Surfing is a super-physical sport, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you get tired during your first few sessions. Paddling, whether it be on a surfboard or bodyboard requires a lot of muscle strength in your arms and back, you’ll need a strong core, and strong legs too. 

The best way to get strong and fit enough for surfing is to actually go surfing. Although interval training and yoga can also help with balance and flexibility. Here are a few exercises which can help build your muscles for surfing:

  • Front Squats: Start with the barbell across the front of your shoulders. Place your fingertips under the barbell just outside of your shoulders and drive your elbows up. Keeping your chest up and core tight, bend at your hips and knees to lower into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Straighten your hips and knees to drive up to the starting position.
  • Push-ups: Position your hands palms-down on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your elbows pointed slightly outwards. Extend your legs out, similar to a high plank. Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Then push back up and repeat.
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  • Turkish Get-ups: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and lie on the ground on your back or in a cradled position on one side. Raise the weight over your face and get up using your free hand for support.

Swimming at your local pool is also one of the best year-round activities you can do to help prepare your body. Just be aware that sea swimming is more challenging than the pool, so you’ll need to practise swimming in the sea too.

What can I eat and drink before surfing or bodyboarding?

Nutrition is key to maintaining endurance throughout any sport. Our bodies need energy, and when we practice physical activities, there will be a higher demand of energy. Even if you’re a beginner surfer, you should try to eat a well-balanced diet, with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, low fat dairy, nuts, fish, lean meat, poultry and protein alternatives. You also need to be well hydrated.

If you’re going to a beginners surf day camp, you’ll need a healthy mix of carbs, protein and fat. Most of your calories should come from healthy carbs such as whole-grain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables and milk. Protein is also important to maintain and repair hard-working muscles, eg. lean meat, poultry, seafood and beans. You’ll also need to include some healthy fats in your diet, like oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. Avoid cramps by not eating at least one hour before surfing, but bananas and water are excellent at helping to fight cramps.

You also need to recover after a day of surfing, so choose food rich in carbohydrates, protein and salt. Here are some options of food and drink to choose from:

Before surfing:

  • Breakfast cereal, porridge or cereal bars
  • Toasted muffins, crumpets or toast (with honey, jam or peanut butter)
  • Fresh fruit
  • A smoothie with low fat yogurt and fruit

During your surf session, make sure you drink plenty of water. Especially as you would have no doubt consumed a fair amount of salty seawater which will make you more dehydrated. You may also want to have a cereal bar or energy gel, as well as a banana to give yourself a little energy boost.

After surfing:

  • Sports drinks
  • Fruit juice and water
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fruit smoothie (low-fat milk, banana, yoghurt)
  • A meat/cheese/chicken sandwich (whole-wheat bread)
  • Baked potato, baked beans, grated cheese
  • Rice or whole-wheat pasta

Paddling your board works your entire body, from your shoulders to your core to your legs, and requires good cardiovascular conditioning. Like any athlete, if you want to perform your best, you need to eat right.