Surf fit/ Paddle fit- How to get there, if you don’t surf?!

by Pascal
Published: Last Updated:
honeymoon bali surf ©


How to get surf fit for your next trip?

honeymoon bali surf surf fit ©


For a landlocked surfer, and everyone who doesn’t live close to the coast, getting surf fit is a real concern. It’s something we have to find tricks and concepts, to make sure we’re not too far down the pecking order, once we’re in the ocean again.

We’ve got less time in the water than many other surfers. And to make sure we make most of it, we have to be ready. It can be difficult to keep your motivation high to stay surf fit all the time. Especially if you spend a long time away from the ocean. But there are a few things that can help.


#1: Always have your next trip lined up!

If you come home from a trip, and you know you won’t surf for a while, it’s ok, to take it easy a few days or weeks. But don’t let that become the norm. Book your next trip, even if it’s a long time away. If you already know, when you’ll be surfing the next time, it’s much easier to stay fit.


surf fit ©

A good fitness level and a strong core don’t only help you paddling, it also helps to hold your turns.

#2: Always keep your “general fitness” high!

If you start to prepare yourself for your next surf trip, and you’re a fat and lazy couch potato, it’s much more work and much harder to find the motivation to get surf fit again. Of course, you don’t have to stay at your fitness-peak all year round, no one does. But make sure you stay active and use your body and heart on a daily base. It’s the simple things that make the difference. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, your bike and not the car.


#2 again: Always keep your “general fitness” high, and your mind sane!

Find another sport you can do at home, that makes you happy. This can be skating, river surfing, snowboarding or other sports that are related to surfing. OR it can be something totally different, what I think is much better anyways.

Doing other things and not always dreaming about surfing and wishing you’d be at the beach, make you happier in the long run. Go and play Soccer or Volleyball once or twice a week. Go running, or whatever you feel like. You stay active, move your body, use your muscles, and you spend time with other people, who become your friends. This is for sure better for your head, that sitting at home all the time, watching surf movies, and dreaming about your next wave.  Watching surf movies helps you to get a better understanding of waves and surfing, and you learn a lot from it. But while you’re away from the ocean, it’s also important to keep your mind fit. Interacting with other people is something we don’t do all that much while surfing, but now is the time to do it.



Your next trip is coming closer

Airport Surfboard scan ©


Choose a time when to intensify your training before your trip, and make a training plan. Have in it how many times per week you want to work out, what workouts, and what excuses are allowed to skip training.

You might think it’s funny to already think about your excuses, but this is a crucial part of good preparation. Sometimes there is a real reason why you can’t workout, and that is ok. But if you start to allow yourself to skip training because of some minor things, you’ll regret it. The latest once you’re in the water, the waves are perfect, but you’re too tired to paddle out and surf another one!

So if you say you work out 3 times a week, DO IT! If you want to work out daily, DO IT TOO! But better decide about it before you start. If you scale back from six times per week to five, four or three, you’ll find yourself pretty soon at the end of a week, where you did nothing! And because of this, it’s a good idea to have some alternative training ready. If it rains and it’s too cold to go running, go and swim in a pool. The pool is closed for maintenances, go and swim in a lake. The lake is too cold, swim in another pool… It’s always easy to find an excuse. But that’s the same for everyone. And if you conquer your weaker self, you’re already a step ahead of most others, and you’re closer to become or to stay surf fit.


I suggest you start 2-3 month before your trip with exercises that help you to get ready for your real training.

This should increase your general fitness. I hope you already work out regularly (you play Soccer twice a week, or something like that), then you’re already set up pretty good. In this case, you don’t need that phase of preparation, as you’re ready to get into your paddle fitness training straight away.

Intensify your training one month before you’re in the water again.

From now on, your training should be more specific towards being surf fit and paddling. Still, go to your twice a week training, and meet your friends. But try to fit some training days in, where you aim for power in your back, shoulders, neck, arms, legs… all your body parts you need most for surfing.

Don’t come up with super hard and crazy training plans, you know you’ll quit before you’re halfway there. Make things you like and enjoy, and in quantities that are realistic for your fitness level and lifestyle. Sure, try to push yourself a bit, but with a healthy amount.


Here is my personal Fitness plan I was using to get ready for a trip to Indo.

I’ve been doing some workouts, some SUP, and being active in everyday life. Using my bicycle whenever possible, and a lot of walking. But now is the time to put more effort into it. To be ready and make the most out of my trip from the first day on, because I’m ready.

I might change days within the week because of the weather, but I’ll do it in the same week, as the workouts become tougher toward the end. But this won’t be a problem, as I’ll be used to it by then.

