How To Stay Fit

| posted on January 24, 2012

JD Irons knows that confidence in your ability to both ride waves and survive Mother Nature's lashings is crucial on the North Shore, and requires a physical investment on land as well as in the water. Photo: Ellis

Although the act of actually riding waves is obviously the best thing for your surfing, there are a myriad of different exercise routines practiced by surfers in an effort to step up their game in the water. To find out what works for those placing themselves in some of the most physically demanding surf on the North Shore, we spoke with Kauai-native-turned-Oahu-transplant JD Irons:

Within the past year we’ve started a pretty solid workout routine at the Volcom House. KaiBorg leads the workout and there’s usually between eight and 16 people in the group. It’s basically a CrossFit routine that we do about three times a week. It’s a high-intensity workout that utilizes your own body weight to get you fit. So there’s a lot of sprinting, push-ups, sit-ups, stuff like that. The point is to get your heart rate up and keep it there while you’re working out. The whole routine should only take about 40 to 45 minutes. Here’s a sample workout that we do four sets of,  with little or no break between exercises:

100 jump ropes

100 jumping jacks

30 pushups

30 situps

15 step-ups

10 burpies

¼-mile run

The routine is pretty brutal in the beginning and it takes about a week or two for your body to get used to it and not be ridiculously sore. To help my body recover a lot quicker, I make sure I’m constantly drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. I also stretch a lot each every day. Nothing too over the top—I don’t do yoga or anything—but I spend about 15 minutes every day just getting loose. When my body is really sore, I make sure I massage my muscles with a foam roller to try and remove some of the lactic acid that built up.

The physical part is really only half of it. So much of it is eating properly. I don’t eat three big meals a day, but about five or six small meals to keep myself going. That way, I’m never really too hungry or full and I’m constantly keeping my metabolism going.

As far as what I eat goes, I make a point of only eating fresh foods. For the most part, don’t eat anything that’s processed or frozen and I eat a lot of fruit. In the mornings, I’ll have an acai bowl with spirulina. A bit later on in the day, I’ll eat some more fruit like a banana or an apple. By lunchtime, I’ll eat a big salad and then some more fruit or trail mix later on in the day. Most dinners for me are pretty straightforward. I’ll have a salad and some lean protein like fish or chicken. I don’t eat any red meat because it’s pretty hard for your body to digest it. It seems like it just sits in you.

Since I started working out like this and taking care of my body, I’ve seen a lot of really positive results. I feel a lot stronger and I’m more confident in the lineup and with my surfing. I feel like I have a much stronger foundation for everything I do. A good workout routine isn’t just good for your body, but it’s good for your head too.

How do you stay fit when you can’t surf? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

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  • John

    Swim. Long distance with sprint sets worked in. Skate. Do laps in the bowl at your local skatepark. Pull-ups, push-ups, military press, squats, lunges.

  • Charlie nuts

    Yea word, throw some karate kicks, karate chops, roundhouse kick, one-inch punch. Yea word, dont use a toliet when you do a number 2, really work those quads. Chase wild boar, chickens, little dogs, hot chicks. Find some drift word to knock out some squats, overhead thrust, double lindo-chops, some Michigan side tosses, a few Phillipino head rolls and bench of course. Yea word, keep it fresh by eating raw meat, raw eggs, fresh fish in a blender, twice a day of course. Couple more gems, the titty twister, the crusty pizza, the land rover, the Eddie Murphy, all really good for the core. Yea word, make sure to work those back muscles with some Rodger Rabbits, a couple of monkey grippers and as always finish any workout with a big glass of water, lots of water depending on how intense you did your Eddie Murphy’s. People pay for this kind of advice, get you some..

  • Rick

    Pilates, Physio ball, Recumbant Bike (OA in knee), push ups.
    Swim. Swimming is huge. Wish I acess to a pool in the winter.

  • xtx

    surf all day and then eat hamburgers and beer. works for me.

  • Andrew

    Heck yeah that workout seems super legit…just wondering though…what is a “burpie”??

  • mark

    burpee is when you begin by standing up, then lean over put your hands on the ground, shoot your feet behind you, do a pushup, bring feet back to your hands then jump up and reach for the ceiling. therres tons of variations.

