Surfing: a 5-minute warm-up is all you need to go | Photo: Bravo/Quiksilver

So there you are, sand in your toes, breeze on your face, eyeing up today's selection of tantalizing surf. Few things can make the difference between what could be an epic session - and what might be just an okay one - than a surf-specific warm-up.

It doesn't have to take long, but it will go a long way.

Before you strap on and paddle out, take five minutes to get your body ready for action with this pre-surf warm-up.

Take It Easy

You aren't aiming for a workout, just a way to get all your crucial bodily components running optimally so that when you hit the water and start paddling out, the effort isn't a complete shock to the system.

A good surf warm-up will be stretch-focused, yoga-inspired, and low-impact, helping fend off fatigue, cramping, and potential injury. 

Breathe Right

Deep, slow, measured breathing helps deliver heaping parcels of oxygen to the muscles as you warm them.

Inhale through the nose, right down to the navel, filling up to the top of the chest until you feel you're at capacity.

Hold for a second or two while your body absorbs the O2.

Slowly and with control, exhale through the mouth, pushing out the last bit of breath with your abs.

Repeat, trying to maintain this steady rhythm as you stretch.

Get Loose

Start by stretching all of the key muscles and tendons you're going to be using, beginning with your first point of contact with the water: your hands.

Slowly work your way up to the head, following on down the length of your body to your toes. 

Arms and Shoulders

  1. With arms stretched straight out in front of you, turn your palms to face away from your body. Gently stretch the four fingers of each hand back toward the body (not too hard; fingers are fragile) with the opposite hand. Gently do the same for the thumb. Afterward, roll your wrists a few times, both clockwise and counter-clockwise. Warms: wrists, finger joints, forearm muscles;
  2. Follow by stretching each arm across the body diagonally, using the crook of the opposite arm to gently pull the arm across from just above the elbow. Warms: elbows, triceps;
  3. Drop both arms to your sides and shake to loosen. Inhaling deeply, sweep both arms up and out to the sides, bringing palms together with arms stretched straight up above your head. Lean your head back and look at your thumbs. Hold the stretch for a breath or two. Warms: biceps, shoulders, pectorals;
  4. Lower one arm behind your head, palm facing inward. Take hold of the elbow with the opposite hand and gently pull across. Repeat for the other arm. Warms: entire upper arm, shoulders, pectorals;
  5. Bring your arms to the front and bend your elbows, forming fists at the front of your shoulders. Gently lean to each side for a few counts, stretching the elbows skyward. Return to a standing position and take a few seconds to twist the torso to the right and left with arms in the same position. After a few twists, relax the arms by your sides. Warms: lower shoulders, full arm, pectorals, upper torso;
  6. If your arms still feel tight, try a few more stretches. Extend arms out to the sides with palms facing down. Make circles rotating forward and then backward. Drop one arm and raise the other, bending each at the elbows and reaching behind you. Try to touch the clasp fingertips or hands together and gently pull them to stretch. Repeat for the other arm. Then drop both arms, clasping both hands behind you at the tailbone. Gently push both arms skyward;

Surfing warm-up: roll the neck in wide circles | Photo: Kirstin/ASP

Head and Neck

Gently roll the neck in wide circles, both clockwise and counter-clockwise. 

Reaching behind your head, place your palm just above your ear on the opposite side.

Grasp the head and gently tug in the direction of the pulling arm. Warms: neck tendons, shoulders

Aligning the Spine

Raise your arms above your head and drop your chin to your chest.

Slowly roll the upper body forward, from the head and shoulders, down through the ribs and, finally, bend at the hips.

Let the arms dangle for a few deep breaths. Warms: neck, upper body, torso, lower back muscles, spine.

Bend at the knees and place your hands or fingertips on the ground in front of your toes.

Inhale deeply and hold, and then exhale, pushing your hips gently skyward.

Try to straighten the legs while keeping your hands on the ground. Don't worry too much if you can't do it, and don't push too hard.

The main thing is the stretch. After a few breaths, gently roll your body back up to standing, keeping your arms loose.

The last thing you lift should be your head. Warms: calves, hamstrings, knees, ankles, hips, lower back, spine.

Lower Body

Step forward with one leg as far as you are comfortable with. With hands on hips, lunge forward over the front leg, bending the knee to a 90-degree angle and keeping the foot planted firmly on the ground.

Bend the knee of your rear leg as low to the ground as you are able, rolling forward onto the ball of the rear foot.

Slowly return to standing and repeat with the other leg.

Repeat a few times, twisting the torso to the right and left once or twice. It warms lower abs, hips, lower back, thighs, calves, and feet.

Do a few squats, bending at the knees with the back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.

If you want, you can take it further by jumping into and out of a crouching position.

Try to maintain your form each time. Warms: feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, glutes, hips.

Return to standing and gently raise one foot straight out in front of you, a few inches from the ground.

Gently roll the ankle, first clockwise for a few rotations, then counterclockwise. Repeat with another leg. Warms: ankles, feet.

Pre-surf warm-up: jumping into and out of a crouching position | Photo: ASP World Tour

Bring It All Together

You should be feeling pretty warmed up by now, so get everything working together at once with a few star jumps (jumping jacks) or run in place for a few seconds. Warms: entire body.


As an additional option, before you leash up, take 30 seconds to sit in the sand.

Stretch both legs out in front of you, alternately pointing your toes forward and flexing your feet back toward you.

Fold your body straight over your legs, and try to touch your toes. Hold for a few seconds.

Return to the sitting position and bring both feet toward your lap. Press the soles of the feet together and pull as close to your body as you can.

Use the elbows to gently press the knees toward the ground. Warms: ankles, hips, thighs, calves, hamstrings, knees.

Now's a great time to practice your pop-up, no matter how seasoned you are.

Turn over and lie flat on your belly, with arms stretched straight out in front of you as though you are paddling.

Bring arms to your sides at the bottom of your ribs, contract your core, push off of the ground with your hands, and swing into your crouch.

Now that you're standing, you're ready to go. Your heart rate should be steady, and you should feel warm and loose while centered and stable.

Strap on your leash and get going. Happy surfing.

Discover a full surf training program.

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