Aging with the Waves: Best Exercises for Older Surfers

surfers warming up to increase mobility and performance

What are the best exercises for older surfers?

I love heading out into the line-up and seeing people out there enjoying the surf who are well into 60-70’s. It makes me feel inspired and motivated to keep my body in good health so i can keep surfing as long as them!

These lifelong surfers, bound by a passion that defies age, find joy, adrenaline, and connection with every swell. But time, while gifting experience, brings its challenges.

Muscles and joints demand more care, and the seasoned surfer’s dance with the ocean requires a tailored approach. They need exercises designed for their unique needs, focusing on strength, stamina, and balance.

Age is but a number, especially when you’re riding the waves. Understanding the keys to longevity is crucial to keeping the stoke alive and surfing for a lifetime.

It’s not just about the right techniques; it’s about a holistic approach that combines physical surf fitness, mental resilience, and a deep connection with the ocean.

After all, catching waves is less about age and more about passion, resilience, and the thrill of the chase.

Ride the Health Wave: Surfing’s Gifts to the Seasoned Soul

beach, surfer, waves

Physical Perks

Think surfing’s just for the sun-kissed youth? Think again! The waves beckon everyone, and a tidal wave of physical benefits comes with them.

As you paddle out, feel your heart revving up, muscles flexing, and stamina building.

This isn’t just about catching waves; it’s a full-body workout that boosts your heart’s power keeps those joints dancing, and muscles sculpted.

And balance? Riding that board is like a dance of agility and proprioception, a ballet that keeps you nimble and sharp.

Oh, and those biceps and toned legs? They aren’t just for show; they’re the trophies of countless surf sessions.

Mental Magic

beach, wave, ocean

Beyond the toned physique, surfing is a balm for the soul. Imagine washing away life’s stresses as saltwater kisses your face, and waves embrace you.

Feel that euphoria post-surf? Thank those endorphins, nature’s little mood-boosters. And, as every wave challenges your focus and strategy, you’re not just training your upper body muscles but sharpening your mind, too.

There’s an unmatched thrill in mastering a tricky wave or nailing a surf move. It’s not just about the ride, but the resilience, confidence, and zest for life it instils.

In essence, surfing is a gift that keeps giving, regardless of age. It combines health, joy, and life lessons wrapped in the ocean’s embrace. So, seasoned surfers, grab that board.

The waves await; they don’t care how old you are, only how young your spirit feels! 🌊🤙🏄‍♂️.

Why you need to start doing surf-specific training

surfing, surfer, wave

Surf Fitness

As we age, our bodies naturally undergo transformations that can impact our ability to ride the waves with the same vigour and agility we once possessed.

Surf-specific exercises, especially tailored for the maturing surfer, are paramount in counteracting these natural progressions.

These targeted surf fitness workouts address older surfer’s unique challenges and needs and ensure that the muscles, joints, and reflexes essential for surfing remain sharp and resilient.

Dedicating effort to these exercises is a small price to pay for the priceless reward of riding the waves with confidence and joy for many more years.

After all, the allure of the ocean is timeless, and with a proactive approach to fitness, our ability to answer its call can be, too.

By investing time in surf-centric training, we’re ensuring that the passion and thrill of surfing remain an integral part of our lives, irrespective of the passing years. The perfect time is to start now and be fit and surfing at your best so you can plan your next surf trip!

Understanding the Aging Surfer’s Body and Keeping the Stoke Alive

perfect barrel in Mentawai

Physical Changes with Age

As surfers mature, it’s vital to recognise the body’s natural evolution and its impact on our wave-riding capabilities. Key changes include:

  • Muscle Strength: Over time, muscles can lose mass, decreasing paddling strength and water endurance.
  • Joint Mobility: Aging can reduce joint flexibility, partly from wear and tear or arthritis. This can limit quick maneuvers essential for balance and wave turns.
  • Bone Density: Bones might lose density, becoming more fracture-prone. It underscores the importance of bone health through nutrition and strength-building exercises.

Balancing Act: Age, Reaction, and Body Awareness

Balance is pivotal for all surfers and demands more attention as we age. Factors to consider:

  • Vestibular System: Aging can affect this balance-controlling system, increasing fall risks.
  • Reaction Time: As neural processing might slow down with age, quick responses, crucial for unpredictable waves, become a focal point.
  • Proprioception: This sense of body positioning can weaken, impacting a surfer’s board awareness and wave-riding adjustments.