    Anything to stay active is huge. eating clean diet is key too. This article is great, I personally throw in a lot more variations of exercises and make sure to eat vegetables every day too. usually do 20-25 minutes of exercises during lunch break, then come home and run 2 miles + a few other little exercises if I’m up for it.

  • Ryne

    two a days swimming, especially distance work outs help so much. I’m swimming in college and luckily i have time to surf as well but when I’m out of swim shape I’m out of surf shape too

  • Vinnie

    Andrew its usually spelled burpee (so you can search it for a video) is when you put your hands down by your feet, kick your feet out into a push-up position then bring them back in. Stand up n jump. Do it in a fluid motion not broken into steps. Sounds n looks pretty easy but it works good!

  • Miguel

    For a list of all the other workouts they are talking about check out…

  • ARob

    All sound great, don’t forget to keep your rotator cuffs (shoulders) strong.
    Doing regular rotator cuff strengthening exercises 3 times per week will help to prevent injury.

  • SK8r

    I skateboard to cross train carve etc….

  • Pat Carey

    Hey all,
    I recently had surgery on my shoulder. I tore my labrum pretty bad and havent been able to surf and wont be able to surf for a couple months probably. I have kept my weight the same pretty much at 195. Anyone have any suggestions on how i can stay in shape/ surfing shape with a bum shoulder? Im doing PT for it now and it seems to be getting better i just hate not being able to use it. Riding a stationary bike for 45 minutes a day can get real old wuick haha.


  • Todd

    Better to bench press and eat rib eyes, drink beer, and smoke some herb

  • Eric

    Pat Carey – I had surgery on a torn labrum in my right shoulder Feb 2011. First time I was able to surf again after that was end of June 2011. So about 5 months. This was doing physical therapy (PT) 3x a week for 5 months.

    Just take it slow and do the PT My doctor had me start PT 2 days after my surgery. That’s really the key. Make sure you do whatever exercises they tell you to do at home. I think for the first month I was doing an hr of PT at home every day in addition to going to the PT office.

    Once my shoulder felt good enough I started swimming regularly at the gym. This was probably after about 3 months of PT. Started out slow but eventually was doing about 1000-1500 meters in the pool 3x a week in addition to the PT.

    A lot of the exercises you do in PT for your labrum will help strengthen your shoulders. One year later, my shoulders feel stronger than they did before the surgery. I’m surfing 2hr sessions 5-6x a week, mainly at Ocean Beach SF (which can have a brutal paddle) and my shoulders feel fine.

  • Nolan Day

    Play rugby!
    Sprinting,striding,jogging,walking, tackling, rucking, tackling and jumping at practices twice a week and for a 80 minute match will keep you fit and welcomed in Fiji.
    Moce, Nolan

  • Chuck MacWilliam

    P90X, baby!

  • Taylor in Santa Cruz

    I like to sit in a cubicle during all of the daylight hours of winter Monday through Friday, then surf until I feel dizzy or taste blood on Saturday and Sunday. Repeat indefinitely.

  • Rowan

    There’s a 50 metre outdoor pool on London Inn Fields. Every Sunday, regardless of the icey weather, we jog or cycle there. Using a large swimming float tucked under my chest I paddle, bit like being on a surfboard only a lot tougher on the arms due to lack of bouyancy. People think I’m mental… but I’m fit to surf!



  • Scott

    The Surf Stronger workouts and surf as much as possible.

  • Ben

    Krav Maga a couple days a week. No shit, that stuff is cardiac Napalm.

  • Eugene

    Squats and lunges are a good addition to this routine. Your glutes are the largest muscles in your body and therefore play an important role for balance and stability during movement.


    Pat Carey,

    work all your body, but start really really ligth and slow, to the point you feel that you´re doing almost nothing, keep the same program for one week, than the next week increase just a little bit the amount and intensity, keep for a week and so on. You may think it´s ridiculous, but my experience is that if you try to hard in the beggining of recovery, we all want faster results, you´ll end up needing to stop for a couple of weeks and start over again…, the way I said, it creates you a strong base, and also breeds patience, which is a very good thing. In 2 months you´ll be superfit again.
    All the good.

