6 Ways to Improve Your Surfing When You Can't Get to Waves
Updated: Mar 16
Nothing can replace water time when it comes to improving your surfing. The intuition to navigate the lineup and read waves can only be developed through experience in the water. However, if you can't get out as often as you'd like, don't be discouraged! There are still ways to practice surfing when you can't get to waves.
If you're a landlocked surfer that can only make it to the ocean on vacation, work and family obligations spare you little time, OR it's 2020 again and all the beaches are closed, here's how you can stay stoked and surf-ready between your sessions.
6 Ways to Improve Your Surfing When You Cant Get to Waves
1. Stay Fit
If you're only able to surf a few times a year or even as often as once a week, staying active is crucial. Maintaining your fitness will allow you to enjoy your precious surf sessions and can help prevent injuries in the water.
The trick to staying fit is to find activities that you enjoy but If you're looking for something that will benefit surfing, swimming and yoga are two great options.
Lap swimming can increase your water confidence and paddling strength while yoga can keep you flexible and work your core. An app we love for Yoga is Down Dog. With Down Dog, you can customize your workout, choose what type of yoga you'd like to do, the amount of time you have, and even the music you'd like to listen to. (Down Dog isn't sponsoring this, I've just used this app for years and love to recommend it!)
You can also find surf-style workout and nutrition programs online if you'd like more structure and surf-specific workouts. No matter what you choose, choose something you enjoy doing so it's easy to stick to!
2. Watch surf videos in slow motion
I love watching surf videos! Being transported into lush tropical locations with beautiful waves always instills dreamy-eyed stoke F.O.M.O. in me. The next time you find a surf video you love (after you're done drooling over the dreamy waves, of course) slow down the video and use it as an opportunity to learn. If you're watching on youtube you can slow down the playback speed of any video by clicking the gear icon in the bottom right corner.
Slowing down surf footage will allow you to study two things: the way waves break and the maneuvers surfers choose. The visual exercise of watching waves break can help you learn how to read waves while watching surfers allows you to take notes on their style, body posture, hand and foot placements.
Some of my favorite surf videos to watch:
First Point Noosa from Above by Keahi de Aboitiz
3. Mimic movements you see in the surf videos
Now that you've picked a surf video to study, it's time to get up and move! Mimic the movements on land as you replay the clips. For example: If your goal is to cross-step, choose a longboard video like Dreams with Kelia Moniz and do as Kelia does! If you're looking to have more fluidity on your shortboard and want to work on your turns, Roxy's Summer Sun with Chelsea Tuach is a quick but perfect video. You can do this exercise for any kind of surf movement that you can find online.
Doing these movements repetitively will allow you to develop muscle memory while you're on land. Even if you are surfing regularly, you may not get enough opportunities to repeat these movements in the water. This exercise might feel funny at first but it's a major pro that you can do it anywhere and when done correctly, it works!
This exercise was a game-changer for my cross-step! Watching videos and practicing on land helped me get more comfortable with cross-stepping forward and backward.
Note: I have to shout out to my friend Mike for sharing this tip with me...When I asked him how he got so good at surfing, he told me he spent a lot of time as a kid mimicking surf videos. Thanks, Mike!
4. Use balance disks to practice movements on your board
This is such a great exercise because it incorporates a way to use your board with tips 2 and 3. This tip was given by Carla Zamora, founder, and coach of The Surf Institute. In Episode 13, Carla suggests using balance disks under your board to simulate the instability of surfing in the water.
To do this exercise you'll need 3-5 balance disks, depending on the length of your board. Give the disks a nice even inflate but don't fully inflate them. Lay the disks on the floor in a straight line covering the length of your board. Remove the fin and place your board on top of the disks. You can now practice movements on your board on land.
Carla says that doing this is "really good for longboarding and cross step training. It's also good to lay down on it and practice your pop-ups. If you use the board you ride regularly, you'll be able to create muscle memory and translate it immediately in the water." If you're unable to get a hold of balance disks Carla recommends substituting them with a long pillow.
Video of Carla showing the setup: Watch Carla's Repetitive Sequence Training Video
Options for balance disks on Amazon: Shop for balance disks on Amazon
5. Practice on a balance board
Whenever I felt surf deprived during the lockdown of 2020 I put on Bethany Hamilton's Unstoppable and rode my homemade balance board. If you need some stoke and you can't get out, I highly recommend doing this! Balance boards consist of a board, usually plywood, on top of a cylinder. The goal is to stand on the board and practice your balance. These are great for training overall core strength and the balance you need for surfing. There are many resources on learning how to use a balance board and even surf specific exercises. Before buying a balance board, do plenty of research and find the right solution for you.
Here are a few resources on balance boards:
INDO BOARD starting at $180
Ebb & Flo starting at $199
6. Try a surf-skate board or longboard
If you're up to hitting the pavement, a surf-skate or a longboard could be for you! These types of boards are not your traditional skateboards, instead, they emulate the feel and movement of being on a wave.
Surf skateboards are built to move like shortboards and can make smooth turns that resemble moves like a bottom turn or cutback. While longboards are built with longboarding in mind and are made to cruise. Some longboards are even as long as 6' or more and give you enough room to practice cross-stepping and noseriding.
Practicing on a surf-skate or a longboard is a great way to hone your riding skills when you're out of the water but it's not for everyone. As Carla mentions "to recommend skateboarding to someone in their 60's may not be the safest bet. If they were to fall, recovery can be difficult. Be careful making decisions on what you train on and make sure it's suitable for you, your body, and where you are in your life."
Before deciding to pick up a surf skateboard or longboard do plenty of research. Here's a guide on picking the right board from our friends at The Salt Sirens: The Best Surf Skateboards: Buyer’s Guide
This post was inspired by Episode 13: Lineup Etiquette and Pursuing Your Surf Goals with guest Carla Zamora. When we asked: What do you find frustrating about pursuing your surf goals? Many women confessed that finding the time to surf or being landlocked was what they found most challenging about pursuing and achieving their goals in the surf.
For more inspiring surf lady content listen to Episode 13 below or on all major podcast platforms.
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