Do I Have To Be Fit And Strong To Surf?

Surfing is often associated with images of fit, athletic bodies. We have all seen the perfectly toned bodies of professional surfers.

It raises questions about the ideal physique required for the sport. Does one need to be in prime physical shape to surf? 

We are all aware of the “swimmer’s body”, but is there such a thing as a “surfers body”, and do you have to be strong and fit to surf?

Generally, you don’t have to be fit and strong to surf, but it can help improve your performance and endurance in the water. Surfing requires a certain level of physical fitness and core strength to paddle, balance, and manoeuvre on the waves. 

However, people of all fitness levels can enjoy surfing and improve their skills over time.

In this article, I will explain the level of fitness required to surf, sharing my own personal experiences of being an overweight and unfit surfer.  

a slim female surfer

Do I Have To Be Fit And Strong To Surf?

While being fit and strong can certainly enhance your surfing performance, it’s not a strict requirement to get started. 

Surfing is more about balance, technique, and understanding the rhythm of the waves. It’s possible to enjoy surfing without being in peak physical condition, especially at a beginner level. However, as you progress and tackle larger waves, physical fitness becomes more important for both performance and safety. 

Notably, a strong core and upper body can help with paddling and maintaining balance. But remember, these are skills and strength areas that you can develop over time as you surf more. So, don’t let your current fitness level deter you from trying out surfing. Everyone starts somewhere!

When I first started surfing, I was not fit. However, when I got addicted to the sport, I started to get fitter in a more natural way, i.e., building stamina just by getting to the beach and moving into the water. No gym for me!

In addition, to improve my surfing and feel safer in the water, I worked on my swimming, which also improved my fitness.

So, in a nutshell, you do not have to be fit to start surfing, but if you get hooked, an improved quality of fitness is an awesome side effect of the sport. 

Do You Have To Be Strong To Surf?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to be incredibly strong to surf. A basic level of strength is needed, but the key requirements for surfing are more closely connected to balance, agility, and understanding the dynamics of the ocean rather than brute strength. 

Even so, having good upper body strength can certainly make paddling and catching waves easier. However, just like fitness, strength can be gradually built up over time with regular surfing. 

As you spend more time in the water, your body will naturally adapt and become stronger, especially in the areas most used during surfing, like the shoulders, back, and core. 

Therefore, while being strong can enhance your surfing experience, it’s not a prerequisite to start surfing. Instead, a willingness to learn and persist is much more critical.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Surfing?

Surfing goes beyond being just a thrilling water sport; it offers numerous health benefits. 

Primarily, surfing is a great cardiovascular exercise that works the heart and boosts overall fitness. Paddling requires considerable effort that helps to strengthen the upper body muscles, including the shoulders, back, and arms. Once on the board, the act of maintaining balance strengthens the core. 

Moreover, surfing promotes endurance, flexibility, and agility, given the need to respond quickly to dynamic waves. It’s also an excellent activity for weight management. An hour of vigorous surfing can burn significant calories, contributing to weight loss and fat burn, including belly fat. 

Beyond the physical benefits, surfing also offers mental health benefits. The focus and concentration required can be meditative, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. The sense of accomplishment and joy that comes from catching a wave can boost mood and self-esteem. Plus, the social aspect of surfing leads to a sense of community and camaraderie among surfers, enhancing social well-being. 

Therefore, irrespective of your fitness level or body type, surfing can contribute positively to your physical and mental health.

Health Benefit Of SurfingHow Surfing Helps Health
Cardiovascular fitnessSurfing is an excellent cardiovascular workout. It gets your heart pumping, which strengthens your heart and enhances your cardiovascular health over time.
Muscle buildingRegular surfing can help to build and tone muscles. It particularly targets the upper body muscles (arms, back, and shoulders) during paddling, and the core when maintaining balance on the board.
Improved balance and flexibilitySurfing requires and also improves your balance and flexibility. Balance is used extensively when you’re standing and riding the waves, while flexibility is employed throughout the entire process.
Mental health benefitsSurfing can also benefit your mental health. The concentration required while surfing can be meditative, helping to alleviate stress. Catching a wave and experiencing the thrill of the ride can lead to happiness and an elevated mood.
Weight managementSurfing is a great way to burn calories. A vigorous hour of surfing can burn a significant number of calories, aiding in weight loss and fat burn, including belly fat.
Improved enduranceRegular surfing can improve your endurance levels. The longer you can surf, the more your stamina will improve.
Increased vitamin D levelsSurfing gets you outdoors and into the sunshine, helping your body to produce vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and emotional well-being.
Promotes sleepRegular physical activity like surfing can promote better sleep patterns.
Social benefitsHealth Benefits of Surfing
This Table Shows The Health Benefits Of Surfing

Do You Need A Strong Core For Surfing?

Having a strong core is beneficial for surfing, although it’s not a prerequisite to start. Core strength plays a pivotal role in maintaining balance and stability on the surfboard, especially when standing up on the board to catch a wave and manoeuvring the board on the wave. 

A stronger core can also aid in the paddling process, which is an integral part of surfing. However, just like other aspects of physical strength and fitness, your core strength will naturally improve over time with regular surfing. 

So, while it’s beneficial to have a strong core, don’t let a lack of core strength deter you from getting started. You can develop this strength as you continue to surf and grow in the sport. 

