It’s a sad truth that we all spend extended time on dry land. Sometimes swells fail to materialize, the winds blow consistently on shore, or the ocean temperature plummets. Perhaps you live far inland, or work picks up, or other priorities dominate. Life intervenes.
It may be weeks or months before you can jump in the water again. Sure, the initial paddle out feels ok, but soon your arms and neck ache. You feel a bit winded. You look down at your watch to realize you’re only 10 minutes into a planned two-hour session.
When you get your chance to surf, you do not want to spend your time trying to get back in shape. You want to rip. Here’s how to stay in surf shape all year.
As surfers, we are creatures of water. Stay connected to it as much as possible.
Find a local pool and start swimming laps a few times a week. Not only will you build up your paddling strength and cardiovascular fitness, but you will attune your body to the dynamics of water.
If you’re new to swimming laps, build up to 400 meters in a single session, a few times per week. Once that feels comfortable, progress your workouts to about 1200 to 1500 meters, with 400 meters for a warm up and a couple hundred meters for a cool-down set.
If you only have time for one activity, stop reading and go swim. Think of it as surfing—without a board.
#2 Build Functional Strength
Surfing is a core-intensive, full-body effort.
Barbell curls and sit-ups will not cut it. Strive for routines that target coordinated movements involving multiple body parts. Squats and deadlifts are a great place to start and can form the foundation of strength training. Both lifts build strength and explosive power throughout the body, but especially in the legs, hips, back, and abdomen—the centers for stabilization.
If you do not have access to a gym, work air squats into your week. Simply squat down and stand up, without weight, for 50, 100, 200 reps. Remember: consistency is key.
Working on functional strength on regular basis will keep you strong and ready to charge those overhead swells.
Flexibility prevents injury, encourages recovery, and allows you to perform at your best in the water. When you watch Kelly Slater or John John Florence, you notice that they seem locked to their boards in all conditions. Whether they’re launching an aerial ten feet above the lip or pulling deep into a barrel, they somehow retain their balance, riding out when others would be swallowed by the sea.
By stretching every day, we can prepare our bodies to face the toughest conditions. Activities like yoga can help, a series of simple morning stretches to start the day can be just as good.
Big-wave legend Laird Hamilton does a routine every morning to prepare to face monsters. Will you be ready?
#4 Hop on a Board, Any Board
At its most basic level, surfing involves manipulating a board through space.
We can retain and even strengthen our skills by participating in other board sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, or wakeboarding. All board sports require balance and fine motor coordination—especially within our feet and ankles—that transfer well to surfing.
When you cannot surf, find another plank and hop on!
#5 Visualize a Session
The mind drives the body. Tend to the mind often.
Watch surf videos regularly. Even if you aren’t able to get in the water, living vicariously through the surfer on the screen can aid the visualization process. And with lots of pro-surfers using go-pros, you can enjoy a view of the green room while in the comfort of your living room.
Practice visualization. Taking a few minutes once in a while to recreate the surfing experience in your mind can keep you prepared for the next session. Close your eyes, breathe deep, and recreate the feel of the water passing over you as you duck dive, spot a set on the horizon, paddle into the wave, look down the line, pop to your feet, and feel the spray of the sea as you ride across a never-ending green face.
Of course, if you’ve surfed here in Tamarindo, this is probably happening for you, every night, while you dream!
#6 Plan Your Next Trip
Nothing gets us motivated like a goal.
Whether you need to book airfare to get in the water or just wake up before the sun, plan your next session and commit to it. Doing so will keep you stoked and committed to staying in surf shape.
We’ll see you out in the water, paddling circles around others, for hours on end.
Want more? Check out this article by our friend Nick Holt about the 5 Rules of Surfer Nutrition.