Aging Surfer Injuries: Prevention is Key

While surfing’s thrills are ageless, so are some risks, especially for the mature surfer. Noteworthy concerns:

  • Shoulder Issues: Paddling repetitively might trigger shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears.
  • Knee Concerns: Actions like popping up can strain knees, potentially causing or worsening conditions like tendonitis.

Social, Economic, and Time-Based Issues

Life’s responsibilities might change our surfing schedules, but shouldn’t change our surfing spirit. Finding a balance is key, whether juggling work, family, or financial constraints.

Prioritising time in the water, even if it’s less frequent, ensures the passion remains ignited.

It’s not about hanging up the board but adapting. By understanding age-related challenges, we can integrate specific exercises to combat these risks, ensuring we continue to catch more waves with zeal and assurance. 🌊🤙

How to Identify Weaknesses

Every surfer has strengths and areas of improvement. As we age, it’s crucial to be attuned to our bodies.

Identifying weaknesses, be it in strength, flexibility, or balance, allows us to address them head-on with targeted exercises and techniques.

Strength and Endurance: The Pillars of Surfing demands

kettlebells, kettlebell training, kettlebell trainer

Kettlebells and The Concept 2 Skierg are game-changers for the seasoned surfer. Kettlebells offer functional strength training, mimicking the dynamic movements of surfing.

The Concept 2 Skierg builds paddling endurance, ensuring you’re wave-ready anytime.

Include single-leg balance drills – Bulgarian split squats, skipping, single leg step ups, mini tramp sessions – incorporate single-leg drills with eyes closed for a challenge. The exercises will help improve your surfing ability and overall athletic ability.

Flexibility: The Unsung Hero of Surfing

While strength and balance are often highlighted, flexibility is the unsung hero that ensures fluidity in movements and reduces the risk of injury.

Incorporating athletic stretches pre-surf and yoga routines can keep you limber and wave-ready.

I’m a huge advocate of Pilates – after resisting for so many years because I wanted a “real workout” in the gym, I’m now a full-on Pilates junky. I had lower back issues and found this type of exercise to be so helpful. I found it to help counteract the extended periods of time that the lower back spends in extension when you’re in the water for a big surf session. It has helped me to surf longer and with more comfort.

If you are looking for surf mobility exercises, have a look at this article.

Mindset: The Mental Wave

wave, surfing, sea

Surfing is as much a mental game as it is physical. Developing a positive, resilient mindset allows you to tackle challenges in the form of tricky waves or physical limitations.

Another thing that really helped me was learning about surf apnea. Surf-specific breath training to help increase lung capacity and tolerance to CO2 levels so you can more comfortably withstand a bad hold down. This is something id recommend even to beginner surfers.

Time, Nutrition, and Mindfulness: The Trinity of Holistic Surfing

surf nutrition

Nutrition and Sleep: The fuel you put into your body and the rest you give it play pivotal roles in your surfing performance. A balanced diet ensures you have the energy for long surf sessions and adequate sleep aids in muscle recovery.

Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness, both on and off the board, strengthens the bond with the ocean and enhances the overall surfing experience.

Wellness and Biohacking: Exploring wellness activities like ice baths and saunas can offer surfers enhanced recovery and muscle relaxation. Additionally, biohacking techniques can be integrated to fine-tune the body’s performance, ensuring optimal vitality both on and off the board. Check out my other website if you are interested in finding out more

Seeking Support: Nurturing Your Body with Expert Care

In the quest to keep riding the waves with zeal and passion, sometimes our bodies need a little extra TLC. As seasoned surfers, it’s essential to recognise when to seek professional assistance to maintain optimal physical health.

Chiropractic Care:

Regular adjustments from a chiropractor can help ensure proper spinal alignment, which is crucial given the dynamic movements involved in surfing.

It’s not just about alleviating back pain; it’s about optimising the entire body to function.


acupuncture, holistic healing, holistic

Physiotherapists can offer targeted exercises and treatments to address specific injuries or weaknesses. Whether it’s a serious shoulder injury prevention a nagging back knee or shoulder issue from paddling or a tweak in the knee, they guide recovery and prevention.

Exercise Physiology:

An exercise physiologist specialises in designing exercise programs tailored to individual needs. For the aging surfer, this can mean interval training focusing on enhancing strength, balance, and flexibility specific to surfing movements.

Massage Therapy:

Don’t underestimate the power of a good massage! It’s not just about relaxation; therapeutic massages can aid muscle recovery, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health and mobility.

Remember, seeking expert care is not a sign of weakness; it’s a proactive approach to ensure you can keep enjoying the ocean’s embrace for years.