Moreover, various exercises and routines, like planks, sit-ups, and yoga, can be incorporated into your daily routine to help strengthen your core for surfing.

Can You Surf If You Are Overweight?

Body weight is not a barrier to surfing. In fact, surfing can be a great way to engage in regular physical activity and potentially aid in weight management. 

However, you might find that being overweight presents unique challenges, such as balance and stamina, but these can be overcome with practice and persistence. 

Selecting a larger board could provide better stability and buoyancy. It’s also important to note that safety should always be your priority. If you’re starting out, surf under supervision or take lessons from a certified instructor. 

And remember, surfing should be about fun and enjoyment, not your body size or shape. So if you’re overweight and interested in surfing, get yourself on some beginner surfing lessons with a good instructor who can take care of you in the water and make you feel great. That is how I started, and I never looked back. 

Is There An Ideal Body Type For Surfing?

There is a common misconception that there is an ‘ideal’ body type for surfing, usually characterized by lean and toned bodies often depicted in media and surf culture. However, the reality is that there is no perfect body type required for surfing. 

Surfing is a versatile sport that accommodates a range of body types and sizes. A person’s ability to surf depends more on their balance, coordination, endurance, and understanding of the ocean rather than their physique. 

Having said that, being in a good physical condition can enhance your ability to surf. You might find that certain body types may find specific aspects of surfing easier, but this shouldn’t discourage anyone from trying out the sport. 

Ultimately, the most successful surfers are those who have a passion for the sport, are persistent and are willing to learn and improve continuously, regardless of their body type.

Does Surfing Change Your Body?

Undeniably, surfing does make changes to your body. Regular surfing builds up strength and flexibility in certain muscle groups, such as the upper body and the core. The frequent paddling helps develop shoulder and back muscles while maintaining balance on a moving surfboard, which can lead to a stronger, more stable core. Your legs also get a fantastic workout from crouching, standing, and manoeuvring on the board. 

In terms of physique, regular surfers may notice a leaner body, as surfing is a full-body workout that burns calories and tones muscle. However, the changes in your body may not necessarily match the ‘surfer body’ stereotype often projected in media. People of all shapes and sizes surf, and the changes in their body will depend on their unique body type, metabolism and the intensity of their surfing. 

Importantly, regular surfing can also contribute to enhanced cardiovascular health, better coordination, and improved mental well-being. So, while surfing can change your body in terms of strength and, potentially, physique, it also has significant health benefits that go beyond just physical changes.

Does Surfing Burn Belly Fat?

Surfing can assist in burning belly fat. The aerobic nature of surfing, which involves constant movement and high-energy exertion, promotes overall fat burn, including stubborn abdominal fat. 

The act of paddling, standing up on the board, and maintaining your balance while riding the waves engages numerous muscle groups, leading to an increase in the body’s metabolic rate. This, in turn, leads to calorie burn, which, when combined with a healthy diet, can result in the reduction of belly fat. 

However, it’s important to remember that fat loss isn’t localized, and the body loses fat overall, not just in the belly. Nonetheless, as a fun and engaging form of cardiovascular exercise, surfing can certainly be part of a strategy to burn belly fat.

Does Lifting Weights Help Surfing?

Indeed, lifting weights can be beneficial for surfing. A well-rounded strength training program can help improve your overall physical fitness, power, and endurance, which are crucial for surfing. 

Weightlifting exercises that focus on the legs, back, and shoulders can particularly enhance your surfing ability. 

Strong legs support better balance and handling on the surfboard, while a strong back and shoulders improve your paddling power. Additionally, the core stability gained from weightlifting can be particularly advantageous for maintaining balance while surfing. However, it’s important to remember to balance your strength training with flexibility exercises, as flexibility also plays a key role in surfing. 

As with any physical activity, it’s crucial to progress gradually and ensure proper form to avoid injury.

How Many Calories Does 2 Hours Of Surfing Burn?

Surfing is a dynamic sport that engages various muscle groups and requires a significant amount of energy. 

In general, the number of calories burned during surfing can vary greatly depending on factors such as your weight, the intensity of the activity, and individual metabolism. 

On average, a person weighing around 155 pounds (70 kg) can burn approximately 200-250 calories per hour while surfing. Therefore, in a 2-hour surfing session, this person could potentially burn around 400-500 calories. 

However, remember that these figures are estimates, and actual calorie burn can vary.

Final Thoughts

Surfing is a versatile sport that embraces participants regardless of their body type. While being physically fit may enhance your surfing experience, it isn’t a prerequisite to surf. 

People who are overweight can surf, and there’s no ideal body type for this sport. Surfing does lead to changes in the body, improving strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. It can also contribute to burning belly fat, given the high-energy exertion it requires. 

Incorporating weightlifting into your fitness routine can improve your surfing ability by enhancing strength and power. While it’s difficult to quantify the exact calorie burn from surfing due to individual differences, it is a powerful workout that significantly engages various muscle groups. 

So, whether you’re an experienced surfer or someone looking to ride their first wave, remember that the most important aspect of surfing is to enjoy the journey and have fun on the waves.

Generally, you don’t have to be fit and strong to surf, but it can help improve your performance and endurance in the water. Surfing requires a certain level of physical fitness and core strength to paddle, balance, and manoeuvre on the waves. 

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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