5 Reasons You Should Try CrossFit if You Surf


I don’t know how you feel about CrossFit.

There are some biases and honestly, that is understandable. Some CrossFitters get a little religious with it.

But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!

I am not asking you to join a box, buy a pair of CrossFit shoes and drink the CrossFit KoolAid, OK?


I will say this, as a CrossFit athlete, I believe there are some ways that CrossFit can improve your surfing, even if those moves are done outside of an official box.

With that said, here are 5 reasons I think you should consider CrossFit if you surf.

1. Bump Up Your Capacity and Endurance

How CrossFit helps You Surf Longer

CrossFit involves more than just the WOD (Workout of the day). While the WOD is designed to increase strength, the Metcon is for cardiovascular endurance and fitness.

What surfers like you need most is Endurance and CrossFit’s Metcon is all about endurance.

This is at the TOP of the list, because if there is one thing surfers need, it is endurance. You may be spending hours in the water, paddling, moving the board and maneuvering your body.

All this movement adds up and taxes your cardiovascular system, so you, as a surfer, must train using cardio to gain capacity and expand your endurance.

Stamina: How Cardio increases it and why YOU need it to surf

Oxygen Movement

Stamina, which is a little different than muscular endurance, is determined by your bodies ability to shuttle around and use Oxygen. The better your body is at doing this, the more endurance you have.

Oxygen Capacity

The amount of Oxygen your body can use is determined by two things.

  1. Lung Capacity.

Breathing exercises, yoga, deep breathing and similar activities can help improve lung capacity.

  1. Capillarisation

Your lungs are filled with small sacks called alveoli that fill with air as you breath. These alveoli are surrounded by capillaries filled with blood. These capillaries move oxygen from the lung to the rest or your body.

Training using Cardio literally causes your body to grow MORE capillaries, thus increasing your ability to take in and move oxygen.

What’s the Bottom line?

More cardio= more Oxygen-More endurance = More time in the water

2. Strength

The WOD will improve your Strength and Surfing Ability

As I mentioned, the CrossFit WOD is designed to increase strength. If you do the daily WODs prescribed you will gain strength all around, not just in arms, or legs, but all muscle groups, including supporting muscles.

When you surf, strength improves your speed and ability to move in the water.

Remember: you are working with two forces of nature here, the weight and momentum of the ocean, and your own body weight. You must have the strength to overcome these forces and manipulate them according to your will.

3. Rotational Work

What are Rotational Movements?

Rotational movements involve strengthening the core in a specific way. These movements involve rotating the upper body and applying some type of resistance, while the lower body remains fixed.

Surfers need rotational work

It is easy to see why a surfer needs rotational work, because remaining upright on a surfboard requires you to move your upper body, uses core muscles, and your feet and knees should stay more or less stationary. Your hips and core muscles do the maneuvering and adjusting.

How CrossFit helps your Surfing by Using Rotational Work

CrossFit includes a huge range of exercises, and as a surfer you may want to focus on the movements that help you most. Rotational movements in CrossFit include:

  • Rotational Med ball throws
  • Wood Chops (Perfect for Kettlebells or Med Balls)
  • Russian Twists
  • Kettlebell Slasher ( with and without Halo)
  • Horizontal Medicine Ball Twist
  • Farmer’s walk with one arm loaded
  • Single Arm weighted Lunge

Fair Warning: Rotational work involves turning the spine while carrying weight. Your spine is not designed to carry a super heavy load and turn at the same time!

Use a reasonable, sensible weight with these exercises– these are not like the bench press, there is no competition to see who can lift the heaviest weights, cuz that guy may be the one who gets back problems later.  Don’t be that guy.

4. You Need Hip Strength Stability and Flexibility as a Surfer

Some say surfing is “all in the hips”. But I am on Shakira’s side cuz she says “The Hips don’t lie” and they don’t.

If you lack strength and stability in the hips, you may rely on your knees for rotation, and that will ruin the knees.  You need to lead with your shoulder and hips (not knees) when you turn!

In addition to that:

Straddling the board for long periods of time is similar to sitting all day, because it causes your hip flexors to get tight.

You need hip strength, stability and mobility for pop-ups, bottom turns and more.

How CrossFit can make your hips and core stronger

These Core CrossFit moves make hips stronger and more mobile

  • Leg Swings ( in all angles)
  • Lunges
  • Olympic lifts: Snatch & Clean and Jerk, both make hips strong too!

Stretch hip flexors and gain hip mobility to up your Surf game

Warrior lunge – This stretch opens the hips and stretches the flexor and loosens the hips up. In this move one leg is extended back while the other is in front of you. This really opens the hips up, far more than a standard lunge.

You don’t need to be at the box to bust this move. You may even see other surfers on the beach in the warrior pose, and now you know why, its all about the hip flexion!

5. CrossFit makes moving across the transverse plane easier

What is the heck is the Transverse plane?

The transverse plane is a big word for a concept that is actually pretty easy when you visualize it.

Imagine This:

You are picking up trash, on the beach of course. You have a trash bag in your left hand. You squat down, pick up an empty soda can with your right hand, reach over and toss it in the trash bag in your left hand. Congrats, you have just traveled in the transverse plane.

The transverse plane is a flat (imaginary) horizontal plane that divides you top from bottom.

Moving in the transverse plane

Means you are moving top to bottom, crossing the plane. Some of the rotational moves we discussed earlier do cross the transverse plane.

But you do not need rotation to move across the transverse plane. The standing wood chop crosses the transverse plane without twisting the spine.

Why should a Surfer care about the transverse plane?

Movements that cross this plane strengthen the core, that’s why.

The Core is Pivotal (pun intended) to the surfer.

You need a strong core to pivot and move the board. Period. You need to work the core in ALL planes, including transverse, sagittal and frontal.

You can tap into all these benefits by join a Box (a CrossFit Gym or Affiliate) or simply performing some of the above CrossFit-esque moves from your own garage gym.


All photos provided by the author.