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Ultimate Guide to Surfing Nutrition

When you cater to your body's needs by approaching nutrition with a focus and dedication you are ensuring that you are powered with all the energy you need to surf for hours on end, as well as the nutrients required to recover and rebuild your muscles.

A consistent regime of proper surfing nutrition doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't mean sacrificing the taste of ‘good food’, as good should focus more on the benefits food provides to your body and less on the momentary pleasure of taste.

Surfing nutrition will be specific to your bodily needs, but there are always consistent truths that can be maintained for all when viewing this subject. So let's get into the ultimate guide to surfing nutrition to hit on some of the most important essentials.

What Nutrients are Needed

Lean and strong. That's the overall goal of any surfer diet and fitness program.

You want to provide your body with the right nutrients to build this lean muscle without putting on too much weight, as this will promote your relative strength ratio (the measure of your strength in comparison to your body weight), and the right foods simply make you healthier.

The best diet for surfers is comprised of clean, organic, and green foods. These foods maintain the highest concentrations of vitamins and minerals, and are also extremely beneficial to your digestion and metabolism.

Junkfood, processed foods, and those high in sugar are known as empty calories. You might feel full after eating them, but they provide absolutely no nutritional benefit to your body.

The nutrients needed for optimal surfing nutrition of which we will focus on include:

  • Protein
  • Fats (The right kind!)
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vitamins and minerals
John John Florence Nutrition Surfers Diet
A well balanced diet puts a smile on John John Florence's face and keeps him at the top of his game. (Image credit: @ryanlochte & @parallelsea)


Because surfing is a form of high-intensity workout, and there's a good chance that you are also following a consistent surfing workout routine (LINK), then a surfer diet has to ensure that your muscles are receiving enough protein to recover and rebuild to promote your strength and paddling abilities in the water.

A general rule of thumb to follow is to consume 1 gram of protein for every pound of your body weight each day.

What does Protein do for Surfing?

Protein is the building block of muscle growth. A workout such as surfing essentially damages your muscles as you use them, but not in a bad way. Protein molecules then attach to and repair your hungry muscles after workout strain and lactic acid release so that they can rebuild stronger than they were before.

This means that protein enhances your strength, and strength allows you to power through big turns, paddle with ease, and comfortably handle large conditions.

The Best Sources of Protein

Protein comes from multiple sources of food, so you want to ensure a balance of those that maintain the highest amounts. If you're looking for excellent sources of protein for a surfer diet, try incorporating these foods into your meals:

  • White fleshed fish
  • Salmon
  • Tofu
  • Lean turkey
  • Small amounts of lean beef
  • Beans and legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc)
  • Peanut/almond butter
  • Low-fat Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese
  • Egg whites
  • Spinach
Griffin Colapinto Nutrition Surfers Diet
Griffin Colapinto went from Grom to Pro Athlete very fast with the help of a balanced diet and the right amount of protein! (Image credit: @Lisovskaya & @hampositive)


You need fat, especially when you are burning so many calories paddling back to the lineup, and there's a huge difference between good and bad fats. Let's make sure you can nail down some of the best fats for proper surfing nutrition.

What Does Fat do for Surfing?

Fat allows your body to absorb the other nutrients derived from your food, such as fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E) that can only be absorbed when fat is present, and it provides your body a source of essential fatty acids.

Fatty acids directly affect a multitude of bodily functions, and our bodies cannot naturally produce these fatty acids themselves, so because of this, we must receive them through our diets.

When your muscles start to burn from paddling, your fat stores will send stored energy into your bloodstream and to your muscles so that you can continue surfing for hours on end.

The Best Sources of Fat

The best kinds of fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and you want to avoid processed ‘man-made’ fats from junk foods. A little bit of saturated fat is okay, but only in limited portions, so here are a few of the best fats for essential fatty acids in surfing nutrition:

  • Avocados
  • Whole eggs
  • Fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel)
  • Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame seed oils
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
  • Seeds (chia, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
  • Soybean and Soy Milk
  • Organic dairy products in moderation for saturated fats (cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese)
Steph Gilmore Nutrition Surfers Diet
Steph Gilmore is a picture of wellness she has her diet and training regime down pat. (Image credit: @boskophoto & @ryanlochte)


There's a slight misunderstanding that carbohydrates should be avoided. And sure, that might be true if you're looking to lose weight. But proper surfing nutrition and carbohydrate intake go hand and hand, as carbs are your main source of energy for high-intensity workouts.

What do Carbohydrates do for Surfing?

Carbohydrates are your energy source as they transform into glucose. For both immediate and stored energy that you are guaranteed to use up in the water, you have to eat enough carbs to fuel your session. Without them, you will surely feel fatigued and quickly out of breath.

As well as physical energy, carbohydrates also provide brainpower. This will help you to respond quickly and better read your line during minute seconds on the face.

Carbs are also an essential aspect of muscle preservation, making them a whole body aspect of lean muscle growth best suited for surfing.

The Best Sources of Carbohydrates

The different kinds of carbohydrates are known as “simple” vs “complex” and “whole” vs “refined”.

Refined carbs are processed and bad for your body, whereas whole carbs are naturally occurring in your food. Complex carbs provide you the best sources of energy and fiber as they fill you up more and digest more slowly, storing for longer periods.

Let's get into some of the best whole and complex carbs of which you can incorporate into your surfing nutrition routine:

  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown and wild rice
  • Potatoes (preferably sweet)
  • Legumes
  • Oats
  • Buckwheats
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Blueberries
Italo Ferreria Nutrition Surfers Diet
Italo Ferreria eats 20 bananas a day. Whilst that may not be true, his surfing suggests he gets more than enough Carbohydrates. (Image credit: @corey_wilson ⁠& @rbit245)

Vitamins and Minerals

You probably heard this one before. But eat your fruits and veggies!

