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Beyond the Physical: The Wellness of Surfing

Emma RoseRider Surf

Written by Emma from

When I first started surfing, I knew it would be a body-intensive sport. I anticipated my strength and overall fitness increasing to meet the demands of extended sessions in the rolling waves.

However, what took me by surprise were the numerous additional ways in which surfing would profoundly enrich my life. From friendships and community to improved mental health, surfing contributes to overall well-being.

Unlocking the Benefits of Surfing

Cardiovascular Fitness 

Surfing ranks as one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise there is, whilst simultaneously mitigating the impact on your joints, such as the knees, hips, and back, which is often associated with other cardio exercises like running. 

It’s a full body intensive sport, burning through calories and engaging both your upper and lower body to the max. As you paddle out to the lineup, your shoulders, back, and arms play a crucial role in positioning you for wave-catching.

Repeating this journey multiple times demands exceptional endurance, with your muscle performance reliant on efficient oxygen delivery and lactic acid removal.

Markedly, I’ve noticed significant improvements in my performance across other sports, especially in my high-intensity spin classes, thanks to my dedication to surfing.

Balance and Stability 

Surfing engages virtually every muscle in your body to stay balanced on your board. 

There are 3 key types of balance: dynamic, anticipatory, and transitional. 

Dynamic balance involves the ability to maintain your equilibrium while in motion – a skill vital for activities such as walking, running, throwing, and, of course, surfing. During surfing, tasks like paddling, popping up, and carving rely on dynamic balance to maintain your centre of gravity.

Anticipatory balance is the subtle, automatic adjustments your body makes before repositioning itself. When riding the waves, anticipatory balance comes into play as you observe wave patterns and adapt to the changes in them while surfing.

Transitional balance serves to maintain stability between movements. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring smooth, flowing motions while riding your surfboard, preventing abrupt movements. 

The benefits of improved balance extend far beyond the waves. Improved balance reduces the risk of falls or tripping – something that becomes more important the older we get.

Additionally, it has a positive impact on posture – something often neglected in our often prolonged desk and laptop usage. Having better posture in turn reduces the likelihood of back problems later down the road. It’s all tied together in a positive bodily feedback loop. 

Exploring New Passions and Rediscovering Old Ones

The pursuit of perfecting my surf skills has led me to explore a diverse array of sports and activities, some of which I might never have considered if not for their endorsement as excellent cross-training options.

Pilates and yoga are prime examples, as both cultivate an array of skills crucial for surfing. But have you also considered freediving? Kayaking? Or even Capoeira?

Surfing has given me the confidence and spontaneity to say yes to new ventures,  even if they ultimately prove not to be my cup of tea. I cherish the fact that I’ve embraced these opportunities, whereas my younger self would have hesitated before politely declining.

In a natural progression from surfing, I recently rekindled my interest in its land based cousin, skateboarding. A friend introduced me to slacklining a few weeks back, and I’m now thoroughly hooked. Through surfing, my curiosity for other sports has broadened my horizons exponentially.

Surfing: Zen, Bonds, and Nature

Mindfulness and Meditation

Surfing itself acts as a unique form of meditation, where you find yourself in perfect harmony with both the vast ocean and your inner self. 

Surfing requires you to be in the present moment and this connection to one’s body and the natural world is what enables the most accomplished surfers to navigate the waves with seemingly effortless grace.

Out on the waves, there is no space for the anxieties of daily life, it’s just you, your board and the ocean existing together. I leave every session feeling rejuvenated, and more positive about whatever life has been throwing at me recently.

Lifelong Bonds – Community and Connection

Undoubtedly the biggest gift surfing has given me is the wealth of close and cherished friendships I’ve forged along the way. The female surf community in particular is like no other. It’s a realm characterized by its warmth, support, and unwavering encouragement.

My first surf retreat experience concluded with a treasure trove of enduring friendships. Over the course of that week, we shared heartfelt conversations around the campfire, built each other up and cheered each other on as we made steps towards manoeuvres which had eluded us on our boards.

I headed home with a lingering sense of melancholy, consoled only by the prospect of our reunion for another surf trip. Despite hailing from all over the globe, we remain in contact to this day – connected forever in our shared passion.

Nurturing a Connection to Nature

Surfing is known for the connection it forges between its practitioners and the ocean. When I’m out on my board, I can’t help but feel the interconnectedness of our natural world. 

This affinity for both the sport and the environment goes hand in hand. As a surfer, I’ve acquired a range of practical skills related to the ocean, from deciphering wave patterns to gaining knowledge about the rich biodiversity that inhabits our shores. 

This deeper connection with nature and the ocean has ignited my active engagement in environmental concerns. In fact, many surfers take part in beach cleanups where they can and do their best to protect the environment.

Surfing has actively changed the way I respond to situations. 

There are days when the swell is either too daunting or disappointingly meager, rendering it pointless to paddle out on my board. In such moments, I’ve learned the art of shrugging off frustration, and acknowledging that some things are beyond my control.

Surfing is more than just a sport, it’s a gateway to a healthier, more active and more fulfilling lifestyle.