What Skills Do You Need to Be a Good Surfer?

Model Released Surfing
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The simple act of surfing takes less skill than it does desire. If you love to ride waves, you will learn how to surf, no matter your strength or physical attributes. That said, while you can always become an adequate surfer with enough practice and passion, to become a great surfer, you need to possess a few key attributes.


Surfing is at first a balancing act. Not only are you staying erect and centered on the deck of a surfboard (To learn what a deck is, check out the parts of a surfboard), but that surfboard is falling through space and slicing through moving ocean currents as you do so. If you can ride a skateboard, you can probably surf. Well, at least you have the capability to get to your feet and ride.


Being flexible is essential to surfing well. Think about a typical ride: you jump to your feet from a prone position, bend at the back and crouch at the knees while absorbing the shock of the bounding surfboard. Essentially, surfing is all knees and back. Strangely, with all this bending and bounding, surfers have pretty serious longevity in the sport. It’s not uncommon to see 60-year-olds sitting right next to a teenager in the lineup even on heavy days. So there must something about the act of paddling and riding that keeps the body moving into old age.


This quality is much more essential to paddling than it is to surfing. A standard wave is only a few seconds long, so it doesn’t take much to take off, angle along the face, and kick out. However, to paddle incessantly through whitewater, heaving lips, and swirling currents takes endurance. You have to be willing to push through pain and exhaustion if you want to get a lot of waves on a big day. Sure, enough stoke and adrenaline will go a long way, but that last half hour of a three hours session requires you to go to another realm of endurance when the surf is pumping.

Okay, if you have balance, flexibility, and endurance in addition to a real passion for surfing; you will more than likely progress quite quickly. Those qualities will ensure that you will not only perform on the wave but you will also be capable of staying safe in heavy situations.

The Best Ways to Build These Skills

There are loads of exercises that will strengthen your surfing muscles, specifically your shoulders, but let's keep it simple. There are three exercises that will keep in optimal surfing shape even when the waves are flat:

  • Swimming
  • Push-ups
  • Jumping rope

Swimming and push-ups will keep your shoulders and back strong. If these muscles are not worked regularly, your first surf session back after a hiatus will suffer (as will you). Jumping rope is perfect for leg strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination (all essential in surfing).

Do these exercises regularly when the waves are flat and alternate an hour in the gym and some skateboarding, and you are good to go on your next session.