  • Will

    Has Charlie nuts’ comment been run through one of those autotranslation devices? Seems to have been translated from Urdu to Creole to Swahili to Albanian to Cantonese to “English”…

  • James

    Really? even surfers have gotten brainwashed into this crossfit/paleo diet routine?

    Crossfit isn’t bad if you’re looking for endurance, but don’t expect any significant gains in muscle.

    Personally I believe that jogging, swimming laps, and traditional weight lifting (In proper form and with proper reps/weight) is the best way to go. There’s nothing that we need more than our paddling endurance, and the best way you’re going to keep that built up is by swimming.

    As for diet, don’t shy away from carbs. Personally I intake 200+ grams of carbs a day, along with 1g of protein per pound of my weight minus body fat. Low carb diets are unhealthy, can lead to poor cognitive function, and have other risks involved such as ketosis.

    Do your research before you start a routine, and keep on surfing!

  • Graham McIntosh

    Interesting to say the least, check out my site for tips on increasing stamina for surfing – it might be some help for some of you.

  • Ben DeCamp

    Was really excited to try this workout, yesterday did 3 sets with 30 second break btwn sets. The 1/4 mi. run – the treadmill doesn’t come close to the deep sand from Pipe to Rockpile. Very similar to CrossFit, good workout!

  • Inland ripper

    Swim in a masters group…..sprint after sprint. I live six hours inland and to prepare for Tavarua I swam 6-7 miles of sprints a week. It sucked but I was catching as many or more than any guy in the water. The group aspect keeps you motivated when your brain says this sucks….and it often does.

    Also, get a Chuck Norris total gym for base strength. You can do a great paddle motion for core muscles.

    All in all kinda cheesy stuff, but It keeps me fit and catching waves after long droughts

  • Pjt

    Funny how jd finds it nessessary to mention he “doest do yoga or anything” Lol!

  • wiles

    blood type diet ( every body is different, find what makes u feel good), get rid of your car , get a bike and skate and surf plus some situps, pushups if theres no waves and of course swim and soft sand runs. ditch the beer go for cheap red wine and ur good to go. works for me. theres nothing thats sucks more tho if you are sore from land workout when the waves are pumping.

  • SDJ

    Living hours inlands doesn’t help but I’ve been doing which is keeping my shoulder, core, and legs pretty fit. Just moved near a lake where I can do some paddle workouts.

  • Ty P

    Everything in balance. The same way the waves work, you must train. Specificity is key to any fitness regimen with cross over abilities from workouts to improving surging ability. Reaction timing, central nervous style taxing workouts will give you the most bang for your buck when combined with highly metabolic inducing workouts like crossfit. Finding weaknesses and imbalances in the body is the place to start,.corrective exercise is a major component most people are not able to do themselves because of the need for manual manipulation while in kinetic motion. Screw the fads and technologically driven machines, invest in a newer college level Exercise Physiology book, it will answer your questions. Or email me Tzaillinit@gmail. personal trainer with sports med degree and 10+ years training motocross, skiing, showboarding and downhill professional racers.
    Eddie would go!

  • Tom Sullivan

    The Holoholo Board is the perfect way to train for surfing and build a work out around the goal of surfing better. If you want to surf better and feel better when you can’t surf then you need to check out this board.

  • http://none Rodney Downsling

    If you want to stay fit, also try to add a very healthy virgin coconut oil called memory Oil. Their website will be up in a few days or even tomorrow and look it up, it will be called and Memory Oil has changed my figure and I also apply it to my skin and it removes all the wrinkles in my face and it is just fantastic. I definitely recommend buying it for a cheep $8 and put it in your meals and give it a go. It does wonders. 😉

  • brian roberts, the Iron Surfer

    Hey, check out the worlds first ocean gym.

  • sco

    charlie nuts bringin’ the old-school niceness vibe. BVB, is that you? epic win. i’m doin’ that workout.

  • J

    There is only one Man who Will make you completely fulfilled, and that Man is Jesus. I promise that if you seek him and let him into your heart you will experience rest and Everlasting Joy. I pray that you will take this message to heart and experience TRUE Happiness in Jesus. God Bless. ps. Pray to Jesus about all of your problems so that he will help you like he has helped me always.

