At-Home Workouts For Landlocked Surfers
Surfers, once loath to do anything other than surfing for conditioning, are now embracing dryland training for surfers. Why? A fitter surfer catches more waves — it’s as simple as that.
The sport has evolved to a new level of competitiveness, both at the elite level and on increasingly crowded breaks.
For pros riding bigger waves and pulling off progressively dynamic moves, the athleticism and fitness required to compete is off the charts. For the more casual surfer, paddling back out faster than the next person at your local break might mean you’ll catch that once-in-a-lifetime wave before they do.
And even if you somehow found the perfect uncrowded break that sees no competition from other surfers, if your fitness is compromised exhaustion will take its toll.
Think about it: It’s not popping up and riding waves that is so taxing on a surfer’s body. What gets surfers’ trashed is all the paddling and duck diving. And this is especially true for landlocked surfers who don’t keep fit when not able to get to their favorite break. If you can manage to maintain paddling-specific strength and endurance, you get to surf stronger and longer. Period. The good news is you can do this at home! Nothing offers a more sport-specific, dryland surf paddling experience than the Vasa Trainer and SwimErg.
Staying Surf Fit At All Times
“The Vasa Ergometer with air resistance is the only device I know that’s remotely close to what it’s like to paddle on a surfboard,” says Tomas Anthony, surfer and Founder and CEO of New York gym, Everyday Athlete. “It really does feel like you’re lying on a board.”
Anthony would know. Living and running his business in Brooklyn, he’s used a Vasa Trainer since the 1990s to stay in shape for riding Long Island and New Jersey waves, to be ready for surf trips to Costa Rica, and for keeping up with friends who grew up surfing in Australia and Hawaii. “I spent so many years trying to keep up with my one friend from Hawaii, in particular,” he says. “Paddling out, my shoulders would be screaming and I’d be throwing myself over waves to get past them. Sometimes, we’d be in a current where we’d have to paddle in place for hours at a time.”
With his fitness background, Anthony knew he needed to train sport-specific muscles to best mimic what he calls the “real grind-it-out endurance and power” needed for surfing. “Paddling out past a break requires a combination of fitness and power,” he says, “especially since every break, and every wave, is different.”
“That’s where fitness training comes in,” adds Anthony. “You need to be strengthening and lengthening both sides of your back and chest so they flex and extend. On a surfboard, your entire spine is in a very awkward position for a long time. And since shoulders are floating joints, and they need a tremendous amount of care to be healthy.”
Anthony continues, “Aside from shoulders, surfing engages the torso, hip joints, the complex joints in your spine—all connected by fascia and muscles. It’s about how your body works together.” The fitness trainer/gym owner stays fit using the Vasa regularly for the three to six months leading up to a surf trip, utilizing the machine three to four days a week.
“I’ll either make a session out of it or warm-up or end another workout with it.”
As a warm-up or cool-down to other workouts, Anthony will paddle the Vasa Trainer for a 10-minute, full-body warm-up, or use it as a 5-minute cool-down.
As a dryland training for surfers workout, he incorporates the Vasa into HIIT training, alternating 30-second sessions sprinting on the trainer with pop-up exercises and weighted moves. “That way, you’re constantly working the torso, core, upper and lower body,” he says. He also uses it to do single-leg squats and inverted pushups.
Not Just for Landlocked Surfers
The Vasa Trainer isn’t only beneficial for those who are landlocked, or otherwise unable to get in the ocean (like during the COVID-19 global pandemic restricting ocean access).
“In Hawaii, most people are already paddling too much,” she says. “But we use it for fine-tuning,” Campbell explains that she utilizes the Vasa SwimErg when a client has pain in their shoulder to ease them back into the motion of paddling, or when they have a lower-body injury. “If someone has a knee injury and can’t do the bike or the rower,” she says, “the Vasa Trainer can be a really good cardio workout that keeps them fit and ready to get back to surfing when they’re able.”
“I also like how you can see how many watts per arm you’re pulling,” adds Campbell. “It identifies weaknesses so we can help surfers find the right muscles to improve their paddling efficiency.”
Campbell explains how, when pro surfer Ian Walsh had a knee injury years ago, he’d come into her gym and get on the Vasa SwimErg, using it with breath holds and cardio intervals. “We had Ian do long blocks for muscle endurance,” she says. “I’d have him do cable pulls, triceps pull-downs to fatigue… We’d do a circuit of five exercises, including having him on the Vasa for a 12-minute paddle while his muscles were already fatigued.”
Walsh was training for a specific wave with a strong current, where he’d be paddling for 20-minutes nonstop and then be ready to take off on a wave. “The Vasa SwimErg training really helped him get ready for that wave,” says Campbell.
You don’t have to be Ian Walsh to benefit from sessions using a Vasa Trainer or a SwimErg. “If a land-locked athlete was training for a surf trip, I’d start them off with a circuit incorporating 2-minute Vasa intervals and other exercises to simulate duck diving, pop-ups, and turns,” she explains.
Dryland Training For Surfers Workout
Here’s what Campbell’s prescribed workout would look like:
– 2-minute steady paddle on the Vasa SwimErg
– Band or cable lat pull down, 6x hard
– Push-up to a mountain climber, 4x fast
– 90-degree box jump, 4x (2 each)
– Medicine ball side throw 4x, (2 each)
She would have an athlete start by doing two rounds of the above, working up to five rounds.
“Once you’ve established a base,” she says, “you could begin to incorporate more endurance paddling sessions consisting of longer Vasa intervals with upper body strength and endurance exercises.”
As much as it is a great, sport-specific workout, dryland training for surfers on the Vasa can be fun, too. Campbell hosts after school fitness programs for kids of all ages, starting at five years old. She creates workouts that include lower body exercises, monkey bars, obstacle courses, and paddling on the Vasa. “I use it for cardio with them, seeing how far they can paddle,” she says. “They really like it.”