Vitamins and minerals support quite literally your every body function and are the keystone element to good health. If you don't pay attention to your diet, you can easily overlook your vitamin and mineral intake, and the good news for you is that the best food and drinks for surfers usually always make sure your daily value is hit if not exceeded!

What do Vitamins and Minerals do for Surfing?

Vitamins and minerals affect everything. From ensuring proper muscle growth, boosting your immunity, providing you ample amounts of energy, to simply feeling incredible before and after surfing; you could argue that these nutrients quite literally do everything for your surfing!

The Best Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

There's a seemingly endless list of vitamins and minerals essential to our surfing nutrition. Because of this, it's difficult to nail down specific foods to incorporate into your diet, as nearly any food that is derived naturally from this Earth contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals.

And that is exactly the key. As long as you eat clean foods that are organic, GMO-free, and unprocessed, making sure to maintain ample variety to the different kinds of vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, and dairy that you consume, then you should be doing well at approaching your vitamin and mineral intake.

Color is your friend, not talking about the fake additives, and the more color in your food the better. This is why fruits and vegetables act as such a main source of healthy vitamins, and if you need a little help, organic multivitamins are never a bad idea.

Sally Fitzgibbons Nutrition Surfers Diet
Sally Fitzgibbons has featured in multiple Health Magazines due to her strong focus on Fitness and Nutrition. (Image credit: @jeremysimons_photographer ⁠& @wsl)

Meals and Snacks for Surfers

If you need a little meal or snack inspiration for surfing nutrition, take a look at some solid and simple go-to’s.

Breakfasts Foods and Snacks for Surfers

  • Whole Grain cereal with nut milk and frozen blueberries or bananas
  • Oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, chocolate chips, and fruit
  • Avocado toast on whole grain bread
  • Egg white, avocado, and sprout sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Cottage cheese with fruit spread
  • Quinoa, egg, spinach, and shitake mushroom bowl
  • Rice cakes with peanut or almond butter
  • A protein shake/smoothie
  • Green smoothies with frozen fruit, spinach, greek yoghurt, avocado, nut milk, and ice

Lunch Foods and Snacks for Surfers

  • Spinach salad with veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and an oil-based dressing
  • A chicken caesar salad wrap with a light dressing
  • A sandwich with light meat, preferably turkey or chicken, wheat bread, avocado slices, tomatoes, lettuce/spinach, and sprouts
  • Tuna salad or tuna sandwich on wheat bread
  • Organic trail mix
  • Roasted salmon with kale and quinoa salad
  • A baked sweet potato with light brown sugar
  • Lean meat jerky
  • Fruit cup with a side of seeds and nuts
  • Apples or celery with peanut/almond butter
  • A protein shake

Dinner Foods and Snacks for Surfers

  • Baked white fish with a side of asparagus and steamed kale
  • Honey-garlic salmon with balsamic vinaigrette brussel sprouts
  • Long grain rice with lean turkey, sauteed zucchini, and kale
  • Chicken or shrimp salad with four colors of vegetables
  • Protein pasta with vegetable red sauce, green onion toppings, and light parmesan
  • Easy bake whole wheat lasagne
  • Codfish with cucumber, avocado, and mango salsa salad
  • Sesame tuna steaks with Asian slaw
  • Salmon or chicken piccata
  • Spinach and tomato pasta with a poached egg
  • Pad Tai with peanut sauce and hard-boiled egg
Koa Smith Nutrition Surfers Diet
Koa Smith is part owner of a healthy food shack on the North Shore of Oahu called the Sunrise Shack. When it comes to a healthy Surfer's Diet, Koa knows whats up. (Image credit: @tallteef)

What to Eat Before and After Surfing

One of the last and most important aspects regarding surfing nutrition and the best diet for surfers is what to eat both before and after you surf.

Before surfing, you want to eat foods that provide you energy without feeling stuffed and sluggish, so you're going to want a light snack before surfing and not a full meal.

You want to give yourself at least the classic 30 minutes of digestion before hopping in, and foods that take prolonged periods to digest are what you seek in a pre-surf snack.

These foods provide energy for longer timeframes (aka however long you surf), and because of this carbs are your friend!

A quick slice of avocado toast, for example, or some trail mix and a green smoothie. Any of the foods we listed that are high in carbs will do well, as these foods are dense in nutrients and allow your body to make the best out of the calories when surfing thanks to slow digestion.

For the night before, eating a meal high in good fats will also help you to store the energy of your pre-surf snack.

After your surf, it is then time to recover. This is when you can head for the foods that maintain higher concentrations of fats and proteins for muscle growth, and go ahead and eat them in large portions. Carbs again should not be shied away from!

You should give yourself 30 minutes to an hour after surfing before you dig in, as this will promote proper digestion and nutrient absorption.

The Takeaways of Surfing Nutrition

Nutrition has a direct influence on who you are as a surfer and how far your body can be pushed in terms of your surfing limits.

Just as the ocean works as a system, so do our bodies. From physicality to mental clarity, the cleaner and more nutrient-dense your food, the better this system can work.

And when the adverse effects of bad nutrition lead to grogginess, fatigue, muscle strain, weight gain, and all of those things that do nothing but slow your surfing down, it seems well worth the pursuit of a healthy diet and lifestyle. I mean hey, who doesn't want to surf when they're 90, right?

Toss out the processed foods as much as possible, implement strategies to track your diet and your nutrition intakes, and eat the foods that cater to the nutritional needs of a surfer and you will soon discover the benefits that arise with this form of whole-body health both in and outside of the water.