Surfer/Fitness & Health Coach
This shouldn't hurt. Quinn Matthews

This shouldn’t hurt. Quinn Matthews

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: This guide was created in collaboration with the Surf Strength Training Program, a mobile app and online program designed to improve your surfing through fitness, nutrition, movement, and recovery methods. Enter code THEINERTIA to save $30 for a limited time.

I can’t stress this enough: you gotta keep your shoulders moving, man! This is especially true for men, because they tend to be less flexible than women. For paddling, turns, pop-ups, and basically all surfing, you absolutely need to maintain proper flexibility of the upper body. Here’s how to help improve it.

How’s Your Upper Body Posture?

A lot of modern life equates to bad posture. Too much time at a desk sitting in front of the computer with slouched spines, rounded shoulders, and forward head posture will wreck a shoulder joint.  A wrecked shoulder joint generally hurts, and that will severely limit your time in the surf.  When these slouched postures become chronic, tissue begins to tighten, which changes the mechanics of the joints of the upper body.  Once those joints are out of ideal alignment, there is a much higher propensity for pain and damage.  Trust me, you want to stay away from damage. After two shoulder reconstructions I can tell you with confidence that it’s not fun.


Top Shoulder Stretches for Surfers

Whether you’ve been surfing a lot and have some tension around the shoulders or if your goal is to improve posture and get out of pain, this series of stretches and tissue release is a good place to start.  You’re going to release a few muscles that chronically shorten with bad postures, and some muscles that are heavily used when surfing.  Most of my clients are working on an assortment of these things, and I personally will do this sequence after some heavy surfing.  If you’re on a  boat trip, take a tennis ball with you, and get stuck into some tight tissue.  If you’re a weekend warrior surfer, just spend ten minutes a day working on this stuff. It will be a huge step towards improving the health of your shoulders.

Improve Your Spinal Posture

Another important step in upper body joint health is improving how your spine moves.  With a series of gentle mobilizations, you can quickly improve the movement capacity of your spine.  We’ve all seen the guys paddling in the surf that have the “turtle” posture when paddling.  They can’t extend their spine, they have to hyperextend their neck to look forwards, and every paddle movement looks like it’s tearing apart their shoulder joint.  Don’t be that guy!


Proceed slowly with those thoracic spine mobilizations. It takes time to improve those terrible postures you’ve been sitting in for the last twenty years.  Just like the stretches, spend a few minutes each day working on them. It will greatly impact your ability to move in the surf.  I also like to add some rotational stretching for the spine, which you can read more about here.

I consistently preach about taking some time to improve your body’s capacity for movement so you can continue doing what you love in life. Work on these simple stretches and releases – add them to your training program or work on them while you’re watching tv. Invest some time and effort into your body so you can surf more. I go into a more comprehensive review of how to work on these drills, more advanced stretches to improve overall flexibility, and more direct shoulder training in Surf Training Success.

If you have any questions about surf-fitness, training or nutrition, please send an email to and for more tutorials on fitness, movement, and nutrition, check out


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