5 Ways Strength Training Will Super-Charge Your Surfing…

…and, increase your enjoyment in the water


1. Develop More Power

All surfers should be looking to increase their functional strength.

We’re not talking about developing a bodybuilder-style physique, but rather building well-rounded athletic development throughout your body. This is what will create and generate more power on your board.

Here’s why…

Properly training your muscles increases their power output, thus increasing the speed and force of each movement you generate.

So, all things being equal, the more force you can apply in each movement (a paddle stroke, bottom turn, cutback, etc.) the faster you’ll move, the sharper you’ll turn and the quicker you’ll be able to react and respond to the wave.

surf workout training
Functional strength training is ideal for surfers of all ages and ability levels


This is why strength training results in more powerful, explosive surfing, as your body is not only moving with greater power and speed, but also more efficiency.

Even if you’re not looking to surf the biggest waves on the planet, strength training will enable you to feel more confident on your board, catch more waves and recover faster between each wave and session.

More on this below…


2. Boost Endurance & Energy

Traditionally, endurance was thought to be a “cardio thing” often associated with running, but in actuality good endurance is key for every sport and physical activity.

Why endurance is so important…

Think about it, anything inefficient requires more energy to run.

  • Inefficient cars burn more fuel than an efficient one
  • Inefficient appliances require more energy than an efficient one
  • And, an inefficient body requires more energy to move than a fit, well-trained body
paddle boarding workout
paddle boarding is a great cross training – working endurance in the shoulders, back and core + balance training the lower body stabilizer muscles


For surfers, your surfing strength and energy level needs to be sustained for a solid 2 to 4 hour session, often times repeating for consecutive days, especially when the waves are pumping. Factor in the blazing sun, and your energy levels quickly deplete from a surf session.

There’s nothing worse than having to cut an epic session short because your feeling exhausted and your shoulders are out of gas.

This is where training for endurance comes into play…

As stated above, strength training improves muscle movement and force, essentially making each movement more efficient. This muscle memory and efficiency is going to create more ease with each paddle stroke and popup you do.

Furthermore, well-trained muscles can perform for longer periods of time and recover significantly faster by being able to pump more fresh, oxygenated blood through each muscle, which promotes recovery and repair from stressful work.

Using strength training to enhance endurance will allow you to surf your absolute best for hours and days on end.


3. Improve Balance & Stability

Yes, core strength is very important for surfers. But…the body’s stabilizer system runs much further than just your core.

side lunges
bodyweight side stepping lunges focus on: the stabilizer muscles & explosive lower body power

Stabilizer muscles from your neck, shoulders, arms and hands; as well as your legs, glutes, calves and feet all work seamlessly together to surf each wave.

For surfers, balance is found at each stage of the process:

  • lying on the board
  • paddling out
  • sitting
  • popping Up
  • riding waves and performing moves

This is why, for surfers, full-body strength training is so ideal.

Creating perfect balance between your upper body and lower body, front and back muscles will greatly enhance your athleticism and capabilities – this is what produces the “glue” that keeps your legs and feet firmly planted on your board through every move and turn.

Remember, balance within your body will create balance on your board. Meaning, you need to be training opposing muscle groups equally. Quads and hamstrings need the same amount of attention. Chest AND back need to be worked equally, not necessarily using the same weight, but make sure you’re fitting in the same number of exercises each week.

Working toward building well-balanced, full-body strength will result in better stability and enhanced coordination on your board.


4. Build Greater Confidence In the Water

Confidence in your athletic ability grows when your body looks and feels fit, is well-trained and pain free.

Feeling how your body positively changes from strength training in the water will only help to build your confidence and solidify your ability in more challenging surf.

pushup:plank - beach

Strength training even boosts confidence in professional surfers.

Retired professional surfers, such as:

  • Shane Dorian – 43 years old
  • Tom Carroll  – 54 years old
  • Larid Hamilton – 52 years old
  • Kelly Slater – 44 years old
Tom Carroll - fit as ever before
Tom Carroll – fit as ever before

These guys are still some of the fittest surfers on the planet – continuing to surf better, stronger and more confident after retirement than when they were in they’re 20’s and on tour. Each continues to push the limits of innovation and big wave surfing.

Pro surfers are no longer relying just on their talent. Rather, all of them incorporate a consistent strength training regime to keep them in tiptop shape, and elevating their physical and mental confidence in their own abilities.