By integrating professional care into and improving your surfing routine, you invest in your body’s longevity and love for surfing.

Best Exercises for Older Surfers

Warm-up exercises to prepare the body for surfing

Before hitting the waves, it’s crucial to properly warm up your upper body to prevent injuries and enhance performance. Start a surf workout with a gentle jog or brisk walk to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate.

Then, focus on doing mobility drills, stretching major muscle groups involved in surfing, such as the shoulders, back, hips, and legs. Perform exercises like arm circles, shoulder rolls, trunk and front knee rotations, and lunges to loosen up those muscles and improve mobility.

Dynamic warm-up exercises to increase blood flow

Dynamic warm-up exercises are essential for older surfers as they engage multiple muscle groups and improve flexibility while maintaining an elevated heart rate.

Incorporate exercises like high knees, butt kicks, leg swings, and torso twists into your warm-up routine.

These movements not only help loosen up joints but also increase blood flow to the working muscles, preparing them for the physical demands that of endurance surfing itself.

Exercises to improve balance and stability in the water

Maintaining balance on a surfboard is crucial for successful wave riding. To enhance your own balance training skills and your surf training session, try standing on a balance board or bosu ball while simulating wave movements with small shifts in weight. There are some really fun indoor surfing trainer boards around. Even my 3 year old loves to use them on a windy day.

This exercise challenges your stabilising muscles and proprioception.

Additionally, single-leg exercises like lunges or squats can be highly beneficial in strengthening leg muscles responsible for stability on the board.

Strength training exercises for paddling power

training, ropes, workout

Strong paddling is essential when catching waves – it requires a strong upper body, robust arms, shoulders, and core strength.

Incorporate push-up variations into your routine that target these areas: regular push-ups engage the chest muscles while emphasising the triceps; wide-arm push-ups emphasise pectoral muscles; diamond push-ups target the triceps more intensely.

Furthermore, incorporating resistance band exercises into surf workouts can greatly enhance shoulder strength and athletic capacity, helping you efficiently power through those paddling sessions.

Think front squats, lunges, and burpees, and add a weighted vest to challenge yourself. All these exercises help build muscle; a full-body workout will increase your fitness level and allow you to get more waves and have more fun.

  1. Paddling Power Swim:
    • Purpose: Enhance shoulder strength and endurance for efficient paddling.
    • Instructions:
      1. If you can access a pool, swim freestyle, focusing on long, powerful strokes.
      2. Engage your core and use your lats (large muscles in the back) for each stroke.
      3. Start with short distances and gradually increase as your endurance improves. Aim for multiple short bursts, mimicking paddling out through the waves. For example, swim 4 sets of 50 meters with a 1-minute rest in between.

Pop Up – Surf Training

2 woman doing yoga at the beach to help with their surfing progression

Pop-Up: This swift transition from lying to standing while on the board is the make-or-break moment in catching a wave. A smooth pop-up ensures balance, control, and a successful ride.

With age, joint flexibility and core strength can become concerns, making the pop-up more challenging.

However, with targeted exercises and practice, older surfers can maintain, if not improve, their pop-up prowess. Remember, a solid pop-up means fewer wipeouts and more exhilarating rides.

  1. Pop-Up Practice:
    • Purpose: Improve the speed and fluidity of your pop-up, essential for catching waves.
    • Instructions:
      1. Start by lying face down on a yoga mat or carpet, mimicking your position on a surfboard.
      2. Place your hands next to your shoulders, as you would when preparing to pop up on a board.
      3. Engage your core and in one fluid motion, push up with your arms and bring both feet underneath you, coming into a squatting position.
      4. Return to the starting position and repeat. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

I have an article going deep into this topic here.

Core strengthening exercises for stability on the board

Having a strong core is vital for maintaining stability and balance while riding waves. Plank variations are fantastic for engaging multiple core muscles simultaneously. Start with a basic plank in the prone position by supporting yourself on your forearms and toes, holding the position for 30 seconds to a minute.

As you progress, incorporate side planks to target obliques and rotational stability. Additionally, rotational exercises like Russian twists and basic squats can strengthen your core and prepare it for the dynamic movements required during surfing.

