Swimming For Surf Fitness

Swimming Will keep You Surf-Fit All Year Round, Find Out How

Story by Dr. Rachael Middlebrook

How do you stay surf fit when there are no waves around? How do you keep those triceps and shoulders toned, ready for the next epic swell or just to keep your fitness up so you don’t lose it all in a week without paddling? What do you do if you find yourself landlocked and dread the impending pain of that first surf beating cause you lost all your surf fitness? Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you think, and will cost you less than a gym membership!

Swim training is THE BEST exercise you can do to keep your body in prime condition for the waves, doesn’t matter if your thing is surfing, SUPing, bodyboarding, body surfing, kayaking, diving, kite surfing, you name it, if your love is in the water, then you need to train in the water!! It’s that simple. If you’re doing it right, with good technique, the upper body movements and fitness demands are very similar to surfing. Paddling (whether surfing or SUPing) requires good strong shoulders, back and tricep muscles working together to deliver power. The aerobic demands of swimming are also very similar to surfing and requires endurance with an explosive force for take-offs and getting through the breakers. In fact, swimming is one of only a few exercises that works nearly every major muscle group in the human body.

I’ve been a swimmer since I could walk and raced all through school, it’s the one sport I keep coming back to for overall body and core strength and power. I’m someone who can’t run, I’ve got a dodgy knee and the more impact I put on it the longer it blows out, so I get my fitness from swimming which is low impact, and when you put your mind to it with a good healthy diet and a good swim routine, you’ll be amazed at the results. Your endurance will be that much better for it and you’ll double your wave count.

I read an article a while back written by surfing great Nick Carroll, about swimming to improve surfing, and combined what I knew from my own training experience with a lot of what he said into my own swim routine. I’m going to outline two routines that WILL improve your surfing.

The first one is for general everyday surfing and the second one is for when those 7-8 sets roll in and really give you a run for your money. I’m going to base them on a 25 metre pool and the stroke is freestyle (unless otherwise stated). I always find it good to take a card down to the pool with it written down, or alternatively write it on your drink bottle (i’m notorious for losing track of how many laps I’ve done). Another good tip – underwater iPod shuffles are AWESOME! – it’ll cost you about $200 and you can play whatever tunes psych you up to get that blood pumping for those sprints.

Routine one – 1.5km 

(yeah, you heard me!)

Surf Fitness Swimming Routine

If you can do this 4-5 times a week, you’ll be killing it.

*REMEMBER: Good technique is critical. Your swimming speed is predominantly governed by your technique. The better your technique, the smoother your strokes will be, the more streamline and energy efficient you will be.

*TIP: An alternative to the strengthening stage is to use a pool buoy every second 100m to focus on strengthening the shoulders even more.

Routine Two – 2.5km

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(Bring on those big swells!) This routine is the next step up for those who love to play in the big sets, or want to get out among them.

This routine will give you endurance and strength to paddle over those monsters and navigate your way through the whitewash when you wipe-out and give you the power to keep going even when you would usually turn around and head back to shore.

You can build up to this routine through integrating extra stages into the first routine, or alternatively, you can do it every 3rd day until you master it.


A Couple of Important Tips:

  1. Drink LOTS of nice clean water as it will flush out all those toxins and byproducts of exercise and keep your muscles in top condition.
  2. Listen to your body – if you are getting run down don’t make yourself do the challenger routine, look after yourself, eat good healthy fresh food, and if your body needs to rest, then let it. If you’re deadset on going to the pool, then take it easy and work on technique.
  3. Don’t let your technique get sloppy, rolling around with sloppy arms and a wiggly back is only going to make it harder for you. Focus on keeping a steady head, a long streamline body and good arm lines, this will stretch out your back, give you nice strong shoulders and triceps, work those core muscles and give you speed. At the end of the day it will be more energy efficient and less tiring for you.
  4. When swimming freestyle, turn the head in both directions to breathe, rather than always to the right or left. This helps prevent overuse injuries in the neck and shoulders.
  5. Mix it up a little! Find some friends to train with. Swim training is much easier with a couple of mermaid mates.
  6. Use that money you saved by not going to a the gym on a new board, or pamper yourself! You know you’ve earn it.




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