Breath Hold Training For Surfing (A Simple Guide)

breath hold training for surfers

If you’ve landed here you’re probably looking to start working on breath hold training to start surfing larger, more challenging waves.

We’ve created a simple step-by-step guide you can follow to exponentially increase your lung capacity and your breath hold.

Let’s jump straight into our training that’ll make paddling, surfing, wipeouts and hold-downs all much easier.

breath hold training for surfers

Breath Hold Training For Surfing (Step-by-Step)

Here are some sure-fire waves to improve your breath hold before you even get into the ocean, you can even do them at work.

Important – If you have any underlying health conditions you should always check with a medical professional before beginning any new training programs like the one below.

Practice taking a deep, full breath

Before you can start working on improving your breath hold it’s essential to teach your body how to breathe properly.

Breathe properly? I know, it sounds crazy but many of us (myself included) breathe using our chest rather than our belly.

To test this for yourself can take a deep breath in a stationary position, if your chest and shoulders rise then it’s a clear sign you’re not breathing correctly. Instead, we should be using our belly and abdominal muscles to breathe.

To practice belly breathing, take slow, deep breaths, allowing your belly to rise and fall without moving the rest of your upper body.

*With practice this technique will allow you to inhale much more oxygen, increasing your breath hold and leading into our next method.

Using CO₂ static apnea tables

Here we take advantage of a freediving breathing technique to help our surfing. To start out you’re going to need to establish your current breath hold.

  • Using your belly breathing technique, take a deep breath and hold your breath for as long as you feel comfortable (this will be your ‘personal best’ giving us a benchmark to work from)
  • Calculate 40% of your personal best breath hold (30 seconds for this example)
  • Hold your breath for 30 seconds
  • Rest while breathing normally for 90 seconds
  • Hold your breath again for 30 seconds
  • Reduce your rest time by 15 seconds to 75 seconds
  • Repeat this process 6 times until you only have a 15-second rest between breath holds

Carry this out daily and you’ll quickly start to improve your body’s ability to deal with high levels of CO₂ in your bloodstream and your breath hold in turn.

Pro tip -You can reassess your personal best timing on a monthly basis and adjust your timing accordingly.

Practice box breathing

Box breathing is a technique used to improve your lung capacity and therefore your breath hold for surfing.

  • Start by sitting down in a comfortable chair
  • Slowly exhale to empty all the air out of your lungs
  • Once you’ve expelled all the air in your lungs you can breathe in deeply through your nose for a total of 4 seconds
  • Now hold your breath in your lungs for another four seconds
  • Slowly exhale for 4 seconds and repeat a total of 5-10 times

This won’t just benefit your surfing either, box breathing can:

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety by focusing the mind
  2. Help you focus and concentrate on a single task like surfing
  3. Help you handle stressful situations like dangerous waves, hold downs or long paddle outs

I love this method because you can do it literally anywhere you can find a seat and it’s a great way to focus your mind if you’re struggling to concentrate.

Try diaphragmatic breathing

Last but not least on our list of breath hold techniques is diaphragmatic breathing. It helps you to focus on your diaphragm, a muscle located in your belly that helps you breathe.

Practising diaphragmatic breathing is very easy and just requires a flat surface, ideally in a quiet area so you don’t get distracted.

You can start by:

  • Lying or sitting on a flat surface
  • Letting your shoulders relax and drop down, removing any tension in your neck
  • Place the palm of one hand on your chest and the other on the centre of your stomach
  • Take a deep full breath in through your nose
  • Using your hands as a guide try to keep your chest still and feel your stomach and sides expand as your lungs fill with air
  • Purse your lips to make your mouth smaller before exhaling for 4 seconds, feeling your stomach relax
  • Repeat this process at least 10 times a day


By employing some of the techniques above you’ll be increasing your lung capacity and your breath hold giving you the confidence you need in larger surf.

Long hold-downs and nasty wipeouts will start to become more comfortable as you master your breath control and you’ll see an increase in your overall surf fitness.

Don’t miss our other helpful surfing guides below packed full of helpful tips and insights from experienced surfers.