Tailoring Exercises for Aging Surfers


  1. Dynamic Ocean Prep: 5 minutes
    • Begin with a brisk beach jog, simulating the movement of wading into waves.
    • Incorporate high knees and butt kicks to activate the core and legs.
  2. Surfer’s Dynamic Stretch:
    • Dynamic Arm Circles: 1 minute. Progress from small to large circles to warm up the shoulders.
    • Leg Swings: 1 minute. Front-to-back and side-to-side for hip mobility.
    • Dynamic lunges: Walking lunge position just use body weight – add weight if needed

Strength & Power (Enhance Paddling Power & Efficient Pop-Up): Upper Body

  1. Resistance Band Rows: 3 sets of 12 reps.
    • Target the back and shoulder muscles crucial for paddling.
  2. Plyometric Push-Ups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    • Add an explosive element to regular push-ups for increased power.
  3. Surfer’s Squats with Dumbbells: 3 sets of 10 reps.
    1. Hold dumbbells and perform deep squats, mimicking the motion of popping up on the board. Feet shoulder width apart
  4. Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets of 10 repsKeep core tight focus on slow movement and glut activation

Balance & Stability (Mastering Waves & Board Control):

single leg bosu exercise surf specific
  1. Bosu Ball Stands: 3 sets of 30 seconds.
    • Challenge stabilizing muscles, simulating the instability of water.
  2. Indo Board Balance Drills: 10 minutes.
    • Mimic the motion of surfing on land, enhancing balance and proprioception.

Flexibility & Mobility (Fluid Movement & Injury Prevention):

  1. Dynamic Lunge with Twist: 3 sets of 12 reps.
    • Combine lunging with a torso twist for hip mobility and core activation.
  2. Surfer’s Yoga Flow: 10 minutes.
    • Incorporate poses like Downward Dog, Warrior II, and Extended Triangle Pose for flexibility and strength.

Core Activation (For Board Stability & Powerful Maneuvers):

best exercises for older surfers
  1. Plank Variations: 3 sets of 30 seconds each.
    • Regular, side plank, and dynamic plank (shifting weight front-to-back and side-to-side).
  2. Russian Twists with Medicine Ball: 3 sets of 20 reps.
    • Strengthen obliques, vital for sharp turns and maneuvers on the board.
  3. Medicine ball slams
medicine ball slam - great for surfers

Keep core tight and slam while crunching abs

Cool Down:

  1. Myofascial Release with Foam Roller: 10 minutes.
    • Focus on the back, legs, and hips. Helps in muscle recovery and reducing soreness.
  2. Deep Ocean Breathing: 5 minutes.
    • Lie down, close your eyes, and imagine the sound of waves. Breathe deeply, taking in the salty air, and exhale slowly, syncing with the rhythm of imagined waves.


As seasoned surfers gracefully embrace their age, incorporating specific exercises tailored to their needs becomes paramount. Warm-up routines that focus on stretching major muscle groups combined with dynamic movements to increase blood flow are essential before hitting the waves.

Exercises targeting balance and stability, such single leg balance drills such as standing on balance boards or performing single-leg squats or lunges, help older surfers maintain control on the board.

Strengthening exercises focusing on shoulder muscles using push-up variations and resistance bands enhance surf paddling power. Engaging upper body strength in core-strengthening workouts like planks and rotational exercises helps maintain stability while riding waves.

By adopting these targeted exercises into their routine, aging surfers can continue to enjoy the thrill of riding waves while keeping their bodies strong and resilient. Surf’s up!

If you’re in need of inspiration for your next surf trip – check this out!


1. Can a 70 year old learn to surf? Age is but a number! With the right guidance, physical preparation, and mindset, it’s possible for individuals even in their 70s to pick up surfing. Always consult with a physician before taking on such activities.

2. How can I strengthen my body for surfing? Strengthening for surfing involves a combination of cardiovascular exercises, strength training (especially for the upper body and core), flexibility routines, and balance and mobility drills. Incorporate exercises like push-ups, planks, squats, and dynamic stretches. Surf-specific yoga poses can also be very beneficial. If you are interested in trying a few have a look here.

3. What exercises improve surfing skills? To enhance and improve your surfing skills, focus on exercises that mimic surfing movements: pop-up drills, balance board workouts, paddling simulations, and dynamic core exercises like Russian twists.

4. How can I practice surfing at home? While nothing can truly replicate the ocean’s waves, at-home drills like pop-up practices, balance board workouts, and strength training can help hone skills vital for surfing.

5. What is the best exercise for surfing paddling? Paddling requires strong shoulders, arms, and back. Incorporate exercises like swimming, resistance band pull-aparts, and dumbbell rows to target these muscle groups.

6. How do you build muscle for surfing? Building muscle for surfing involves a mix of resistance training and functional exercises. Use weights for compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and rows, and add bodyweight exercises like push-ups and burpees to simulate surfing motions.

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