Posted in Island Life, Surf/Bodyboard

Why Surfing’s a Killer Workout


Surfing is a beautiful experience. It’s mental, physical, spiritual, social, even emotional – there’s no place I’d rather be than in the ocean, sliding into a turquoise blue barrel. Weeks, months, and years later, I still dream about some of my favorite waves. I’ve never felt happier or closer to God than on a perfect beach day, conquering the ocean’s full force and surrendering my fragile self to its mercy.

While I bodyboarded occasionally in California, Hawaii’s year-round swells made it an addiction. My first semester, I worked mostly nights and trudged through brutal online classes so I could frequent the beach. As the days in the water & under the sun passed, a metamorphosis had begun. My dark hair turned golden, my skin browned, and my body tightened. The last few stubborn pounds melted away in less than a month, although I was downing enormous lunch plates and Costco pizza slices post-surf sesh. My abs began to peek out, my limbs tightened, and my arms became sculpted and defined in that way that only paddling can produce.

Bodysurfing takes strength & control
Bodysurfing takes strength & control

Now that I work full-time, I’m a lot smarter about my after-beach munchies. But the lesson is clear – charging waves is one hell of a workout. Sadly, most fitness trackers and online calculators claim that surfing burns a dismal 170 calories an hour for a 145-pound woman. Coming from experience, that’s i m p o s s i b l e. If you’re actively duck diving, paddling out, and catching waves – not just sitting there like a buoy for an hour – you’re torching zillions of calories and building a strong, sexy core.

I mean, have you ever seen a surfer’s abs??

Pro Surfer Sally Fitzgibbon's abs
Pro Surfer Sally Fitzgibbon’s abs

Since I’m a little obsessed with tracking my calorie burn, it irks me that I can’t find a good calculator anywhere. However, I do know that surfing, bodyboarding, and  bodysurfing are kick-ass workouts. After a few hours on a decent beach day, my friends and I have the same exact routine: eat, sleep, and debate if we should go back for more.

Surfing is such an effective form of exercise because it’s multi-faceted. Paddling out is brutal full-body cardio, much like swimming. If you’re a prone bodyboarder, you workout your shoulders, back, and core when you drop in, grip your board, and steer.

If you drop knee or surf, you use your core, arms and feet to push your own bodyweight up, all while maintaining near-perfect balance and control. As you ride each wave, you’re also working both sides of your body, controlling your limbs, and using your core to maintain a middle ground and stay on your rails. This asymmetric action is what lends surfers their legendary drool-worthy abs.

Secondly, our poor bodies take an extensive beating from wipeouts. Our muscles have to work overtime to repair all the damage, exhaustion, and deep bruising that comes with the sport.

From the nutrition front, surfing brings us into a relationship with nature and grooms a healthy respect for the world around us. This spiritual connection to nature often encourages us to be more  mindful of the natural world in other areas of our life, such as what we eat. I’ve never seen a bunch of hangry guys down more salads, berries, grilled veggies, fish, and rice than the dudes I surf with.

Plus, we all want to maintain our hard-earned physiques. When we look and feel healthy, we’re more likely to apply that mindfullness to what’s on our plates.

So yeah, people – GO SURF!


Aloha and welcome! I'm a small business owner, athlete, and mom-to-be in Honolulu, Hawaii, seeking to live the kindest and most compassionate life I can. From plant-based recipes to low-waste beauty to business lessons to travel, this blog is all things real life.

One thought on “Why Surfing’s a Killer Workout

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