Tough workouts are probably the best way to push yourself physically and really find out what you’re made of. There is a lot you learn about yourself from overcoming a tough physical challenge, and a lot of confidence to be gained. Challenging your own body is the greatest method for discovering the strength of your mind.

Strength training is great for the central nervous system (fight or flight). Consistently training and participating in rigorous workouts helps to keep you calm when in the eye of the storm – knowing that you’re mentally capable to push through a physically demanding situation and that your strength and athleticism is at it’s best, even when conditions get more critical.

We’re seeing a lot of this today…it’s not a secret, and the tools are readily available to everyone.

A consistent, well-balanced training regime will help everyday surfers and weekend warriors stay physically and mentally ready to attack an epic run of swell at home or feel confidante to finally take that bucket-list surf trip.


5. Prehab The Body & Prevent Injury

Most injuries can be prevented, as most are not accidents, but rather are caused due to overuse of a particular body part/muscle or result from an imbalance of strength in the body.

And, in today’s more sedentary culture, muscle imbalances that lead to chronic aches and pains is a growing problem.

twisting forward fold - beach

Muscle imbalance is when certain muscles of the body are stronger than the opposing muscles.

When the chest muscles are stronger than the back muscles, this results in shoulders rolling forward, poor posture, chronic aches/pain and the weaker muscles become fatigued quicker and more susceptible to injury.

Another way injuries occur,

A forceful contraction, near max output from the stronger muscle can also cause damage to the weaker opposing muscle due to the inability to counter the force.

This is how injuries occur.

2 of the biggest causes of muscle imbalance and poor posture:

poor posture from sitting


Too much sitting and too much looking down toward mobile phones or laptops

This concept of muscle imbalance is just as important for the noncompetitive surfer as it is for the professional on tour.

Strong muscles are far better suited to supporting bones and ligaments, and holding the body in proper alignment.

Strength training improves:

  • Stronger muscles and tendons help to hold the body in proper alignment
  • Bone mineral density increases
  • Ligaments become more pliable and flexible, able to absorb more shock and stress

For surfers, strength training helps prevent muscle imbalance. Surfers spend most of their time paddling, so their shoulder, back and arm muscles are typically well developed. Their legs and chest muscles tend to be underdeveloped and far more weak. This causes  muscle imbalance in the body and these weaker muscles are far more susceptible to injury.

When an area of the body is used less during an activity it may become weak compared to other areas. This can become a problem when that area (whether a muscle, ligament, joint, or specific bone) is called into play suddenly during an activity. That area cannot handle the sudden stress placed on it and an injury occurs. Strength training, using a balanced program, will eliminate these weak areas and balance the body for the activities it is called to do.

These can lead to chronic pain and an unnatural wearing of the bones.

A balanced strength training program will help to counter these effects by strengthening the weaker muscles to balance them with their counterparts.


How to Gain Surf Strength

Muscles need to be challenged in-order to get them to strengthen & adapt with improved function – performing movements with greater power, speed and efficiency than before.

Significant improvements in surf performance occur when functional exercises performed at an optimal intensity are introduced into the surfers training program.

This will produce stronger muscles that are faster, more stable and have more endurance to perform.

Here’s why functional training is perfect for surfers…


Functional Training – A Surfers Secret Weapon

Functional training is the secret ingredient to longer sessions, better surfing & extending your surfing years.

Functional training is the preferred training method of all professional surfers, and most professional athletes.

Rather than focusing on isolation exercises, which only work 1 muscle at a time, functional training looks to marry together strength, endurance, balance and coordination for a more effective overall training experience, as well as looking to incorporate the use of your core into each exercise.

A great example of functional training:

short runs like these and side shuffles through the water add extra resistance and incorporate more muscles and core into the movement = bigger benefits

Functional training looks to target multiple muscle groups at the same time, often compounding 2 or more movements into the same exercise, which looks to both stimulate fat loss, promote lean muscle growth and improve coordination and reflexes by focusing on targeted movements and motor skills.

When training for surfing, it’s important to keep it functional and fun. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your workouts and change locations often: home, gym, park, beach – and, train all areas of the body with equal emphasis.

Of course, there are tons more reason that strength training will improve not only your surfing but your life and wellbeing.

We guarantee you’ll be happy with the results.

PS. For a complete, fully detailed body weight only surf-specific training program that will build a strong, lean & , check out the full Fitness For Surfers training program. You can download it right HERE

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