Surfing is a hard sport to learn, cross training and balance training can benefit anyone who wants to improve their surfing skills from the time-strapped weekend warriors to those aspiring to go pro.
For those you can't get to the beach everyday day for a session, cross training and balance training is an excellent way to help speed up the learning curve for developing new surfing skills. Whether you are a complete beginner just learning how to pop up or a more experienced surfer looking to master more advanced maneuvers.
Surfing is a rapidly growing global sport that is extremely competitive the days becoming a professional by just hanging out at the beach all day and surfing are coming to and end. The aspiring pro surfers now days are being coached by experienced surfers who use the same techniques used by other professionals in other sports such as strength and conditioning, mobility and agility training, prehab and rehabilitation, video analyst, diet and supplementation and more.
All these cross training techniques put together will help give you the edge over your competitors (or fellow surfers) who only train for surfing by surfing.
In this guide, I have broken down all the different ways you can use cross-training to improve your longboard surfing performance below are the topics I cover.
The benefits and types of balance training
Bodyweight balance training
Balance training equipment
Strength and conditioning for surfing
Breathing exercise for surfing
What are the benefits of balance training?
Improving your balance helps improve your coordination, i.e. your ability to control your body. Improving your ability to control your body while also being forced to stay balanced by quickly making decisions to correct your posture will help to improve your overall agility, i.e., your ability to quickly control your body under stressful situations.
This overall improvement in coordination and agility can contribute to improved performance in surfing.
For an deep dive into of how balance training can help to improve your coordination and agility among other things check out the book, balance is power by Jim Klopman and Janet Miller.
The different methods of balance training
One method of balance training is to perform any movement that challenges your balance. Balance training this way can be done with or without any special equipment. This type of balance training is to help improve your overall athletic ability by making improvements to your balance, coordination, reaction time and agility.
Another method of balance training is to combine it with repetition training. This method is useful for developing and improving a particular movement pattern or skills.
An example of this would be practicing the pop-up, cross-step or the action used to make a bottom turn over and over again until you master the movement pattern and can perform it without having to put any thought into it.
Practicing these movement patterns on an unstable surface will help to recreate the feeling of pulling off these moves while you are actually surfing.
How to improve your surfing skills with bodyweight balance training.
Bodyweight balance training is a good place to get started because it does not cost anything and can be done at any time.
Another benefit to bodyweight balance training is that most of the movements used will also help to improve your mobility.
The two types of bodyweight balance training
Static bodyweight balance training in when you hold your body in one pose that will challenge your balance for a particular length of time. An example of this can be seen in a yoga pose.
I have compiled a playlist of all the standing yoga balance poses. You can get started balance training by picking a few of the easier poses and see how long you can hold them for, once you can hold a pose for 2 minutes move on to a more challenging pose.
Once these poses are no longer difficult for you to perform, you can practice doing these poses on a balance cushion or balance pad to continue to challenge yourself.
Dynamic bodyweight balance training is when you are moving from position to position at a relatively quick pace. An example of this is seen in agility drills or fast paced yoga flows.
How to get better at surfing with Balance training with equipment.
the Goofboard classic.
The Goofboard classic was created by a surfer that was seeking to develop a balance training device that felt similar to surfing so he could improve his surfing skills on land.
Technical information of the Classic Board
44” x 15” or 112cm x 38cm
Pipe 37” x 4” or 94cm x 10cm
Weight limit 450lbs. or 204Kg
The goofboard is unique because the roller sits parallel to the balance board, this makes using the board feel more like surfing than using a traditional rocker balance board such as the indo balance board.
The goofboard is best for developing overall balance, balance recovery and improving at board walking skills like cross stepping.
Goofboards are very fun but at the same time challenging to use.
The fun factor of a balance board is important because boards that lack it end up feeling like a workout and may not get used as often.
A few more things I like about the goofboard is it does not take any time or effort to set up, it can easily be hidden in a closet or under the bed and can be used indoors.
I like theses things In a balance trainer because I'm more likely to stick to a training routine when it doesn't involve having to set anything up.
The design of the goofboard is very simple, so if you're the do it yourself type person, can save some money by building one yourself build for yourself.
What the goofboard is not okay for.
The goofboard is not suitable for practicing maneuvers such as bottom turns and cutbacks because you can not get the board to spin or rotate.
The goofboard can be challenging to use for most beginners, or when trying new moves like cross stepping, so you have to be ok with knowing you will probably take a few falls while using the goofboard
How to practice cross stepping and nose riding on a goofboard.
How to practice the pop up on a goofboard.
You can use the Goofboard for pop-up training but keep in mind to practice popping up into a posture you use while surfing, so you do not pick up any bad habits.
Introduction to the noho surf trainer.
Noho surf trainers are pods that you can strap onto the bottom of your surf board to turn it into a surfing trainer.
They have two models one for boards up to 11 feet and one for boards up to 7 feet.
