Surfing regularly will increase your body’s strength, endurance and balance alongside an overall improvement in cardiovascular fitness. On the other hand, surfing can also be detrimental to your body with the risk of repetitive strains and injuries.
That’s the short answer but what does surfing do to your body exactly?
Surfing’s a fantastic way to get your body in shape with a combination of cardio and strength-based exercises that you barely even realise your doing because you’re having so much fun.
But surfing can cause some issues, particularly as we get older, with that in mind let’s take a deep dive into what surfing does to your body including all those positives and a realistic look at some of the strains and injuries you might run into.
What are the positive effects of surfing on your body?
By taking up surfing you’ll be increasing your strength, endurance, flexibility and general wellbeing. Surfing on a regular basis will also help with your balance and coordination, which can help with other sports as well.
Let’s take a look at what surfing does to your body from a positive perspective before we look at the potential negatives.
Does surfing make you stronger?
Surfing is a great way to build core strength. Surfing requires you to hold your body steady while paddling, then quickly move your body in a variety of directions as you perform different surf tricks and manoeuvres.
Combine this with the fact you’re going to have to do a push-up on a moving floor every time you want to stand up and you can quickly see why surfing is such a great workout.
Surfers tend to be lean and muscular because they’re constantly using their core muscles during every ride. This helps them build strong abs and back muscles, which are key components in maintaining good posture throughout life.
How does surfing improve your cardiovascular fitness?
Paddling to reach the lineup and catching waves is a high-intensity exercise, particularly in large or stormy surf.
When you surf (paddling in particular), your heart rate increases as you exert yourself. Your blood vessels expand and contract with each stroke, which means they’re working harder.
As you continue to surf and paddle regularly, your body adapts by getting stronger and more efficient at pumping blood around your body.
This causes an increase in endurance and stamina, which means that over time, you’ll be able to surf for longer periods of time in more and more challenging conditions.
Arguably, big wave surfing is one of the most taxing aspects of our sport and creating a strong base of cardio fitness is key if you want to start surfing bigger waves where paddle outs and hold downs can get serious.
How does surfing improve your balance?
Surfing tests your balance in two ways, as a beginner, you’ll need to learn to balance simply by lying and paddling on a surfboard, when you progress to surfing regularly your focus will be on improving your balance while on the face of the wave.
Want to improve your balance at home to speed up your progression in the water? Check out our guide on how to practice surfing at home for great ways to work on your surf fitness during flat spells.
Being outside in nature
Part of the positive changes that happen to your body isn’t so much down to surfing as it is just being out and about in nature.
Surfing means you’re regularly exposed to sunlight which can help boost your mood by increasing serotonin levels in your brain.
Sunlight also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which can help increase your energy levels throughout the day and get a better night’s sleep.
Additionally, the sheer physical exertion of surfing can leave you feeling exhausted for the right reasons and can really help you with getting to
Being out in the ocean while surfing can help fight off seasonal depression and other forms of mental illness by increasing levels of vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D also helps regulate moods and protects against depression and anxiety disorders.
Being exposed to sunlight on a regular basis will help keep your immune system strong, so you’re less likely to get sick during the winter months or after being cooped up inside all day at work or school (or at home).
What are the negative effects of surfing on your body?
Despite all the benefits surfing can lead to a few different issues, strains and injuries. This typically takes the form of shoulder, neck or back pain alongside various tears and strains of muscle or connective tissue.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the potential pitfalls of surfing, what happens to your body and what causes them.
Can surfing give you repetitive strain injuries?
Yes, the repetitive motion of paddling on a surfboard with your neck tilted upward can lead to pain during and post-surf. This is typically present with people just starting the sport and surfers who are starting to feel the effect of ageing.
The best way to prevent RSI injuries while surfing is to ensure you have a strong core and take time to stretch both before and after your surf. Some external factors can come into play here like an anti-inflammatory diet which can help reduce pain and taking up yoga or pilates to help with flexibility.
If you struggle with neck pain after surfing like myself you might want to consider an orthopaedic pillow, I personally find myself feeling much more healed after a good night’s sleep when compared to a normal pillow which doesn’t allow your neck and spine to align properly while you sleep.
Can you tear ligaments and cartilage surfing?
Yes, while surfing is a safe sport, for the most part, some of the manoeuvres and turns you perform in larger waves can lead to some injuries that can keep you out of the water for months including meniscus and ACL tears.
I’ve been on the receiving end of a meniscus tear while surfing and it took me around 9 months and surgery to get back to a point where I feel confident in my knee again.
Lots of surfers including John John Florence and Mick Fanning have managed to tear their ACLs while surfing leading to long stints out of the water.
Surfing and ACL injuries are no joke and without proper treatment, they can lead to mobility issues that can affect you for your whole life.
Rubbing and chafing from your surfboard and wetsuit
Excessive abrasion caused by your wetsuit, surfboard or the sand is called surf rash. It’s not overly serious but can be incredibly painful if left untreated.
Head over to our handy how-to guide on surf rash to find out some ways you can prevent surf rash before it even rears its ugly head.
So what does surfing do to your body? For the most part, it’s a positive transformation into a stronger, leaner version of yourself with a better sleep pattern and all of the benefits that go along with an active healthy lifestyle.
Yes, there are some potential problems that surfing can cause for your body but the positives of starting and mastering this amazing sport far outweigh any potential issues.
Still not convinced? Check out more of our surfing guides below for more fascinating reads on surfing and surfing culture.