Could This Ancient Training Tool Be the Best Way to Get Fit For Surfing?

As a surfer, and all round ‘board sports’ woman, I want my training to make my ‘playtime’ even more fun! I windsurf, surf, kite surf, snowboard and have recently taken up stand up paddle surfing – my weekends are dedicated to whatever nature has in store, and if the forecast is for strong winds or massive swell, I need to be ready for it! Surf contest are some of the most exciting sporting events in the world that you need to watch out.

Unfortunately, sports that are weather dependent, such as surfing or windsurfing, can be infuriatingly unpredictable, and you can go months on end without a day where ‘not being at work’ co-incides with a good forecast! If you are a pro, then of course you can dedicate your time to searching out the right conditions, or being ready for them when they come, but as most of us have full time jobs too, we have to accept the fact that we can’t be out there ripping it up as much as we might like.

So it makes sense to ensure that we are maximising our precious time on the water by being as fit for it as possible. And that’s where kettlebells come in pretty handy…

Many surfers and other board sports lovers are by nature a little anti-‘being indoors too much’ so the idea of going from the office to the gym can be more than a little painful. Many will go begrudgingly because they feel they should and realise they need to stay in shape, but the love for sports that get you right out there in the elements means they are far happier in the open air. So the portability of kettlebells is a big plus – throw them (well, don’t actually throw, but you get my point) in the back of the van (gotta have a surf van, but car will do) and take them to the beach or park for a workout, rather than cooping your primal self up in a sweaty gym!

Surfing requires a heady mix of strength, power, endurance, mobility, stability, balance and fluidity that can all be perfectly developed using a properly constructed kettlebell program.

The first hurdle a surfer has to contend with is a hard paddle out back in the first place. So you are going to need a strong back and shoulders, mobility through the shoulder girdle, a healthy rotator cuff and of course the heart and lungs to keep this all going as you battle it out past the white water.

Kettlebells make working the posterior chain a natural step, the basic swing strengthens the entire back side of the body, whilst also developing endurance by getting the heart pumping. Moving into snatches, and you have an even more powerful exercise for the surfer, as you strengthen and stabilise the shoulder and shoulder girdle at lockout, and the workload becomes even more intense.

A great way to condition yourself for the paddle out would be a 10 minute snatch test. Perform 10 reps on each side, resting between sets as little as you can but as much as you need, for a total of 10 minutes. Count your reps performed in the time period and aim to beat your number next time! The aim here is to ultimately rest as little as possible to get maximum reps in, so staying fluid and relaxed while working hard is key – again a great crossover, as paddling out into big sets you need to keep calm and focussed.

In addition, great exercises for paddling would include a supine KB pullover – lying on your back, feet flat and knees bent, hold the KB at your chest, arms almost straight, and drop the arms, hinging at the shoulders not the elbows, overhead almost to the floor, then return to the start position. Go as heavy as you can on this, or try one smaller kettlebell in one hand and alternate.

Flexibility and stability in the shoulders can be developed with the snatch, and also the windmill when the kettlebell is held in the upper hand – this is a vital exercise in the surfer’s armoury as it strengthens the mid section while under torsion, providing a 3 dimensional approach to ‘core’ training that is so often overlooked in more conventional training.

So, you’ve made it out back, and your watching the sets roll in. You pick a wave and you have to sprint like mad to catch the bloody thing. So you are going to need some serious reserve capacity in that cardiovascular system to manage it. So ensuring you are performing hard, intense intervals in your training program. The snatch-test approach mentioned earlier should do the job nicely – but you could also consider adding in some shorter, even more intense intervals in addition. Try a heavier kettlebell than you use in the snatch test, and perform tabata intervals (20 s work, 10 s rest) for 4 mins total.

Next comes the ‘pop up’. Explosive power, co-ordination and balance all come together in one fluid movement, and you will find that a core of steel will give you a significant advantage. Of course, there is no substitute for practicing the actual drill, so you could get yourself an ‘Ollypop’ towel and physically practice the ‘pop’ as part of your warm up. But in addition, you should include Turkish get ups (which are also great for the shoulders) as well as windmills as already mentioned. V sits with the kettlebell going through the same overhead motion as the pullover are also great, you can pull the knees in to your chest, or, taking it further, have the arms and legs straight and ‘pike’ up to centre.

Renegade rows are a staple favourite in any training plan as they are great for the core and the upper back, so these have got to be in a surfing fitness plan for definite! Combine with some press ups in the same position, either alternating each rep (row, press up, row, press up) or doing a set of one then the other. A bottoms up kettle bell low plank is also a good one to throw in for good measure.

So, you’ve mastered the pop-up and you’re up and surfing! Front squats are a great exercise for the pop up and also for the ride itself, as they load up the core while developing leg strength. Squatting rock bottom is the key – once you have the mobility and strength to squat rock bottom with added load, you will feel how ‘free’ your legs feel and how you can surf fluidly with more ease and less effort. Single leg squats & deadlifts are also key exercises to include.

Training barefoot or in minimal shoes means throughout the entire training session we are strengthening up our feet – and while surfing, the feet are working hard to direct your bodyweight effectively into the board so you can turn and ride smoothly. I personally love to wear my Vibram Five Fingers as much as I can, not just for training – and as much as I hate wearing wetsuit boots unless I absolutely have to (i.e. my toes would otherwise drop off with the cold!) I think one of the reasons I love them so much is that they look a bit ‘webbed’ and remind me of being on the water! I have noticed that my toes have literally come alive since wearing them, and my feet are so much stronger. This has such an impact on how well you can control the board – it makes it worth the funny looks I get at the supermarket!

The beauty of surfing is that you are compelled to stay out as long as the conditions are firing, and having a solid level of fitness means you won’t need to be cutting your sessions short as you haven’t got enough in you to keep going. Making the most of days when the swell isn’t pumping, and pumping some cast iron kettlebells instead, means you can jump in when the conditions call for it and make the most of every second!

Caroline is a Personal Trainer, Yoga Teacher and Kettle bell Instructor based in the UK.

For more exercise, fat loss and kettlebell secrets and tips sign up to my mailing list (and claim your free report): or join the member site for LOADS of free fitness and fat loss resources:

Article Source:

Article Source: