6 Stretches for Surfer’s Flexibility – Unlocking Fluidity On the Waves

surfer warming up before surf

Why do stretches for surfers?

Think about this, paddling out to epic waves, the anticipation building with each stroke, only to arrive at the lineup with a pinched nerve and shoulder that’s going to kill your wave count!

To keep injury-free and feeling good, surfers must possess technical skills and physical attributes that allow them to navigate the ever-changing nature of the waves.

One such attribute is flexibility. Flexibility is crucial in unlocking fluidity on the board and can take your surfing abilities to new heights.

Boost Your Surfing: Stretch for Success

surfing, surfer, wave

Unlock Fluid Surfing Movements

Stretching isn’t just pre-surf showmanship—it’s your secret to sublime surfing. By weaving dynamic stretches into your routine, you elevate your wave game. How?

  1. Surf Longer, Better: Stretching enhances muscle elasticity. Dive into paddle-outs, pop-ups, and powerful carves with ease.
  2. Dodge Those Injuries: A wider joint range means fewer strains and tears. Protect your shoulders and knees from the unpredictable ocean’s toll.
  3. Endurance Amplified: With better blood flow, ride waves longer and recover faster. It’s about fueling those muscles right.

So, ready to unlock a fluid surf experience?

Understanding the Anatomy of a Surfer’s Body

fit surfers

Key Muscle Groups Involved in Surfing

When it comes to riding those epic waves, surfers rely on a complex interplay of muscles throughout their bodies. Understanding the key muscle groups involved in surfing can help you tailor your stretching routine to enhance your performance and prevent injuries. Let’s dive into the primary muscle groups that need attention.

Quadriceps and Hamstrings

Your quadriceps, located at the front of your thighs, play a crucial role in propelling you forward as you paddle out to catch a wave. These powerful muscles are essential for generating strength and stability during each stroke.

On the other hand, your hamstrings, found at the back of your thighs, contribute to knee flexion and stability during balance shifts while riding the waves. To ensure optimal functionality, it’s important to incorporate stretches for surfers that specifically target these muscle groups.

Dynamic stretches such as leg swings or lunges can warm up and activate these muscles before hitting the water. Static stretches like standing quad stretches or seated hamstring stretches should be performed after surfing sessions to prevent tightness and improve flexibility.

Glutes and Hip Flexors

As any experienced surfer knows, maintaining balance on a board requires strong gluteal muscles. Your glutes provide stability while maneuvering over shifting surfaces on the water. Additionally, they assist in generating power when performing explosive turns or maneuvers.

The hip flexors also deserve attention as they play a vital role in achieving an upright posture while paddling or starting position when getting up on the board. These muscles allow you to lift your knees towards your chest effortlessly when transitioning from paddling to standing position.

Incorporating surfer hip joint-specific stretching exercises like lunges with hip extensions or kneeling hip flexor stretches can help improve flexibility and reduce strain on these muscle groups. These stretches for surfers can be performed before and after each session to optimize their performance and prevent potential injuries.

Core Muscles and Obliques

stretches for surfers

Surfing demands a strong core as it acts as the body’s powerhouse, providing stability and balance throughout every wave-riding maneuver. Core muscles, including the abdominals, lower back muscles, and obliques, work in harmony to maintain proper posture while absorbing the forces generated by wave dynamics. By incorporating exercises that target your core muscles into your stretching routine—such as planks or Russian twists—you can enhance stability and improve control over your board.

Engaging these major muscle groups not only helps with efficient paddling but also aids in executing turns with precision. Understanding the anatomy of a surfer’s body is crucial for designing an effective stretching routine that caters to the demands of surfing.

By focusing on key muscle groups like the quadriceps and hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors, as well as core muscles and obliques, you can increase flexibility, strength, and overall athletic performance while in the water. So stretch it out before catching those waves to unlock your full surfing potential!

Its especially important to incorporate stretching and exercises that are surf-specific as we age. If you’re an older surfer wanting some great ideas to maintain your surfing, check out this article.

