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Posted by Rick Civelli | 09.18.2014 | Learn To Surf, WB Surf Camp News

Surf Tips – Improve Your Paddle Strength

Every surfer has had that feeling at one point; you’re paddling out into the lineup, your arms feel like jello and you think that if you have to paddle over/under one more wave, there won’t be any fuel left in the tank to actually catch any waves.  We’ve all been there…

Studies show that a typical surf session is made up of anywhere from 50 – 65% paddling. A big reason why a majority of beginners struggle is because they lack the endurance, strength, and overall conditioning required to catch a lot of waves.

The best way to increase your paddle strength is to get out in the water and paddle. There is no better replacement. However, not every surfer has the luxury of living by the beach or has the resources to allow them to go surfing whenever they want. That does not mean that you can’t prepare yourself for your upcoming trip or next surf session.

Here are a few that will boost your paddling strength/endurance that you can do at home or in the gym so that you can get more waves and have longer sessions.

1.    Bent Over Alternating Dumbbell Rows

DB Rows

Like paddling, alternating arms allows you to work each side of your body separately, which helps bolster muscle imbalances and forces your core to work even harder. Bend at your hips and knees, and lower your torso to about a 45 degree angle. Your lower back should be naturally arched and your shoulder blades pulled back. Keeping your abs tight, bend your elbow and pull the weight straight back. Slowly lower your arm as you bend your other elbow and perform a row on the other side. That’s one rep. Continue alternating until you’ve completed 15 reps total. For best results, complete 4 sets of 15 reps in conjunction with the other exercises listed.

Click Here To Watch Video Demonstration

2.   Prone Band Paddle 


Lye on a flat surface to mimic the feeling of being on a surfboard. Anchor a two-handled resistance band to something secure behind your feet. While lying on your “board,” pull the band so that both handles are at the side of your head facing forward. Begin alternating paddle strokes with both arms. Do so at a slow pace, with your head up, back arched and looking forward. For best results, complete as many reps until failure – rest for 15 seconds, then repeat. Do this sequence 4 -5 times in a row in conjunction with the other exercises listed.

Click Here To Watch Video Demonstration 

3.    Cable Pull-Downs

WorkOuts_Series1 (3 of 7)

Adjust a cable machine to an overhead position, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Begin by holding both handles overhead – Keep your arms straight, legs bent, and back arched; pull the cable straight down through a full range of motion behind you with one arm, then replicate with the other arm. This movement simulates the “pulling through the water” portion of paddling and directly targets your posterior shoulder and back muscles. For best results, complete as many reps until exhaustion. Do 4 -5 sets in conjunction with the other exercises listed.

Modification: the same exercise can be performed using exercise bands. Simply anchor the bands to something about an arms length overhead and replicate the same movement.

4.    Battle Ropes – Alternating Waves

Battle Ropes

More and more gyms are introducing battle ropes into the mix as a way to blast every muscle group in the entire body – which is perfect for surfing!

Alternating Waves: Hold each end of the rope like you would hold a microphone. Make sure that ropes are taught and anchored to something securely on the floor in front of you. In an up and down/alternating motion, make vertical waves with each arm. Start out by making big waves, then progress into making smaller and quicker waves. Make sure that you have a strong arched back and bent legs. For best results, perform until exhaustion. Do 4 -5 sets in conjunction with the other exercises listed.

Click Here To Watch Video Demonstration

There are hundreds of exercises to help improve not only your paddle strength, but your entire foundation of surf skills. Get into the habit of performing these particular exercises up to 3 days a week and you will be stoked with the results you will see out in the water. Each month we will be providing you with cool and innovative surf tips so keep on reading and always remember that the best surfers are the ones having the most fun!

Written By:

Will Ahlers – N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer, Surf Strength & Conditioning Coach, B.S. Physical Education