Fit to Surf

The Surfer's Guide to Strength and Conditioning by Rocky Snyder

Copyright© 2003 by Rocky Snyder.  All rights reserved.
You must cite the author and source of this content if you wish to use or reprint it in any form.


Rocky Snyder FIt to SurfPeople of all ages are enjoying the sport of surfing, and each year the number keeps rising.  Improvements in wet suits, surfboards, and leash cords are making it possible for people to head out into the waves just about any time they wish.

Most of today's surfers are prime candidates for fitness programs that can make them better surfers and help them avoid injuries.  The young surfers of yesteryear are now adults with office jobs and long commutes.  While their minds may still be young, their bodies have aged and are no longer up to the demands they used to place on them.  But they still like to surf.  Meanwhile, the young surfers of today are playing video games and watching surf videos, often less active physically than their mothers and fathers were at their age.

These factors lead to what has been called the Weekend-Warrior Syndrome, in which a person suffers a sports injury because he or she is basically sedentary during the work week but tries to play hard on the weekends.  Among surfers, the result is sport-related injuries of the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees.  Many surfers are "weekend warriors" who would benefit from a conditioning program designed to help them increase the strength, endurance, and flexibility needed to enjoy their sport to the fullest.  This book fights the weekend-warrior syndrome by showing surfers how to condition themselves safely and effectively.

Workout programs, even at health clubs and commercial gyms, aren't usually designed for a particular sport.  They may be good generic programs, but they are rarely created with the surfer in mind.  I learned from personal experience that even years of strength training and conditioning don't help much with surfing in the winter swells of Santa Cruz, California.  While fighting through overhead sets, after getting caught inside, I felt that I was out of my league.  It was only after I looked at how I was training that I realized I was not training to be a stronger surfer, but that instead I was training more like a bodybuilder.

When we work out at our local health club, the programs that most of us follow focus more on a bodybuilder's routine than on ones specifically useful to a surfer.  The typical program concentrates on a couple of muscle groups one day and other groups the next.  Surfing requires the entire body to work together in a synergistic fashion, and the workouts should reflect this need and be more sport-specific.

In 1998 I was invited to vacation on a pleasure craft off the coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia.  The plan was to spend two weeks traveling to fifteen of the finest surfing spots the world had to offer.  Several months before departure, I set a personal goal of conditioning myself to be in the best surfing shape I could achieve.

Using knowledge I acquired through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, I analyzed the biomechanics of surfing.  What muscles are used the most?  What energy system do the muscles utilize?  What are the most common injury sites?  Once I figured this out, I created a conditioning program to ge me to my goal.  I trained hard with this program for several months, until I was in the best surf shape of my life.

Because of vast forest fires in Indonesia and immense regions of smoke, we had to call off the trip at the last minute.  But the planned adventure had served its purpose:  I was now truly ready for the winter swells of Santa Cruz.

Since then I have trained many surfers with this program, which is detailed in the pages of Fit to Surf.  It's designed to be useful for all surfers, regardless of gender, age, or fitness level.  You do not have to be a member of a health club for this program to be effective.  Many exercises can be done at home or in the water.

The chapters of this book provide information on creating your own conditioning routine for surfing.  They describe and illustrate exercises that contribute to strength, endurance, and flexibility.  Sample conditioning programs for both gym and home are laid out in detail.

There are a few rules to follow for success with this surfing fitness program:

  • Before beginning any new exercise program, it is strongly recommended that you consult your  primary health-care provider.
  • Execute proper form during all exercises and stretches.  If the form is incorrect, different muscles must compensate – and the more compensation that occurs, the higher the potential for injury.
  • If you experience dizziness, discomfort, or pain, stop immediately.
  • The final rule:  have fun!
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