A Surfing Workout for Those Who Don’t Like to Exercise

I love to surf, but I don’t like to exercise. This is problematic living in Cocoa Beach, FL where we often endure flat spells, especially during the summer. When I moved to Cocoa Beach, I thought I could stay in shape by just surfing when we had waves. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and when a solid swell hit, I was out of shape and my surfing was inconsistent. After going through this cycle several times, I decided to get serious about developing a surf specific workout that I don’t hate.

I started by researching different exercises and workouts. I looked at lots of different resources, including workouts by Scott Adams (Surf Stronger) and Cris Mills (Surf Strength Coach). After reading articles and watching several videos, I put a few workouts together. I would do them for a few weeks, but then a swell would come, I’d surf for several days, and fail to return to the workout after a couple of rest days.

I eventually reached out to surf coach, John Holeman, who was kind enough to give me lots of good advice. My hope was that he could teach me a few secret techniques so that I didn’t have to commit to regular exercise. I wasn’t surprised when he told me that my main problem was not skill but conditioning. This inspired me to recommit, integrating John’s advice into a workout routine.

I am not an expert on this topic, but below are some things that I’m doing to get/stay in shape and improve my surfing.


Pop-Ups and Beach Conditioning

The first thing John Holeman told me was to practice my pop-ups 2-3 times a day. When I’m not surfing well, the pop-up is where things tend to go wrong. My chest, back, and shoulders get fatigued, and I start blowing waves by dragging or banging a knee on the deck. The worst is when I stub my toe hard dragging my front foot forward. Pop-up practice not only helps you to build strength but master the skill, making sure you get your feet in the right place every time. To help me with this, I created a tape grid on the floor that shows me where my hands should be before popping-up and where my feet should be after popping-up. For technique, checkout this video by Brent Rose, How the World’s Best Surfers Pop Up (Slow Motion).

In addition to pop-up practice, John gave me a good beach conditioning routine to help with paddling. Grab a gallon jug, fill it with water, strap it to the leash of your short board, jump in the ocean, and paddle down the coastline for about 100 yards. Then get out (carrying the board and the jug), go to the softest sand close to the dunes, and walk back. After completing this cycle, do it again. The jug creates more drag than you might think, especially in choppy conditions. The first time I did this, I was sore within two hours of getting home! As it gets easier, you can make the paddle and walk longer or increase the number of times you do it. Before leaving the beach, you can do some slow push-ups and squats using prefect form. If you have time, you can also practice duck diving in open water.

 Helpful Exercises:

On alternating days when I’m not doing beach conditioning, I put together all or most of the exercises below into a routine that I can do at home. The only thing required is an exercise ball. I also use my imagination to try and connect the exercise with the surfing movement it will help. Remember, practice pop-ups 2-3 times a day in addition to your exercise routine. Alternate lower body and upper body movements, only resting 30 seconds between sets to keep you heartrate up. Also, since you are not using weights, use perfect form and keep the movements slow and repetitions high. To make some of the exercises harder (like push ups and squats) do them on an Indo Board (with inflatable base) or Bosu ball.

Push-Ups: This should be a no brainer. To help set goals and build strength, I have integrated various push-up challenges into my routine.


push up

Ball Push-Ups: This exercise helps with your duck dives.


ball push up

Jackknives:  This exercise is challenging, but helps with pop-ups, working your upper body and core.


Roll-In/Push-Up: This exercise looks weird, but it works. I couldn’t find a picture, so I created a GIF from the Surf Stronger promo video on YouTube.


Ball Roll-Out:


roll out


Ball Crunches:


Hamstring Curl:



Lower T Twist: Imagine winding-up and cracking the lip as you twist.

lower twist


Lunges (Front and Side):

side lunge

Squats and Jump Squats:

jump squat





It’s common sense that stretching helps with flexibility, which is important for surfing. Most of what I do, I learned in yoga, which also helps me in the water. You may want to take some yoga classes and learn some good stretches, especially for your hips.

I hope this helps. What are your routines? Feel free to share ideas in the comments.

See also: “Surfing, Yoga, Discipleship