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How to Train Like a Professional Surfer

The Surfing Fitness Program has changed over the year.

Where surfers once traveled the world on someone else's dime to surf exotic locations and party hard after a day of empty waves on the World Tour, often showing up to their heats hungover and barely on time; they are now implementing dedicated and rather hardcore pro surf training regimes to reap the benefits of heightened physical fitness.

From going to bed early and waking up before dawn, eating healthy with a focus on a pro surf diet, throwing away the drugs or alcohol, and most importantly pursuing a pro surf training fitness program, professional surfers now embody what it means to be a true athlete.

Sure, pros might celebrate a big win with a couple of local brews, but that doesn't change the fact that there's a good chance the very next day they'll be right back in the lineup, as they know well the benefits of training to become the best surfer one can be, and that pro surf training will always remain at the epitome of importance.

So let's take from the big dogs and learn how we too can train like a pro and use fitness to our surfing advantage.

How do Professional Surfers Train

Legendary Gerry Lopez takes care of his mind body and soul and can still surf better than 90% of us.

The evolution of a surfers fitness grows from three main aspects:

  1. Surfing
  2. Working Out
  3. Nutrition

Professional surfers pretty much get to workout as part of their job, so this of course allows them the most advanced resources in terms of surfing training and fitness, on top of having access to the best waves in the world and being able to surf them at will.

Surf fitness and pro-surf training have even turned into quite a massive industry of their own. There are dedicated fitness instructors, sports therapists, and even fitness centers focused solely on the act of surfing.

The Hurley Surfing Australia High-Performance Center in NSW Australia is one of the main notable facilitates, for example.

Offering everything from surf coaching, personal trainers, fitness and nutrition programs aiming to make you surf at the top of your game, they cater to regular bro’s, groms, and top-level athletes alike.

So if you want to chase your fitness with the same dedication as a professional surfer and you have a couple of extra bucks to spend, there's plenty of means to go about doing it with these types of facilities and coaches.

But that doesn't mean that there's not plenty of other easy and affordable ways in which you can dedicate yourself to a similar pro surf training regime, and that it just might be a little more simple than you think to pursue similar levels of physical fitness just as the pros do.


The best way to train is to of course practice your sport. Surfing alone is excellent exercise, and it is often plenty to keep your average weekend warrior in shape.

Because some pros surf 5-7 times a week, the majority of a professional surfer’s training regime is going to revolve around their surfing, and this will also hold true for most of us, even though we don't get the same amount of time in the water.

It all starts with muscle memory. When we surf, we obviously target the muscles needed for surfing, and consistency will inevitably train and grow them. The more you surf, the more your body will respond to the workout of surfing.

It then comes down to rest. A pro surf training regime must maintain some forms of rest periods for the muscles, as true muscle recovery after large workouts can take up to 48 hours for the best results, and because of this, it is essential to balance surfing with working out and rest properly.

A lot of professionals surfers' training regimes consist of 5-7 days of surfing and usually 3 days of working out. If the waves are particularly firing, however, then they will dedicate more time to the water and less time to the gym. On flat spells, this would of course reverse.

It's always important to let your body have at least one rest day after a full week, preferably more, and the key is to up your workout intensity when you are surfing less so that you can focus solely on surfing when the waves are good.

To train your surfing like a professional, stick to this general guideline:

  1. Surf as much as you can. Even on the days where the waves aren't the best, paddling and fighting through choppy conditions will do nothing but condition your surfing fitness, and you will further hone in on your surfing abilities by mastering your turns on sub-par waves.
  2. Aim to work out 5-6 days per week with one rest day, and count each time you surf for over an hour as one of those workout days.
  3. Although we use plenty of leg and core strength when riding a wave, as those are two of the most important muscle groups to focus on for optimal performance through maneuvers, most of the time surfing is spent paddling. This means that your arms and your chest receive the majority of the workout. To help balance this, ensure that of your 5-6 workouts, at least half of those maintain a focus on core and legs.
  4. Aside from just physical fitness, pro surf training programs also include studying one's own and others surfing. If possible, watch videos of yourself to visualize what you do right and wrong in the water, and the more videos you watch of other professional surfers, the more you will learn through this mental form of training.

Working Out

Professional surfers require a body that is lean, strong, explosive, and flexible. But depending on the type of surfer you are, especially for professionals with specialties, the workout routines will surely vary.

Train for Your Type of Surfing

The variety of pro surfing workouts are usually catered to different forms of surfing, and with this, you should aim to train for the type of surfing that you enjoy. Surfers who love airs and big laybacks will train differently than power surfers who throw massive turns, whereas big wave surfers will have a fitness program of their own that caters to dealing with massive waves.

Air and Progressive Surf Training

Dave Rastovich is another yoga enthustast who pay close attention to what he puts into his body, this allows him to bury serious rail.

If you want to train like some of the best air, layback, and progressive surfers, then you are going to want to focus your workouts on promoting lean strength with flexibility, and workouts that help to build strong bones.

