Surf Workout: Urban Surfer’s No-Equipment Home Bodyweight Workouts

It’s finally winter: the season of consistent swells and still slightly warm water. The summer crowds have scurried back to the safety of their city apartments, with their 8 foot mini-mal (or second-hand 5’11” pop-out that they found on eBay and still don’t understand why they can’t stand in the 1 foot whitewash) securely stored until next July.

We can’t all live on the North Shore of Oahu (but check out my blog – Hawaii: An Intermediate’s Experience Surfing the Best Waves in the World – and vlogs – Surfing in Hawaii and Billabong Pipe Masters 2018 – for some reasons why you should seriously consider the idea…). Thus, unfortunately, there will be some periods of flat days. And when I say periods, I mean seemingly endless stretches of torturous lulls, only for the bi-monthly low pressure system to coincide with gale-force onshores and torrential downpours. (Read my Hawaii article, yet?)

See what I mean?

Alas, when that fabled swell finally arrives you want to be in top-top condition so you don’t burn out in the first 30 minutes – or, worse, spend those 30 minutes staring at perfect, empty walls breaking on your head while you can’t make it out past the impact zone.

(Remember, you have potentially a whole month’s worth of surfing to cram into any day of rideable conditions.) 

So, how to stay surf-fit?

Swimming is an excellent choice, but pools aren’t always accessible (or cheap). Not to mention, if you go during the day you’ll likely find yourself navigating a slalom of babbling grandmas.

Next option: the elusive gym. Maybe you went in January a few years back after an overly-optimistic New Year’s Resolution. If you have the motivation and stay committed, gyms can be a valuable asset to surf fitness. But memberships are expensive, especially if you’re travelling and won’t stay in the same place for the month, let alone a year, to benefit from their best pricing plans.

A little preparation can be the difference between looking back with a saluting Shaka and getting drilled on the bottom

But fear not, loyal readers. With a home body-weight surf workout, you don’t even need to find the will-power to leave your living room!

I first used the following strength-training plan to prepare for an upcoming charity boxing match while surfing at Land’s End for a month. Meanwhile, my opponent was paying for lessons at a high-end boxing gym.

Take a peak at the photos and judge for yourself whose training regime was most effective…

Durham University’s Agression Sessions raised over £25,000 for Fight for Peace and Sport in Action Zambia the year I participated, thanks to the 2500-strong crowd (tickets sold out in less than 1 second) and various donations. The notorious annual event is still going strong each year, so support them if you can!

Technically I lost on points, but when the crowd are on their second bottle of wine they scream louder for the sight of a broken nose, so I class it as a win. (Not taking anything away from Hugo who is a lovely guy and was the top donator out of all the fighters)

While we’re on a charitable topic, check out Steph’s blog: Action Sports Charities Promoting Sport as a Tool for Change in the UK for a similar vibe.

Anyway, back to the workout.

It should take approximately 1 hour (3x 20-minute circuits).

If you find it too difficult, either take more time to rest between sets, or adjust the number of repetitions of each exercise.

Here it is (description and tips to follow):

Surf Workout: Urban Surfer’s No-Equipment Home Bodyweight Fitness Plan

Surf Workout (part 1): Lower body

  • 15 squat jumps
  • 15 squats
  • Hold squat position for 15 seconds
  • 15 little squats
  • 100 one-legged calf raises (50 on each leg)
  • 20 tuck jumps
  • 15 burpees

[Active recovery: swim x100m, 2 minutes shadow-boxing, or 2 minutes skipping]

Surf Workout (part 2): Upper body

  • 15 shoulder-width push ups
    • Hold at the bottom for 15 seconds 
  • 15 wide-arm push ups
    • Hold at the bottom for 15 seconds 
  • 15 triangle push ups
    • Hold at the bottom for 15 seconds 
  • 15 hand-clap push ups
    • Hold at the bottom for 15 seconds
  • 50 tricep dips
  • 10 pull-ups (optional)


Repeat both parts x3

Don’t worry too much about the active recovery if you’re struggling, the idea is just to avoid letting your heart-rate drop.