The Noho surf trainer will rise your board off the ground so you can practice moves that require you to dig the rails of your surfboard into the water like bottom turns and cutbacks.
The noho trainer is best for repetition training.
Repetition training is repeatedly practicing a series of movements over and over again in a low-stress situation until it becomes ingrained into your muscle memory and mind so you can pull off the action without much thought when you are in a higher stress situation (such as surfing).
Additionally, the pods will provide some instability to the board to help improve your overall balance and to help give a similar feeling of being in the water
Some of the drawbacks to the noho trainers
The noho will not challenge your balance as well as a board like the goofboard but it is better at sequence training then a goofboard.
It can be time-consuming to set up the noho trainer because you have to take the fins off your surfboard to use the trainer and then setting the pods up can take some time. Also you may have to remove the wax from your board to keep it from melting depending on where you use it.
If every time you want to use the noho trainers you have to take the fins off your board, remove the wax and then set up the pods you may be less likely to use it. A solution to this problem would be to get an old beater board and keep the noho pods strapped to it, so you don't have to set anything up when you want to use it.
Doing repetition training with basis moves like the bottom turn or drop knee cutback can really help to improve your skills.
Do you even need a balance board for repetition training.
Repetition training without any equipment can still help to improve your surfing performance by helping you master the movement patterns needed to pull off certain maneuvers.
As you can see in the video below you, do not need any specialized trainers to sequence train you can use an old beater board or even your imagination.
But combining balance training a repetition training an efficient way to work on improving surfing maneuvers as wells as your overall balance, agility, and coordination.
Introduction to the Carverboard
Carver boards are one of best-reviewed surf skateboards available. They simulate the feeling of surfing by having a specially designed front truck that pivots while the back truck is a tradition skateboard truck.
Carver boards are great surf trainers because they combine balance training, repetition training, while also developing your strength and conditioning all at the same time.
Explanation of how the carver trucks work.
Carver boards can help you develop and refine intermediate to advanced surfing skills such as are how to commit into turns fully, how to use compression to generate more powerful turns, improve your pumping and how to develop the proper timing and balance recovery for moves like pumping, cutbacks and bottom turns.
To get the most out of a carver board as a surfing cross trainers you should choose a board length that allows you use the same width stance you use while surfing.
Some of the drawbacks to using carver boards.
If you don't already know, how to skateboard there is going to be a steep learning curve to learn how to use this board.
If you already know how to skateboard it will still take some time getting used to how to use the board properly.
The carver board is one of the most dangerous surfing cross trainers you can use, but at the same time probably one of best products you can use that will improve your performance in surfing and overall strength and conditioning.
So you have to weigh the risks of using this product for yourself. For instance taking a hard fall while using the Carver board could put out of surfing or your job for awhile.
With that being said some of the risks of using a Carver board can be minimized by wearing proper safety gear and only using it on a flat paved surface.
The best way to use the Carver board as a surfing cross trainer.
A lot of the videos carver board puts out are show very advanced users that have made riding a carver board a sport different than traditional street skating or surfing. These users are doing very impressing things riding down hills and channels, in skatepark bowls or weaving in and out of city traffic, while all these videos look very impressive it is not the reality of what you need to be doing if you are going be using Carver board just as a surfing cross trainer.
All you need to get started using a carving board as a surfing trainer is a spot with flat open pavement such a parking lot to repeatedly practicing movements you want to get better at such pumping for speed, bottom turns and cutbacks.
I think one of these board would be perfect to keep in the back truck of your car so whenever you have to run some errands, you can take a 10-minute break and have some fun in the parking lot by surf cross training.
The Surfset Trainer
The Surfset fitness training is exciting because it will allow you to train your balance and repetition train at the same time, as well as your improve your strength and conditioning while being safer to use than other balance trainers
What I like about this product is that a lot of commercial gyms are offering group classes using this product. So if you can not get the to beach due to a busy schedule or the winter, you can attend some of their classes to help keep you in surf shape.
A map of all the gyms that offer classes using the surfset trainer can be found on their website here
The downside of this product is it will not challenge your balance as much as other balance trainer and will not work as well as the noho trainers for repetition training due to the shorter length of the platform.
Due the high cost and amount of space it takes up, I don't think this product would be practical for individuals to own but I believe that this is a good product for surf coaches or gyms.
Technical information on the surfset trainer.
The dimensions are 70" long by 22" wide by 11" high.
Weighs 35 pounds
or in metric
178 cm long by 51cm and 28 cm high
Weighs 18.8 kl
Something to keep in mind when surf cross training.
It can be possible to develop bad habits using balance trainers that may carry over to surfing so always keep in mind to practice using proper surfing posture and stance you.
Info on proper surfing stance and posture.
Strength training and conditioning for improved surfing performance.
Athletic conditioning is done by putting together a training program that finds a way to improve your strength, speed, agility, balance, flexibility, power, mobility, cardio, and endurance while at the same time trying to prevent injuries or repair any injuries you may have.
