Surf holiday fitness tips: How to train for a surfing trip

Jan 14, 2021 BY Paul McWilliams

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a seasoned surfer, knowing how to train for a surfing trip can vastly improve your experience. The surf holiday fitness tips below will help whip you into shape so that you can get more from your time on the waves.

best Australia surfing holiday top 11 surf spots in Oz Pixabay royalty free image

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to be an Ironman triathlete to have fun on your board. Surfing is an activity that almost anyone of any age can enjoy. But it does exert a physical toll on your body. So, the more prepared you are, the more time you can spend in the water and the faster you will improve.

Why train for a surfing trip?

Looking at images of pro surfers such as Kelly Slater, it is obvious they’re all in incredible shape. Yet when you see them riding a wave it looks almost effortless, with little to no exertion. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In most cases, surfers need to paddle out to the waves. Often, the biggest waves lie a way off shore, which means paddling out several hundred metres or more. That’s like doing 30 or 40 laps of your local pool before you even start to catch waves.

When a wave comes, you need the explosive strength and power to paddle quickly to catch it. You need the agility and balance to pop up and the sheer leg strength to battle a wave with tons of force and pressure behind it. Do this often enough and you end up with the body of a pro surfer.

Surf holiday fitness tips how to train for a surfing trip Pixabay royalty free image

But don’t be fooled. Anyone taking surf lessons will have to work just as hard (and possibly harder). Your waves might be closer to the shore, but you’ll have to battle through breakers with your board. You’ll endlessly try and drop in, get bundled off and rolled over, and generally battered around. It’s great fun but after an hour or two you’ll be exhausted.

Surf holiday fitness tips

That’s why all levels of surfing can benefit from pre-trip training. Here’s what you need to think about.


Surfing involves a large amount of paddling. This requires upper body strength, especially in the arms and shoulders. The closest way to replicate this is swimming. Front crawl is best as the action is similar. But any kind of regular swimming works out the whole body, strengthening muscles and building power.

Once of the top surf holiday fitness tips is don’t do too many weights as you don’t need bulking up. Focus your strength training on your own body, doing push ups and other body weight workouts. There are lots of great strength building advice on sites such as Fit n Healthy.

Surf holiday fitness tips how to train for a surfing trip Pxhere royalty free image


Your core strength is essential to good surfing. Your lower body and stomach muscles are being worked the whole time you are on your board.

Doing exercises like front squats will help to build leg and core strength, as well as increasing muscle memory for when you do it for real. It also helps to work out complex joint movements you will need, as well as placing demand on spinal muscles that don’t usually get too much of a work out.

Other core strength training you can do includes yoga and pilates, which have other benefits (see below), as well as planking. Start small with all core exercises and try to make gradual improvements as you move towards your departure date. When you train for a surfing trip don’t overdo it as you could risk injury.

Balance training

For beginners especially, balance is key to enjoying and improving your surfing. You can be as strong as an ox and fit as a butcher’s dog but if your balance is off, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time (and extra energy) rolling around in the surf. Transitioning from paddling to dropping in to standing is the key skill for beginners. And it’s all about balance.

Both SUP and Yoga are great for surf fitness training pixabay royalty free image
Both SUP and Yoga are great for surf fitness training pixabay royalty free image

Yoga is great balance training. It also to boost core strength, which is vital, but helps to improve your transitions and adjusting ability to prevent falling. Poses such as mountain, chair and tree all help to build muscle memory and enhance neurotransmitters responsible for balance.

Other balance exercises or activities include paddle boarding, which is great for core strength, slacklining or surf balance board trainers.


In a similar way to balance above, training your body to be more flexible will help when surfing. Yoga, Pilates and Piyo are great for this. They work on stretching core muscles and making incremental improvements to your range and stretching strength. One of the top surf holiday fitness tips is to hop on you tube to find surfing specific yoga, pilates or piyo routines.


All of the above can help you to boost specific areas of your surfing, such as paddling out, dropping in, popping up and turning. But you also need a good general level of cardio fitness in order to get the most from you surfing holiday.

Be a better surfer through running and other cardio Flickr CC image by mikebaird

Try running, cycling, swimming and other exercises that get your heart rate up for an extended period. This will boost your endurance and let you stay out on the water for longer. The more time you’re on your board, the more you will improve and the more you will enjoy the surfing experience.

How much training for surf holiday fitness?

The amount of training you should do depends on your general condition, how long since you last surfed and how long your trip is going to be. If it’s a weekend break, then sore and aching muscles will be less on an issue than a ten-day surf camp.

If you’re generally very fit and active, then surf fitness training can just focus on those muscles you’ll be using. However if you are unfit and not very active it is worth putting in as much effort as possible.

That said there are no set guidelines about how to train for surfing trip. But any training you can do before you go will be beneficial. If you don’t have the time or capability to launch into a six week intensive surfing fitness training programme, then don’t worry, your surf trip will still be fun. But be aware that it’s going to be physically tough.

Surfing fitness tips how to train for a surf holiday Pixabay royalty free image from Ombak Tujuh, Java, Indonesia

The other very important thing to remember is to warm up and stretch thoroughly before every surfing session. This will help to reduce muscle soreness and reduce the risk of injury. Try and devise a warmup routine for your pre-trip training routine and use this when you’re on the beach.

We hope you found these surf holiday fitness tips useful. If you want to book a trip then check out these surfing holidays from all around the world.


Exercise, fitness, Gym, Pilates, Piyo, Stretching, training

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