If you have picked up a copy of Santa Cruz Waves magazine, you may have read an article I wrote about how to repair shoulder injuries for surfers. While that’s an important article to read, I thought it appropriate to share ways to not only improve your paddling but stay strong to prevent these shoulder injuries from occurring.

If you ask any surfer, they’ll probably tell you that being able to paddle is the most important part of surf experience. Paddling is key to getting out to the surf break, getting situated appropriately in the lineup, and crucial in one’s the ability to catch the wave. Most of the time spent surfing is actually spent paddling. Paddling is our motor, how we are able to catch waves, direct ourselves and ultimately get to surfing. Being a strong paddler isn’t just about being strong, it’s about proper mechanics and making sure the right muscles are doing the work so we can get the most power and of course stay injury free. Next time the swell is less than spectacular take the time to try the following exercises and notice the strength you gain next time you paddle out.

Lat Pull Downs

As you might guess, the Lat Pulldown helps to strengthen the Latissimus dorsi or “lat muscle”. The lats are one of the most important muscles that surfers use. In fact, as a trainer I often see overdeveloped lats in surfers. That’s not really a problem, It’s just something that you’ll most likely experience and work to make sure they don’t create imbalance in the shoulder girdle. You might also experience big lats if you’re a swimmer. The Lat Pulldown is a great exercise to help strengthen this primary mover.

Shoulder Raises


The deltoid is made of three muscles: front, medial, rear deltoid. The deltoids help to raise the arm and when paddling prone (face down) the deltoids are used to raise the arm up and prepare for the hand to hit the water. To strengthen these muscles stand with proper posture, knees slightly bent and arms straight out in front of the body. Slowly raise the arms up to shoulder height. Adjust the angle at which the arms are outstretched from the body. Try out to the side and then an angle between the two. Feel the top of the shoulders burn! (Be sure to keep the core strong so as the arms raise the back doesn’t bend.)

Serratus Push Up

The serratus anterior allows the shoulder blade to move laterally and allows for the elevation of the arm. All very key components to be able to paddle.
The serratus anterior muscle is an antagonist to the rhomboid muscles, as well as the synergist of the rhomboids. The scapula is able to move laterally due to the serratus anterior muscle, which is vital for the elevation of the arm. The serratus anterior muscle also allows the rotation of the arm upwards, which allows a human to lift items over his or her head.
Strengthen your shoulders and paddle more efficiently.
In Good Health,