Essential Dynamic Surf Stretches to Elevate Your Surf Sessions

Arm Circles & Shoulder Rolls

Before diving into the waves, your upper body craves that limber feel. Arm circles? They’re not just for gym class. Extend those arms and circle away. Gradually widen the circles, unlocking shoulder agility. Pair this with shoulder rolls. Inhale, roll up; exhale, roll back. Feel the tension dissolve, prepping you for powerful paddles.

Walking Lunges for Lower Body & Balance

Your legs power your ride. Step into walking lunges, where every step fires up those quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Dive deep with every lunge, syncing strength and balance. With each step, you’re paving the way for a more stable surf stance.

Cat-Cow Stretch for Spinal Flow

Crave that seamless wave carving? Your spine is the answer. Dive into the rhythmic dance of the cat-cow stretch. On all fours, arch up into the cat, then sink down into the cow, flowing like water. As your spine ebbs and flows, your core fires up, readying you for those wave challenges.

Gear up with these dynamic stretches. Embrace them, and let the waves witness your elevated surf prowess. 🌊🤙

Spinal Flexibility: The Backbone of Surfing

The spine’s flexibility is paramount for surfers. A supple and mobile spine allows for fluid movements, better balance on the board, and reduced risk of back injuries. As the literal backbone of our body, ensuring its flexibility can significantly impact our surfing performance. Here are some surfing stretches, specifically aimed at enhancing spinal mobility:

Rib Cage Roll

  • Description:
    • Start by lying on your back with your arms extended outward, forming a T shape. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. Slowly let your knees fall to one side, allowing your rib cage to roll with them, but keep both shoulders flat on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Benefits:
    • This stretch promotes thoracic spine mobility and gently stretches the oblique muscles. It also aids in loosening the muscles around the rib cage, which can get tight from prolonged paddling sessions.

Side-Lying Spine Stretch

  • Description:
    • Lie on one side with your legs extended and stacked on top of each other. Extend your arms in front of you, keeping them aligned. Now, lift the top arm and open it towards the opposite side, rotating your torso and following the arm with your eyes until it touches the ground, or as far as it feels comfortable. Your gaze should follow your hand throughout the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Benefits:
    • This stretch targets the thoracic spine and helps enhance rotational mobility, which is crucial for maneuvers on the surfboard. It also provides a gentle stretch to the chest and shoulders.

The Torso Twist

  • Description:
    • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and place the foot on the outside of your left knee. Place your right hand behind you for support. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, twist your torso to the right, placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. Hold the position for a few breaths, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Benefits:
    • The Torso Twist effectively stretches the lower back and the gluteal muscles. It also promotes lumbar and thoracic spine rotation, helping surfers maintain a flexible trunk, which is essential for carving and other dynamic moves on the waves.

Targeted Stretches for Surfers -Improved Paddling Efficiency

surfing, paddling, surfer girl

As a surfer, paddling efficiency is one of the most crucial aspects of your performance. The ability to paddle effectively allows you to catch more waves and spend less energy while doing so.

To enhance your paddling technique, incorporating specific stretches into your routine can make a significant difference. This section will explore two targeted stretches that can help you unlock better paddling efficiency: the chest opener stretch and the latissimus dorsi stretch.

Chest Opener Stretch: Surfing Stretches

Surfing often involves spending hours with your upper body hunched as you paddle through the waves. Over time, this can lead to tightness and imbalances in the chest and shoulders muscles, limiting your range of motion and potentially causing discomfort or pain. The chest opener stretch is an excellent way to counteract these effects by stretching the front of your upper body.

To perform this stretch:

  1. Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind you, palms facing inward.
  3. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift your interlaced hands away from your lower back.
  4. As you lift, allow your chest to expand forward and upward.
  5. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds while taking deep breaths.

This stretch relieves tension in the chest and abdominal muscles, and helps improve posture by opening up the front of the body. By regularly incorporating it into your stretching routine before or after surf sessions, you’ll notice increased flexibility and easier breathing while paddling out through those challenging waves.

Latissimus Dorsi Stretch: Releasing Tension in the Back

The latissimus dorsi, or “lats,” are large muscles that span across the back of left leg and play a crucial role in paddling. When these muscles become tight and tense, they can restrict your arm movement and hinder your paddling technique. Regularly stretching the lats can alleviate this tension and improve your overall paddling efficiency.

