Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in more surf-centric workout programs designed to improve your wave count and your health, Surf Style Training with Elise Carver is available to The Inertia readers for a 50 percent discount for a limited time only.

There’s not just one answer when it comes to this topic. It depends on how hard you’ve been surfing, how sore you may be, if there’s a solid swell on the horizon, and just how long your most recent dry spell has been. Hopefully for you, that’s not too long!

Surfing is like any physical movement. It is exercise, and when done repetitively it can result in sore, tired, and tight muscles. No matter how long you’ve been surfing or how often, we all have a limit, a stopping point. Where our muscles will feel the effects of our time in the water and we will need to rest. It’s well known that most professional surfers don’t train at all while in-season during the Championship Tour, unless they have a big gap between legs. They often only focus on recovery, thus avoiding any fatigue or muscle soreness leading into heats. This is an intelligent method of approaching your surf training. Recovery first, training second.


E.g. If you have a surf trip coming up, it would be a stupid idea to smash yourself in the gym days before and go for a few three-hour paddles every day leading up to your flight out. Why? Because your body takes time to recover, and you want it in optimum shape to make the most out of the waves you encounter on your trip. (At least I assume you would!)

But, if you’re at home and don’t mind being a little fatigued the next time you paddle out, training on a regular basis mixed with recovery is a good idea to condition your body.

To make it really clear, I’ve listed below my recommendations for how and when to practice recovery and/or training in your journey to getting surf fit.

Prior To A Surf Trip

One week out from your surf trip focus on recovery only. Stretching, massage, specialist adjustments, hot or cold therapy, and similar treatments are your friend. Before that, train for a few weeks prior (two to three times per week), keeping it as surf-specific as you can with balance, stability, and core training.


On Your Surf Trip

This is your time to have fun and reserve all your energy for water time. Only schedule in recovery sessions, especially for stretching, hot or cold therapy, gentle massages, and lots of sleep! Don’t forget to make yourself a warm-up routine you can bang out just before you surf, switching on your core and central nervous system.

When A Big Swell’s Coming

If you’re a forecast addict or your mate down the coast has given you the heads up that there’s a solid swell coming and you plan to smash out a whole weekend of catching waves, then it’s best to save your energy two days prior, focusing on stretching and hot or cold therapy. To switch on prior to the weekend, you can look at working on your balance earlier in the week, using items like fit balls, Indo Boards or a BOSU, but stay away from any movement that requires heavy loads.

Flat Days at Home

This is when you should be practicing recovery and training, regardless of the swell. If you want to improve your fitness and efficiency in the water, get a regular training routine and focus on those problem areas. Aim for three times per week if you can manage it, and surf the days the swell is good for you. Don’t forget to level out your training with a recovery program that includes stretching, massage, specialist adjustments, and hot or cold therapy.

Recovery should represent fifty percent of the time spent training/surfing. If you spent six hours surfing and training collectively, your time spent on recovery should be three hours minimum. If you can do even more, I highly recommend it!

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