I was lucky enough to use this surf workout a lot while in Bordeaux (hence the availability of a swimming pool between sets, and the cute workout partner!)

However, the most important thing to avoid injury and maximise effectiveness is to ensure you’re using the correct form for each exercise. If you’re in any doubt, head over to the workout finder on; alternatively, a quick search for the name on Google or YouTube should bring up plenty of tutorials.

At least the little guy in the bottom-right corner thought my training was paying off

You may be wondering how often to workout.

Frequency is very much dependent on your body-type, current fitness level, and schedule. It’s essential not to overdo it, so always leave adequate time to recover; avoid working the same muscles on consecutive days and take at least one total rest day per week. (You shouldn’t feel sore before even starting the surf workout – that means your muscles are still rebuilding themselves from the last time!)

If you’re full of energy, incorporate some cardio between surf workout days: running, swimming, or cycling are great for endurance. You can use interval training to increase the intensity of these activities and work on more explosive power. Surfing is a very stop-start sport, requiring sudden bursts of energy separated by short breaks, so interval training is a great asset to your surf fitness regime.

Besides your arms and legs, your core strength is also essential to surfing. (And what’s the point of being a surfer if you can’t walk out the water with a tanned six-pack?)

It’s getting there

I typically alternate bodyweight surf workout (SW) days with a 10-minute sequence to work on my abdominal muscles (Abs). Here’s an example of my weekly schedule if I’m not planning any other physical activity…


This ab workout was originally inspired by the Adrian James 6 Pack Abs Workout App, so check it out if you want an automated personal trainer with full video descriptions of each movement. If not, research the following exercises online and use an interval timer personalised to your ability (such as the one linked below) to get the same effect.

Abdominal Surf Workout

  1. Leg Circles (15s each way)
  2. Heel Touch
  3. Arms Up Crunch
  4. Corkscrew
  5. Crunch
  6. Side Plank (15s each way)
  7. Seated Flutter Kicks
  8. Sit Up Crossover
  9. Knees Up Crunch
  10. Reverse Crunch
  11. Bicycle
  12. Flutter Kicks
  13. Russian Twist
  14. V-Sit
  15. Legs Lower
  16. Plank
  17. Seated Crisscross
  18. Jackknife Crossover
  19. Crisscross
  20. Jackknife

30 second intervals with custom rest times

Use my timer (30s x 4s rest), or create your own.

So, you’re now well on your way to paddling circles around everyone during your next 7-hour surf session.

But hold up!

There is one final piece of the surf fitness puzzle… DIET.

Taking a quick pit-stop to refuel while checking the tide

All physical activity should be complimented by a balanced diet. The rule is simple:

  • If you eat less calories than you burn when training, you’ll lose weight (and strength)
  • Eating equivalent calories to those used when exercising, you’ll maintain weight (and build a little strength)
  • If you eat more calories than you work off, you’ll gain muscle the fastest, but it’ll likely be accompanied by a little fat too

Typically, bodybuilders will go through “bulk” phases (spanning many months) where they train hard and over-eat to gain muscle; they then spend a similar amount of time in “cut” phases where they slightly under-eat to trim fat, while still training to maintain as much muscle-mass as possible!

The internet is a minefield of unreliable information regarding fitness and nutrition; explore it at your own risk, but in general just eat a balanced diet comprising a mixture of the 3 macro-nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates). If you’re lighter than you want to be, eat more; if you’re heavier, eat less. Simples.

Simples meerkat

*Insert meerkat click here*

Oh, and remember to always stay hydrated.

Check out my last blog: Recipe for Success: Urban Surfer’s Top 8 (Delicious And Healthy) Surf Recipes for inspiration on what to eat after a gruelling surf workout!

And why not have a look at these products to help your really get into the zone during your next training session?

P.S. Need a little musical motivation to help you push to 110%? I’m no DJ, but here’s my Spotify Workout playlist.

Until next time,

~ Will (@willdavies11)

Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor before beginning anything new if you’re not habitually practising cardiovascular or resistance exercises.

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