To perform this stretch:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend one arm overhead, slightly to the side.
  3. Bend your trunk away from the extended arm until you feel a stretch in the side of your body.
  4. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds while breathing deeply.
  5. Repeat on the other side for balanced stretching.

This stretch targets both tight muscles in the lats and the muscles between your ribs, releasing tension along your entire back. Regularly incorporating it into your stretching routine will help maintain flexibility in these key muscles, allowing for smoother and more efficient paddle strokes while out in the lineup.

The Sleeper Stretch

Description: While lying on your side, extend your arm out at shoulder height and bend your right elbow at a 90-degree angle. Use your opposite hand to gently press down on your raised forearm until you feel a stretch.

Benefits: This stretch targets the rotator cuff muscles, which are crucial for stable and strong paddling motions. Regularly practicing the sleeper stretch can help in preventing common overuse shoulder injuries and improve shoulder flexibility.

Floor Tricep Dips

Description: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and hands placed behind your hips. Lift your hips off the ground and, using your arms, lower and raise your whole body.

Benefits: Floor tricep dips strengthen the tricep muscles, which are essential for powerful paddling. They also engage the shoulders and upper back, contributing to a stronger paddle stroke and improved wave-catching ability.

Enhancing Balance and Stability with Lower Body Stretches

Deep Squat Stretch: Building Ankle Mobility and Leg Strength

Finding balance on a surfboard requires core stability, strong legs, and flexible ankles. The deep squat stretch is an excellent exercise to improve both ankle joint mobility and leg strength for surfers. Begin the quad stretch by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outwards.

Slowly lower yourself into a squat position, keeping your back straight line your knees bent and your heels flat. As you descend, maintain an upright posture and engage your core muscles.

I can hardly talk about stretching and not include a plug for yoga! I’ve found yoga super helpful in loosing up my body, allowing me to surf longer and get more waves. Check out this article on surf-specific yoga poses.

Ankle Mobility’s Impact on Surfboard Balance

Ankle mobility plays a crucial role in maintaining balance while riding waves. In surfing, the ability to adjust weight distribution quickly is vital for executing turns or maneuvers smoothly.

Limited ankle mobility can hinder these movements, leading to instability on the board. By strengthening exercises and performing the deep squat stretch regularly, you can increase flexibility in your ankles tight hips, and shoulder muscles, allowing for better weight shifting during surfing sessions.

Gradually Increasing Squat Depth Safely

When practicing the deep squat stretch as part of your surfers’ stretching routine, it’s important to listen to your body’s signals and progress gradually. Start the deep stretch by a deep breath and lowering yourself into a comfortable depth that doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort.

Over time, aim to increase the depth of your squat by gradually lowering yourself closer to the ground while maintaining proper form and alignment. You can further enhance this exercise by adding weighted resistance using dumbbells or kettlebells held at chest level.

Bottom Leg Lift

Description: Lie on your side with your legs stacked. Keep the bottom left leg only slightly bent and lift it towards the ceiling.

Benefits: This exercise targets the inner thigh muscles, which are often overlooked but crucial for stability and balance on the board. Strengthening these muscles can aid in better wave rides and reduce the risk of knee injury groin injuries.

Hip Flexor Stretches: Unlocking Stability During Turns

surfer hitting the lip

Surfing requires fluidity in movements such as turns or cutbacks. Tight hip muscles and flexors can limit range of motion and hinder stability during these maneuvers. Incorporating hip flexor stretches into your pre-surf routine can help address this issue. For more Mobility based exercises, have a look here.

Tight Hip Flexors and Range of Motion Limitations

Tight hip flexors can significantly impact a surfer’s ability to perform smooth turns on the waves. These muscles in the front of your hips connect to both the pelvis and thighs, allowing for hip movement.

When they become tight or shortened, they restrict the range of motion in your hips, hip and knee joints, making it difficult to execute turns with ease and fluidity. Regularly strengthening exercises stretching these muscles can improve mobility and enhance stability while maneuvering on your surfboard.

