Would it surprise you to know that well-known surfers like Shane Dorian and Kai “Borg” Garcia practice CrossFit to condition their bodies for surfing? Yup! The CrossFit slogan is true – “CrossFit Forging Elite Fitness.”
Many surfers put in long hours at the gym, but as Shane and Kai “Borg” discovered, CrossFit is what took their surfing to the next level.
“CrossFit is something I found out a year ago. It’s functional for everyday living. It makes life easy and better. It’s not about bodybuilding, it’s not about getting big, it's about getting good for life at whatever you do.” – Kai “Borg” Garcia
Surfing is a demanding sport. You must be able to balance, maneuver quickly, coordinate movements and have a lot of power. Think of how much effort it takes to catch a wave. You paddle your heart out, which requires both strength and endurance.
CrossFit conditions your body so you are ready the next time the perfect wave rolls in. Working towards a high level of functional fitness by practicing CrossFit will immensely improve your surfing in the following 5 ways:
1. Expanding endurance
This is at the top of the list because endurance is so important for a surfer. Surfing means you will be paddling all day. If you have strength, but not much endurance, you are sunk. Lifting weights at the gym is great, but you need more than strong muscles to keep up; you need endurance.
CrossFit trains all areas of fitness, including stamina, cardiovascular fitness, strengthening muscles, swiftness, balance, and dexterity. CrossFit includes weightlifting, and so much more. It is a complete, well-rounded body conditioning workout that literally changes every day. Practicing CrossFit means you perform a wide variety of moves, continually challenging yourself, and working different muscles every time you train.
The Bottom line:
If you want to hang in the surf all day, you must have the endurance to do so!
2. Increasing agility and mobility
Here is the deal: Lifting weights at the gym will strengthen your body, build muscle, and make you look great. However, if lifting is the only thing you do, you will soon discover that all those weights do not improve your swimming or surfing. You will be tight, locked up.
You need agility to hang loose, if you catch my drift.
Surfing requires flexibility and mobility. Your body needs to be flexible and agile to follow the curves and turns of the waves. Since CrossFit trains all areas of fitness, mobility and agility are part of the program. Even if you are just getting into CrossFit as a beginner, you will notice agility improvements quickly. Some surfers notice a change in mobility in as little as three weeks.
Duck diving calls for shoulder and arm strength. The Cleans, Jerks, and Snatches of CrossFit have that covered.
Standing on the board while riding a wave means you are in a semi-squat position. Hello quads, we need you here! The kettlebell lunge or air squats you do in CrossFit will make sure your quads are ready when you need them.
- Plyometric Box Jumps: Train quads and hip flexors to move rapidly and with great force, propelling you up onto your board in time to catch the wave.
- Plyo Push-ups: Prepare arms and chest muscles to move swiftly and powerfully to catapult your body into position on the board.
Both these plyo moves work to improve your pop-up, and both these moves are CrossFit exercise staples.
One could make a strong argument that balance is the most important aspect of surfing, but we are not here to argue, right? I think we can agree that balance is a really, really important component to a successful ride. Staying upright on a moving object, like a surfboard, means you will be constantly and quickly adjusting your position.
Balance is accomplished by using both core and stabilizing muscles. Using machines at the gym will give your strength and mass, but machines are poor at working the stabilizing muscles that are so critical to balance. CrossFit does not employ any machine based exercises for precisely this reason.
CrossFit moves that will work stabilizing and core muscles include:
- Walking Handstands – This move has something in common with standing on a surfboard, and that is, you will be constantly moving and adjusting your body to balance. While you may never do a handstand on your surfboard, you will work the same stabilizing muscles by doing a handstand walk as you do while standing on your board.
- Pistol Squats – pistol squats challenge the glutes, hip flexors, and adductors, strengthen calves and advance ankle mobility.
- Kneeling Rocker – this move is more of a stretch than a strengthening exercise. It works the ankle, enhancing plantar flexion.
- CrossFit Frog Stand – This advanced move really challenges your balance. It calls for standing on your hands while your knees are touching your elbows. It strengthens core and stability muscles.
Hawaiian pro surfer Shane Dorian says 90 percent of his physical training is done with CrossFit, and that the conditioning gained from CrossFit is what gives him confidence when faced with big wave surfing. When you feel physically fit, that carries over to your psyche. If you know your body is well trained to handle a variety of challenges, you will have the right mindset to succeed.
You can find Michael on his personal blog at garagegympower.com.