Surfs Up - Exercises for Surfing on Dry Land

There are an estimated 2.5 million recreational surfers in Australia. An online survey to try and pinpoint what kinds of injuries amateur surfers sustain was carried out in 2015. This survey found that shoulder, ankle and head/face injuries were the most common acute injuries. Injuries were particularly high for surfers that performed aerial manoeuvres. 

The action of surfing can be divided into three main groups: 

The endurance paddle out 

The high power paddle into the wave

Riding the wave.

Paddling puts strain on the shoulder joints but also because of holding the head for visibility and arching the upper back to allow arm clearance in the water it also puts strain on the neck and upper back. Riding the wave requires lots of twisting and flexing forward through the lower back. This strains the lower back and puts high torsion strain on the knees and ankles. 

Surfing requires extreme levels of of aerobic endurance as well as fast muscle power output. For this reason it is really important to train endurance, strength and core balance. Not everyone can get to the water every day so here are some suggestions for dry land exercises to prepare you for the surf.


Strength Exercises (8-12 repetitions in 3 sets): 

1. Bent over dumbbell rows

2. Dead lifts

3. Squats on a bosu ball

4. Planks on a bosu ball

5. Reverse cable woodchops

6. Alternating sandbag lunges


Plyometric Exercises (these help with the power component):

These are best done on a soft surface like grass. Make sure you are warmed up and light on your feet and avoid landing on your heels. Make sure you rest for at least a minute between sets. 

Squat thrusts into a pop-up (30-60 seconds, 3 sets)

Box jumps (30-60 seconds, 3 sets)


Aerobic exercises: 

Swimming is the best for obvious reasons. But, running and cycling will also improve endurance. 


For those wanting to get a bit adventurous the Indo Board allows you to do exercises that help train the movements you do surfing but without leaving dry land. You can perform exercises like lunges, squats and planks on the board which makes them harder and also engages stabilisers in the knees and ankles. Surfset is also a good form of training. 

For those of you on a budget you can train by putting your board on two inflatable stability discs. If you are going to give this a try make sure you protect your board’s fin. These exercises will also test your stability and unlike surfing, if you fall off, the landing is harder so be careful. 


Check out ProSurf Training, a great app developed by Joel Parkinson and his trainer Berg.