The first days are usually the hardest, as my body is not used to some of the exercises anymore, so I give myself more time to do it right, and just go through it, NO EXCUSES! I’ll be thankful in August when I’m on my board again.



I’m not a fitness coach, and I’m not saying this is a perfect workout plan! But it helps me to stay focused and get ready. If you like it, print it out, stick it to the wall and tick off all the training you did. 


fitness training july 2019 ©


What works best?

I tried a lot of different sports to get surf fit/ paddle fit and ready for a surf trip. Here are some of my favorites. And feel free to share your best workouts to get surf fit in the comments below.



Gerupuk Lombok Indonesia surfing surf fit ©

In places like Indonesia, you sometimes have to swim/paddle pretty far to get to the waves. And even worse…to get back! 

Swimming is probably the first thing that comes to your mind. And it certainly is a great way to have good general fitness without hurting yourself. It’s great cardio training, and good for the muscles you need to paddle. But you use them in a slightly different way than actually laying on a board. If you go and crawl your one or two Kilometres a few times per week, it definitely helps you a lot when you’re back in the ocean. It maybe takes a few days to adapt it to paddling, but you’ll be there very soon. To make it a bit more interesting, and even better training, try Nick Carroll’s training.




Rowing on an Ergometer is maybe not the most exciting training and something you need an iron discipline to keep doing for long. But it’s extremely effective, and one of the things that I found helps best. It trains the muscles you need when you’re lying on your board and paddle out. It’s something you can do indoors during a cold and dark winter, in front of a screen, watching surf movies. But mix it up with something else to not die of boredom.

Set yourself a challenge, and work toward it. If it’s too easy, make it harder for the next time. For Example: 500 Meters in under 2 Minutes. Make sure to never go over this time for 500 Meters and try to keep that pace up for 10 KM. This would be a 40 Minutes workout.

Try it! 10 KM in 40 Minutes might seems not possible when you do it the first time. But if you keep doing it a few times a week, you’ll see, how quickly your time is getting better, and the 2-Minute-mark per 500 Meters is coming closer. And before you’re on your surf trip, you row 10’000 Meters in 40 Minutes.



SUP Zugersee surf fit ©

My old SUP routine on Lake Zug with the snow-covered Swiss Alps in the background

Stand up Paddleboarding is probably my favorite training while at home. But I do it only if the weather is good enough. I use swimming as a bad weather alternative. I love to be outside and on the lake. Combine this relaxed environment with a high-intensity workout is perfect for me. I go 30 Minutes full speed, a few minutes to breathe, or a dip in the lake, and the same way back in the same time. Sometimes I take it easy first, and paddle for 15-20 minutes to start my training somewhere else. Plus I have the way back as a cool down after my one-hour training. It’s effective and doesn’t feel like training to me, as I enjoy it so much. I combine SUP with a core workout I do on the board, while I’m on the lake. Some classic exercises like sit-ups and push-ups work just fine on the board.



High-intensity Fitness programs like “ Insanity”, “Freeletics” or “Crossfit”

Becoming fit starts in your head

There are a good number of such programs out now. Both, in fitness clubs, and to do at home. They are super intensive, and probably get you the fittest, in the shortest amount of time. But you should be pretty fit to start with, and strict to hold on to the schedule. It’s something different, and definitely not for everyone. But if you do it, you’ll get surf fit like never before.



Of course, there are countless other options, these are only a few I tried and recommend. Try one or a combination of them, stick with it all the way to your next trip, and see how it goes. Maybe next time you try something else. Maybe because something else works better for you, or just because something so monotonous compared to surfing gets you bored sooner than you know.


And most important!

Lanzarote surf ©

Being fit helps to get waves. BUT it’s not a guarantee. Especially not in a crowded and strong localized lineup like here in Lanzarote

Don’t think just because you do a one-hour training at home, a few times per week, you’re fit enough to surf 6 hours on a daily base! It’s not the same, and good training and preparation help you to get fit and ready, but you’re still not on top the pecking order, and that’s ok that way!


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Cristina January 20, 2018 - 12:37 pm

Where do you get freeletics?

Good tips!

Pascal January 21, 2018 - 11:40 am

Here is all you need to know…

Bene May 30, 2018 - 9:20 pm

Riversurfing without leash

Pascal May 31, 2018 - 1:43 pm

Sure that works. But Bene, a serious question… Why are you guys using a leash when surfing the City Wave?

Mark Jawdoszyn January 5, 2019 - 2:59 am

Proper nutrition, routine and commitment. The Holy Trinity of fitness.

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