Surf Tips

Get Fitter for Surfing with these Essential Exercises

Get fit for surfing, and become the finely tuned specimen of athletic excellence youve always dreamed of being

Wondering what the best exercises are to get fit for surfing? Want to become a finely tuned specimen of athletic excellence? Or just somewhat less portly, with a better chance of making it out back?

We’ve enlisted the help of the knowledgeable folk at Cornwall High Performance, who know more or less everything there is to know about strength and conditioning for the high-performance, and indeed low-performance, surfer. This is what they said….


Surfing is the best way to improve your surfing, right? Well, of course there is no better way of getting better at surfing than actually surfing; but when the waves are flat or it’s blowing an absolute gale, there are several land-based exercises you can do to massively improve your surfing performance. Here at Cornwall High Performance we have outlined 3 areas, backed by evidence-based research, that you can focus on to drastically improve your surf performance and also decrease your chances of injury: mobility and flexibility, strength training, and aerobic conditioning.

Mobility/ Flexibility

Surfing involves a variety of movements; from standing on the board in a half squatted position, popping up explosively to the feet, to paddling back out to the line-up. Each action requires good movement and by focusing on improving your full body mobility and flexibility, you will soon see huge benefits in your surfing. Not only will the risk of injury reduce, but getting into your surf positions will become second nature as your body adapts to the rigors of your land-based programme. Try these 4 simple mobility drills, completing each action for 45 seconds.


Begin in a quadruped position with your hands under the shoulders and knees under hips, maintaining a neutral spine. Drop down to the shoulder and reach through to the opposite side. Return to start position and repeat on the opposite side. You should feel this movement in your upper back.


For this move, your feet should be shoulder width apart and flat. Sit back into a deep squat keeping the elbows inside of the knees. Raise your hips high – feeling a stretch in the hamstrings and calves -, and then drop back to the bottom position of a squat. Remember to keep the chest high and feet flat at the bottom of the squat position.



Take up a split stance position with the front foot planted flat on the floor. Then, drive the front knee over the toes, whilst keeping the heel flat on the floor. Ensure you keep your movement fluid and then alternate the exercise on the opposite side.



This is a high plank position. Firstly, step left leg up to left hand and drop the right knee to the floor; you will feel the stretch in the right hip flexor. Return leg to starting position and repeat on the other side. It is important to keep the spine neutral throughout this movement.

Strength Training

Strength is the underpinning foundation to every move you make in the water. Paddling out to the line-up requires good upper body strength, popping up to your feet effectively further challenges both the core and upper body muscles. Not only those, but bottom and top turns require excellent lower body and core strength in order to efficiently spray a ton of water out the back!

Try these 5 simple strength based exercises and expect to see big improvements in your surfing.

A good starting point would be to do 3 to 4 sets on each exercise, for 10 repetitions per set. Take between 60 – 90 seconds’ recovery between sets.


Lie with the back flat on the bench keeping the shoulder blades retracted. Feet should be directly under the knees to provide a good base of support.  Keep the hands positioned slightly wider than the shoulders with a pronated grip (ie. knuckles pointing towards your face). Make sure to ask a spotter to help lift the bar in to position, which should be directly above the mid-line of your chest. Slowly lower the bar to chest, keeping your elbows at a 45 degree angle. Powerfully drive the arms back to the start position.



Set the pins on the squat rack to just below shoulder height and walk in evenly under the bar. Place the bar on the anterior deltoids (shoulders), using the finger tips for extra support. Brace, and step backwards out of the rack taking small steps. Stand with the feet flat, and shoulder width apart maintaining a natural gate. The chest should be pushed outwards keeping the shoulders retracted. Take a deep breath and brace your musculature, slowly lowering down to a squat position where the hips are in line with the knees, carrying the weight through your heels. Ensure that a good lower back and torso position is maintained. Powerfully drive back up to the start position and exhale at the top of the lift.



Set the suspension trainer to approximately a 45 degree angle, keeping the body parallel to the floor. Ensure the feet are hip width apart, keeping the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders in a neutral position to keep the core engaged. Take hold of the handles with your arms extended and then pull your body up towards the suspension trainer handles with the shoulder blades retracted and body in alignment. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner and repeat x 10.



Place the hands directly under the shoulders with your arms fully extended. Maintain a neutral spine with the head in line with the rest of your body ensuring a good alignment with the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds engaging the glutes, quads and anterior core throughout. Aim to eventually hold for 90 seconds.



This is a trunk stabilisation drill, the aim of this movement is to resist the rotation of the band trying to pull you back towards the rig.  Attach the resistance band to the rig and set at chest height. Create tension on the band by pulling it up to the mid chest, and stepping away from the rig to create more resistance, use an appropriate resistance to start. Keep feet flat and hip width apart, engage the trunk, push the chest forward and retract shoulders. Push the band out so that the arms are fully extended whilst maintaining the same trunk position throughout. Slowly return the band back to the chest and repeat this move. Don’t forget to repeat on both sides.

Aerobic conditioning

We all know that surfing involves intermittent bouts of intensities and duration so a good aerobic base of conditioning is absolutely essential if you want to stay busy in the water for those super long sessions when the waves are pumping. Of course we get “surf fit” when we are surfing, however the waves in the UK aren’t consistent all year, so when the waves are as flat as a mill pond it’s important to condition your body on dry land too.

Embrace cardio with the rower or running machine in the gym, or get paddling or swimming in the local pool. Try 30 seconds of intense cardio followed by an easier 30 seconds for 6 minutes. Take 3 minutes recovery and then repeat twice. Ensure you maximise your 30 seconds of intense work with serious effort and don’t stop on your easier 30 – instead lower the speed and recover in time for the next interval.

The above is a small selection of exercises we use with individuals. It is a good basis of which you can start to make improvements in your surfing, however here at CHP we would always assess each individual and design programmes based of the findings of our assessment. If you want that level of detail then please do get in touch.

[email protected]


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