  • Ra

    I’m an old man and the only reason i do fitness is to keep my conditioning for surfing. the older you get the more injuries you tend to carry so i don’t believe hitting the gym hard is the way for me.

    the most important thing is keeping limber and yoga is great for old farts, it’s not just stretching, it’s strength, balance and flexibility, all critical for surf fitness.
    all these you tube surf fitness clips are just modified yoga movements.

    the foam roller is so critical to ironing out the creases especially hip flexors, IT band, back and lats.

    a little circuit for me, mix it up or change it, keep it varied but revisit it every so often:

    20x wide grip pullups (back power, paddling)
    20x pushups (paddling, pop up)
    10x full swiss ball squats (re-balance quads and rehab dodgy knees)
    1 bball court tyre flips (everything together)
    50x 5-10kg seated mason twists (core)
    10x half swiss ball/bosu ball pop ups (get up old man, 2 feet together not this old man crawl to your feet shit)
    make 10 free throws (focus when fatigued)

    x5 rounds

    takes me 40-60 minutes. Under 45 minutes is good

  • Andrew

    when im not able to surf. I usually wake up and make a big smoothie(the days that i do and dont surf) i’ll also maybe eat an egg on toast a little bit later in the morning. I like a sandwitch with some meat but a lot of vegetables and whole grain bread. some more fruit in the afternoon. I like fish or chicken with a salad for dinner. and sometimes ill eat some fruit for dessert. I also like to run everyday that i don’t surf and do some skateboarding on carving skateboard simulation the turns that i do when im surfing. and do a little bit of weight training every other day or every other 2 days just to keep my muscles in shape for surfing. All of this together helps me go into the water feeling strong and confident.

  • chey

    Hey, there is this ripping workout that i do.. It’s “meant” for movie stars that need to “get fit” in 21 days, but if you do it in cycles it one month on/one month off cycles while keeping to a “eden garden diet” it really works. check it out…

  • Christian

    Do you take a break between sets?

  • NINA

    Hay does anyone have a weekly diet workout and surf session schedual workout for me take noat that I have school between 7:30 – 14:00 and I have aktivities Monday- 4;15-5;15 and Wednesday 3;30-4;0 and Thursday 2;00-3;00> Please help me I have to train hard for the SA junior hurley Champs. I barely came in and I suck in comperision with the other chicks Please help oh btw iam 13

    • Newportsurfer

      Look up on Surfline – Dr. Tim Brown and some of the stuff he has written about.

  • carslon

    mankind has been eating red meat for 150k years…so it’s just fine to eat organic red meat. the fish off the coast of Hawaii are drenched in radiation…

    • Sam

      jesus ate fish…leave the red meat alone! they are creaturs of god the creator

  • Jess

    can someone please help me!
    i have school between 8:00am and 2:50pm, i really want to improve my surfing however my parents are most of the time at work so i have no one to take me to the beach. I would like someone to please tell me what a good diet is and some strengthening workouts! Please help me! i really need tips for a healthy balanced diet and some strengthening work outs! im only 12 but im willing to give it my all!

    • Wendy Schafer

      Jess Did you read this article? perhaps you should.

    • Richard Countryman

      Yeah bro, just do as the article says, and you’ll be fine. Body resistance is the best form of exercise, and paddle, paddle, and paddle some more.

  • Louisa

    What is weight surfing?

  • Jess

    Hi my name is Jess im only 13, i really want to take my surfing to the next level however i really need a few pointers on good dietary and strengthening work outs and exercise and just basically stuff to help me improve my surfing! I really want to succeed in surfing and make it a career!! Also does anyone know a good weekly timetable for surfing and exercising and all that stuff? i have school for 8:40am-2:50pm and my parnts are pretty much working monday-friday! Please help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Daniel McCabe

      Try to keep a low diet of fruit and vegetables but as a work out session personally im 11
      I like to do
      20 push ups a day
      20sit ups a day
      30 laps a day (around a house)
      10 pull ups a day
      By 30 days I’ll look good

  • fattysurfy

    hi, i surf..but im fat. wot.

    • Wendy Schafer