Is Surfing a Good Workout? (& How It Helps You to Get in Shape)

is surfing a good workout

Have you ever wondered why surfers seem to have such perfect beach bodies?

Tanned, lean, toned, and all muscle, no fat.

So do you need to have a lean body to get into surfing, or is surfing a good workout?

No, you do not need to be a lean muscular person to start surfing, but when taking up the sport, you will find out just how much of a workout it is.

Constantly working your upper body from endless paddling and repeating explosive push-ups as you pop up on your board.

Resistance training for your legs while bending and extending them, and total core engagement from maintaining your balance.

Surfing may be one of the best all-round workouts you could do, and all of this while having fun and not a single trip to the gym!

This article will cover why surfing is such a good workout, what parts of your body will be put to the test while surfing, as well as the physical and mental benefits of surfing.

Is Surfing a Good Way to Lose Weight?

Although surfing will have your heart pounding out of your chest at times, it is not the best-known way to lose weight.

It is common knowledge that long, middle-range intensity workouts are best for burning fat.

According to Web MD, when trying to lose weight, you should exercise for at least 3 hours a week.

This exercise should be consistent with non-stop mid to high-intensity workouts of between 20 – 60 minutes.

So how does this compare to surfing?

Surfing, although in part a cardiovascular exercise, comprises more  short explosive movements.

You will rarely be constantly working for more than a few minutes at a time during any surf session.

Yes, you will need to be paddling around the bay, pushing up on your board, and giving great effort to get onto each wave, but there will always be nice relaxing breaks between these movements.

If losing weight is your primary goal, then try combining your surfing with other cardio exercises such as hiking or running.

That being said, surfing will still burn calories. Doing exercise that is fun will always feel like less of a workout than going to the gym.

Although you will burn more fat running than surfing, you could consider surfing a bonus exercise as you are doing it as more of a fun activity than a workout.

How Many Calories Do You Burn While Surfing?

When working out how many calories surfing will burn, it is not possible to get to a definite number.

Each individual will burn energy at their own rate depending on their metabolism, as well as how much personal effort they put into the activity.

However, it is still possible to work out an estimated number of calories burned in a session with a MET rating, body weight, and time spent doing the exercise.

Calories burned per minute = (MET x body weight in Kg x 3.5) ÷ 200

The MET is the measurement of energy used per minute of exercise. The MET for casual surfing is 3 and 5 for competitive surfing.

For example, a person who weighs 70 kg (155 lbs) and surfs casually for an hour will burn approximately 221 calories in an hour.

If you would like to figure out your personal calorie expense while surfing, just put in your details to this calculator.

As a quick reference, the MET of lying down on a bed is slightly over 1 and the MET for running is 8.

This means that surfing burns 3 times more calories than lying down, but less than half the calories of running.

Once again, explaining why running is a better activity when focusing on weight loss.

Why Are Surfers So Lean?

If surfing is not the ideal way to lose weight, then why are surfers so lean?

Well, to be honest, the answer to this is that they are not.

A better question to ask would be, why are professional surfers so lean?

Practicing for hours a day in the water, combining surf training with other cardiovascular exercises, as well as weight training and a healthy diet is why professional surfers look so fit.

That being said, surfing is a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training.

This means that while burning calories, your body is pushing the limits of its muscle strength and constantly repairing those muscles to become stronger.

It is this resistance training that gives a surfer the strong, muscular look without the bulk of a bodybuilder.

Resistance training is known to improve strength more than weight lifting and can be attributed to better muscle fitness.

Surfers tend to have leaner, more muscular bodies when they combine a healthy diet, constant practice, and alternative exercises into their lifestyle.

There is no weight requirement for surfing, and it is very common for surfers to be a variety of different shapes and sizes. 

The only thing that changes is the size of the board.

Does Surfing Give You a Good Body?

Once again, there is no hard and fast answer to this question. The best answer to if surfing will give you a good body is that it can but not necessarily will.

When it comes to building a required body type, then diet always plays a large part in it.

Surfing can, however, help you build muscle, give you time in the sun for that desired tan and eliminate the feeling of doing a workout.

What Parts of Your Body Does Surfing Exercise?

Surfing, as mentioned before, is an amazing all-round workout.

Having already covered the cardiovascular part of the exercise, let us look at what muscles surfing will engage.

Upper Body

Paddling, forming the majority of movements while in the water, will dominate your:

  • shoulders
  • upper back
  • triceps
  • biceps, and even your
  • forearms.

When new to surfing or having been out of the water for a few months, you will feel a real burn in these areas as your body works out built-up lactic acid and moves towards the required strength.

When it comes to riding the wave, your chest (pectorals) as well as your shoulders, and triceps will be the source of all the power. 

Popping on your board to get yourself standing is just like doing push-ups, but with more explosion.

The Core

Working more than just your abs, surfing is a great core exercise. 

When paddling, the more engaged you keep your core, the easier it will be to stay centered on the board.

Your abdominals and obliques will help keep you centered while keeping your chest as far off the board as possible will engage your lower back and provide more power behind each stroke.

Are you familiar with the feeling of trying to balance on one foot?

Although you will be surfing on two feet, the act of balancing is great for the core

Without even noticing, your core will be tight and active while trying to stay balanced on your board and constantly readjusting your body position.

All of this and not even a single sit-up is required!

Lower Body

Although your lower body may not be used much when paddling, your legs are by no means forgotten when it comes to surfing.

Constantly bending your knees when riding a wave has the same effect as doing squats. Working both your quads as well as your hamstrings, your legs will start to feel the burn.

Are you looking to shape the perfect butt?

Surfing may be your answer!

The Mind

Not usually thought about when it comes to exercise, but your “mental muscles” should always be exercised too.

The benefits of being outdoors instead of in the gym can do wonders for your personal happiness.

Above the good feelings that outdoor activities provide, constantly watching the ocean and trying to solve the puzzle that is the movement of swell, as well as problem-solving your way around a wave and its uneven breaks, will keep your mind active and hard at work.


Surfing is a fantastic all-around workout. With so many dynamic movements you can expect a full-body workout during a surf session.

In a single surf session, you will get a good cardiovascular workout (heart) and build some strong lean muscle through constant resistance training.

Although surfing may not be the be-all and end-all answer to the perfect body, it is, without a doubt, a sport that will help with the efforts.

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