Professional athletes are lucky enough to have a team of coaches, trainers and physical therapists that will put together a training program for them. Unfortunately, most amateur surfers do not have access to all of those specialists, so you will have to come up with a training plan on you own.
Being that there is only so much time in the day and amount of time you can train before becoming over trained it takes careful planning to put together a program that can improve skills in all of these areas.
Strength training and power for surfing
Why strength train for surfing?
Strength training can help prevent muscular imbalances that can develop from surfing too much.
Strength training helps strengthen your joints making you less likely to get injured, and when you do get injured, you will be able to recover faster.
Strength training increases bone density.
Why develop explosive power for surfing.
Many surfing moves such as the pop-up or cut back are movements that will be improved by developing your explosive power.
Tips and resources for building strength and power for surfing
Powerlifting or Olympic lifting programs may be good for developing a base of strength, but you will eventually get to a point where it takes a lot of time and effort to continue to add small amounts of weight to your lifts. You would be better off spending that time and energy developing other skills.
Avoid Bodybuilding programs they can be very taxing on the body and requires a lot of time for your body to recover. You can quickly end up overtraining if you are following a hardcore bodybuilding program while surfing and doing cardio a few times a week.
You can find a lot of free training programs that are focused on developing athletic performance by searching for programs for improved performance in football, basketball or other more traditional sports then surfing. Most programs put together for athletes will give you a more well-rounded program that focuses on developing a variety of skills like strength, power, and agility.
Bodyweight training is an effected way to improve strength, power, and agility because it can be done any wear and is less taxing on the body than lifting weights. I have compiled a list of and short review of my favorite bodyweight training books here, I strongly recommend you check out that link if you are interested in beginning a calisthenics program.
Cardio and endurance for surfing
Why train your cardio and endurance for surfing?
As you are probably well aware of that once the waves start to get bigger trying to paddle out back can become very challenging to your cardio and fatiguing for your shoulders. Improving your cardio can help you to paddle your way out back in bigger conditions and help will allow you to extend your surfing sessions.
Tips and resources for cardio and endurance for improved surfing.
Improvements to your cardio can be made quickly, but the gains also diminish quickly so if you are not able to surf all year round make sure you keep challenging your cardio during the offseason.
Any cardio training is better than no cardio training, but one of the most efficient ways to quickly improve your cardio and endurance is the Tabitha method.
To build endurance in your shoulders, at the end of your surfing session spend 10-15 minutes just paddling around.
Putting it all together
With so many different skills you can work on putting together a surf training and conditioning program on your own can be time-consuming and challenging.
If you do not have access to surf coaches a good option to help simplify the task of putting together a surf conditioning program would be to find an online coaching program or read surfing conditioning books.
Surf conditioning books
The book, the complete guide to surf fitness by Lee Stanbury is a good low-cost way of getting guidance when putting together a surfing conditioning program.
In the book he lays out specific exercises to follow along with different programs for improving mobility, developing strength and power, balance training and basic swimming programs for surfers.
Keeping in mind that this is a surfing fitness book, so he does not focus on developing surfing skills such as how to do a bottom turn how to catch a wave you will have to look to other resources for that information.
Online surf coaches
Online coaching is an industry that I foresee will continue to grow. Below I will list some of the leaders in the online surf coaching community.
Surfcoachers.com is a private member community that uses videos to teach surfing fundamentals, cross training and answer any questions you may have.
At http://www.martindunn.com.au/ they can provide video analysis to help you improve your surfing skills as well as has some e-books on surfing cross training
http://surfstrengthcoach.com/ will lay out a surfing conditioning program that will work on developing strength, power,mobility, recovery and nutrition. He also offers skype consultation to help with any other additional questions you may have.
Breathwork for surfing performance.
Some of the benefits of using breathwork or breathing exercises for improving surfing skills.
Improved control over emotions and fear response, increase lung capacity, increased lung capacity, preparation for hold downs, improve the immune system and help to tolerate cold water.
Tips and resources for breath work for surfing.
The Breath enhancement training school provides intensive coaching on how to incorporate breath work for surfing. They are based in Australia.
Win Hof has a course you can take online focus on breath work. Win Hof does not specialize in teaching his methods to surfers, but surfers and other athletes are using his breathing techniques for improved performance.
Article about pro surfer Koa Smith using Win Hof breathing techniques.
How to improve your paddling skills
Paddling is an essential skill to master to improve your surfing performance
Learning to paddle correctly and efficiently will allow you extend your surf sessions, make it easier to get out back in rougher conditions, reduces the chance of shoulder injuries and makes it easier to paddle into waves.
Rob Case has put together and excellent training program with video instructions showing how to paddle correctly as well as outlines paddling routines to follow to work on the techniques he teaches
Where to find Products mentioned in this article
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Have you done any surfing cross training or balance training that you felt has improved your surfing? Please share your experience below in the comment section.