How To: Onshore Workout

Onshore Workout

Kevyn Dean of DSC Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness trains some of the best surfers on the professional world tour and serves as medical director for the USA Surf Team. We asked him to offer advice to beginners or casual surfers who are entering the water for the first time. He advises establishing proper movement and stability first. Dean says you can do the following exercises at home or as a warm up routine at the beach. Each step is meant to approximate different elements of the surfing experience.

Right before surfing, do the entire circuit as one set. If it’s more of a midweek workout routine run through the circuit three times every other day. No weights or special equipment are necessary. Demonstrated by surfer Alexa Ross. Photo credit: Taylor Casey

1. Paddling Out and Catching A Wave.

Basic Pushups. Keep your arms in while doing these because while paddling on a board you want to keep your arms as close to the board as possible. Do 10.


Mountain climbers. While in a pushup position slowly bring each of your legs up and touch your knee to your elbow, contracting your stomach muscles as you go. Do 10 of each leg, or 20 in total.

mountain climbers

Frog Thrust. While in a pushup position shoot your legs forward so they land outside your arms. Keep your back flat. Do 10.


Pop Up. Draw a line in the sand or place a strip of tape along the floor, which will approximate the “stringer” that runs down the middle of a surfboard. Then pop up into a surf stance, with your feet aligned over the makeshift stringer. Keep your back flat. Do 10 of these.

pop up

2. Establishing Correct Posture on A Surfboard

Squats. Take a broomstick, golf club or dowel and using either your right or left arm hold it against your back. Make sure it touches your glutes, the mid point of your back and your head simultaneously. Get into a surf stance, your feet over the stringer, and perform a squat while keeping the stick or dowel connected to those three points on the body. The lower you can get on a board the more stability you will have. Do 10 squats.


“The biggest mistake beginners can make is to focus on building strength, power, speed or quickness without establishing proper movement and stability first. Stability allows you to move from position to position with control.”

3. Rotating Your Body While Maneuvering Your Surfboard

Windshield wipers. While lying flat on your back with your arms outstretched, raise your legs as high as they can go. While holding them together, slowly rotate your legs from side to side in a controlled fashion. Use your core to control your legs and keep your back connected to the ground. If they are too difficult you can go side to side with your knees bent. Do 10.

windshield wipers

Russian twists. Sit up and put feet on ground. Grab a heavy book or bring your hands together in front of you. Touch the ground on one side with the book or your hands and then do the same on either side as you rotate back and forth. If that’s too easy lift your feet in the air slightly as you rotate back and forth. Do 10.
Mountain climber with rotation. Get back in a pushup position. Lift your right foot off the ground and rotate your hips and twist your stomach muscles so that your right knee touches your left elbow. Repeat with your other leg. Do five on each side, or 10 total.

russian twists

4. Balancing On Your Board

Single Leg Stance. In a single leg stance, stand upright for 30 seconds. Next stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 30 seconds. Then stand on one leg with eyes closed and nodding your head. If you can do that for 30 seconds stand on a pillow or soft sand and repeat. Only progress to the next step if you can do the prior for 30 seconds.


5. Visualize Perfect Surfing

Imagine. For 45 seconds to 2 minutes imagine what you will be doing out in the water and how it should look. Dean says “If you tell your body this is how I surf and this is perfect your body will attempt to do that.”