Outlined here are the most important elements of fitness that need to be worked on in order to make a good surfer and advice on the best ways to improve them. The main areas we will be focusing on are:
Cardio Vascular Fitness (CV)
Cardio Vascular Fitness
CV fitness is probably the most important element that needs to be worked on to stand any chance of surfing well. This type of fitness basically refers to the body's ability (largely the heart and lungs) to supply sufficient oxygen around the body and remove any waste products produced. As exercise intensity or duration increase, the body needs more oxygen to keep going and if the CV system is not in shape you'll become fatigued and won't be able to perform. Often you can be out in the surf for 30min or more and you'll be moving constantly, mostly at medium to high intensity levels. This will cause a large demand for oxygen by the muscles and your body needs to be able to meet that demand
In order to improve the CV system you'll need to perform exercise that stresses the heart and lungs beyond what they are used to. By doing this, the body will be forced to adapt and will improve itself in a number of ways. These include: increasing heart size and strength, increase lung capacity, increasing red blood cell count (these carry oxygen), increasing blood vessel size and number and improving muscle efficiency.
The best type of exercise to improve the CV system is anything that causes heavy breathing, perspiration and elevated heart rate. Running, cycling and swimming are very simple ways to do this but make sure you push yourself further each time in order to keep forcing the body to adapt.
It's all very well getting oxygen to the muscles, but if they are not in good condition then they will use it wastefully and will tire quickly. It's mainly the upper body that needs most work on muscular endurance but the lower body still needs to be in shape. If you have poor muscular endurance you'll first notice it in the shoulders as the muscles in this area are pushed more than any other during surfing. Other key muscles are the pectoral, triceps and back muscles - all of which should be working well. All top surfers do a lot of work on their muscular endurance and it's not uncommon to find them in the gym putting in the hours, or just paddling on their surfboards for miles and miles to keep the upper body in shape.
The best way to improve muscular endurance is to work the muscles at relatively low intensity but for longer periods of time. Stick to gym exercises that work lots of different muscles rather that isolation exercises. Body weight exercises such as push-ups or pull-ups are great for this, and if you try to add a couple more reps on each time, you'll soon have excellent muscular endurance. Another great way to build this type of fitness, as mention earlier, is to get on your surfboard and just paddle. After all, if you're trying to get fit for surfing, there is no better way than to be on your board in the water.
There has been a lot of talk about core strength in terms of its importance in many sports, and surfing is no different. In fact, surfing is one sport that relies a whole lot on the performer having core muscles that are in great condition and that can work for long periods of time. This is largely down to fact that much of a surfer's ability comes down to balance and how well he or she can manoeuvre their surfboard around the waves. Just simply standing upright on the floor engages our core muscles, so just imagine how much use they get when you're trying to stand on a moving, unstable surfboard and trying to change that surfboard's direction by shifting the body around and altering your centre of gravity. The answer is...a lot work!
The best exercises to improve core-strength are those that involve balance and movement of the torso.
Balance boards such as the Indo Board are great tools for building core strength and muscle co-ordination. Second hand surfboards can also be adapted to train the core muscles by attaching a spherical piece of wood to the underside. Position the wood to run along the length of the board in the centre and when you stand on the board when it is on a hard floor it will be unstable, forcing you to balance. Sit-ups and push-ups on a core-stability ball are great variations of simple exercises and will really work on joint stability and the enhancement of your core.
Once you have the three elements of fitness you need - CV fitness, muscular endurance and core-strength, you're ready to get the most out of your time in the water and your surfing with improve immensely.