Airs are all about minute adjustments and explosive movements on the wave that will require your muscles to exert massive jolts of energy at a time. With airs, you will inevitably end up landing in the flats, and it is essential to have strong bones and joints to prevent injury.

To train like a professional for airs, you want to mimic some of these motions as best as possible. Explosive leg workouts like burpees or jumping squats that require your body to absorb impact on the ground are the best way to approach this and to get your legs used to high impact.

On top of general surfing nutrition, the pro surfer diet of air guys will tend to maintain high amounts of bone-healthy nutrients like calcium and omega-3, as well as vitamins that also promote bone strength such as turmeric or vitamin D to further prevent injury when airs go wrong, and oftentimes flexibility based yoga is an integrated aspect of these training programs.

Power Surf Training

Pro surf training for the powerful surfers will maintain a focus on building leg and core strength through workouts that are slightly less cardio-based than the surfers who throw wild air reverses.

More serious exercises like weighted bar squats, deadlifts, and bench presses might make up a portion of a pro surfer workout for the power guys and gals, which will also require higher intakes of calories and protein in terms of their pro surfer diet. But it is important to note that too much strength training can limit your balance and flexibility.

Power surfers need to ensure that they are forming usable strength. This means focusing on mobility-based strength training exercises that build strong, flexible muscle in conjunction with any heavyweight training. Essentially, learning how to use those strengthened muscles in real-life movements outside of just the lifting motion.

To train like a power surfer, just add a little more weight to our standard surfing exercises to gain more muscle out of your workouts for more water out the back.

Big Wave Surf Training

If you're riding big waves of consequence, then you probably already know well what is required of your fitness and have a pro surf training program already in place. But if you plan to begin training to soon ride big waves, keep a few things in mind.

Big wave surfers need it all, and must ensure that they are receiving ample amounts of breath-hold training on top of working out. Cardio-based activities like running for strong lungs and workouts that often involve water for scenario-based training, on top of multitudes of upper, lower, core, and flexibility training such as yoga, make for a whole-body big wave workout routine.

Big wave surfers don't surf quite as much as other professionals, as they take more time in the search and chase of large waves, and because of this they often train more than other surfers. They are some of the most dedicated surfers in the fitness space, and if you're going to ride big waves, then you have to take fitness seriously, as your body is quite literally your lifeline in the water.


As with any form of fitness, you'll never make progress unless you also implement the correct nutrition into your regime.

A pro surfer diet is a serious ordeal, as you have to ensure that the nutrition intakes are meeting the needs of the specific surfer and the specific types of workouts; and that the diet caters to lean and strong bodies, as professional surfers aren't usually looking to bulk up too big, so save those gains for the Venice beach muscle heads.

We've created a guide to surfing nutrition to help set your fitness off to the right track, so check it out to gain a baseline understanding of exactly what you should look out for in creating a diet that mimics that of a pro surfer diet.

Professional Surfers Leading this Space

One of the best ways to learn more about pro surf training is to hear it from the guys themselves.

Pre heat warm up of the one and only Kelly Slater.

Kelly Slater does better than anyone at keeping his body as fit and healthy as possible, using both nutrition and fitness to never allow age to halt his progression.

His dedication in this space is so integrated and knowledgeable that he could probably market his own “Kelly Slater Workout” or “Kelly Slater Diet”, but lucky enough for us average surfers he is more than happy to share his knowledge freely.

Simply follow him on social media or watch some of his videos to learn more about how Kelly Slater is leading the professional surfing fitness space.

DHD’s own Mick Fanning’s game has change with his fitness regime. His alter ego “Eugene” hardly makes appearances any more.

A Mick Fanning workout would probably have your legs and arms shaking, as the power guru himself likes to focus more on strength training than some of the air guys, like John John Florence, whose young and able body can send him meters in the sky off just a little lip.

If you want to find some pro surf training inspiration, the best way to do so is to simply look into what your favorite pros are doing.

Think of how you like to surf and who you want to surf like, and then research into their professional surfing fitness regimes, as plenty of pros love sharing their process.

The Evolution of Pro Surf Training

Pyzel’s John John Florence has the young mans workout dialed in. Who said your workout can’t be fun!

The times have changed. Whether we like it or not, surfing is now mainstream and will continue to grow. In our opinion, it is great that surfers today need to live healthy lives in order to wow us every day with the surfing that is happening around the world.

It is also promoting healthy lives for you, me, and our future generations through leading by example, and the stigma of surf bum is continuing to dissipate.

Surfers are seen as healthy individuals with high social responsibilities, leading constructive lives. Not the burnt-out unmotivated wastes we were once thought of, as surfing fitness is changing the game forever.

Make sure you check out the Board Engine to find a range of boards all made by professional shapers at the top of their crafts, and that is best suited for your level of surfing fitness.

Check out the Board Engine as a guide to find board recommendations all made by professional shapers at the top of their craft, helping improve your surfing. Email [email protected] with your details for a detailed report of board recommendations for you.