90/90 Hip Stretch

Description: Sit on the floor with both legs bent at 90-degree angles, with one foot out in front of you and the other to the side. Lean forward slightly, keeping your back straight, until you feel a stretch in your hips.

Benefits: The 90/90 hip stretch is fantastic for increasing hip mobility and flexibility. As hips play a significant role in surf maneuvers, this stretch can enhance board control and reduce the risk of strains.

Hip Flexor Stretches for Surfers

To stretch your hip flexors effectively, try a kneeling lunge stretch. Start the lunge position by kneeling on one knee with the other foot placed flat in front of you.

Engage your core and gently shift right foot forward until you feel a stretch at the front of your hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds on each side, ensuring that you maintain proper alignment and avoid any pain or discomfort.

Common Injuries Surfers Suffer

Surfing, like many other sports, poses a risk of injury. However, many of these injuries can be prevented or minimized through proper mobility, stretching, and flexibility exercises. Here are some common surfer injuries and how mobility and flexibility can help:

  1. Shoulder Strain and Rotator Cuff Injuries: Paddling is a fundamental part of surfing and requires strong shoulders. Over time, repetitive paddling can lead to shoulder strain or even rotator cuff injuries.
    • Prevention: Incorporate shoulder mobility exercises and stretches. Focus on exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles. Stretching exercises like arm circles, wall stretches, and doorway stretches can help maintain flexibility.
  2. Lower Back Pain: Prolonged arching of the back while waiting for waves can strain the lower back.
    • Prevention: Stretch and strengthen the muscles of the lower back and core. Pilates and yoga can be particularly beneficial. Hamstring stretches and hip flexor stretches can also help alleviate tension in the lower back.
  3. Knee Injuries: Twisting motions during maneuvers on the wave, or the impact from wiping out, can lead to knee injuries.
    • Prevention: Strengthen the muscles around the knee and work on knee mobility. Squats, lunges, and leg blasters are effective strengthening exercises. For mobility, consider stretches that target the hamstrings, quads, and calves.
  4. Ankle Sprains: The foot’s position on the board, combined with the force of the wave, can sometimes lead to sprained ankles.
    • Prevention: Strengthening the muscles around the ankle and improving its flexibility can help. Ankle circles, calf raises, and band-resisted exercises can be beneficial.
  5. Neck Pain: Constantly looking up while paddling can strain the neck.
    • Prevention: Neck stretches and exercises can help maintain flexibility and strength. Gentle neck rotations and tilts can be incorporated into a daily routine.
  6. Rib Contusions: Lying on the board for extended periods can cause bruising or discomfort to the ribs.
    • Prevention: Strengthening the core can provide better support and reduce the pressure on the ribs. Also, choosing a board with the right amount of padding can help.
  7. Muscle Cramps: Extended periods of paddling and riding can lead to muscle cramps, especially in the arms and legs.
    • Prevention: Regular stretching before and after surfing, staying hydrated, and ensuring adequate electrolyte intake can help prevent cramps.

Remember, while stretching and mobility exercises can significantly reduce the risk of these injuries, they can’t prevent them entirely. It’s also essential to use proper technique, ensure that equipment is in good condition, and be aware of the surfing environment (e.g., the type of waves, the seabed, other surfers) to further reduce the risk of injury.


Incorporating lower body stretches into your pre-surf routine is essential for enhancing balance and stability on the waves. The deep squat stretch improves ankle mobility and leg strength while addressing ankle flexibility’s crucial role in maintaining surfboard balance. Additionally, targeting tight hip flexors through specific stretches helps unlock a greater range of motion during turns, ultimately improving stability while riding waves.

By committing to regular stretching for surfers, incorporating these essential surfing stretches back into your routine will enhance performance and reduce the risk of injuries caused by muscle imbalances or limited flexibility. Embrace these surfer stretches as an integral part of your training regimen and watch as you unlock new levels of fluidity in the water—ultimately propelling yourself toward greater surfing prowess with each session!

Think about adding some form of breathing into your surf training. I have 2 introduction articles on surf apnea and co2 training and why every surfer will benefit from this type of training.

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