Get on board with these insider tips
Surfing is arguably the coolest sport out there. The way it looks, the lifestyle, the lingo -- it's all "off the Richter," as they say. It's also not exactly easy. "Sand facials" and "Neptune cocktails" (translation: water drunk during a wipeout) are part of the lexicon, too. "It is a hard sport, but so rewarding," said Maya Gabeira, a pro surfer who currently holds the record for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman. "Keep going out no matter how many times you fall. Eventually, you'll get the hang of it." These tips from top experts and will help you to ride the waves.
On dry land
If you want to be great at surfing, what you do when you're not in the water can make a big difference.
Incorporate burpees into your daily workout. The action of pushing up while snapping your hips to drive your feet underneath you is as close as you'll get to popping up on a board, said Rocky Snyder, author of "Fit to Surf". Do between one and eight sets (depending on your fitness level) of three to five reps per set.
Salute the sun. "Yoga trains the body to be flexible, fluid and stable at the same time -- exactly what every surfer needs," Snyder said. The sun salutation, a series of 12 poses, is a great way to acquire -- and maintain -- the balance, strength, stability and flexibility you'll need in the water.
Practice your balance. "If you don't have decent balance, you won't be on a wave for very long," Snyder said. Simply stand on one leg as often as possible, Snyder advised -- while chatting on the phone or watching TV. Then, to enhance the challenge, gradually remove your vision (an integral part of how the body maintains balance). Begin by closing one eye to shift your three-dimensional world down to two. Then try to close your eyes completely while balancing.
Hit the beach. To run, that is. "Beach runs are crucial to building strength in your legs for more complete turns and [to] build up your endurance for paddling," said pro surfer Erica Hosseini. "I run in the sand three to four days a week for 30 to 40 minutes."
Warm up, warm up, warm up. Do a series of small cardio bursts to warm the muscles, so you don't pull anything. "Before a surf session, I like to jump rope or jog in place for two or three minutes, or do a series of quick plyometric exercises that will help my reflexes when it comes to popping up and doing those quick snaps in the right part of the wave," Hosseini said.
In the water
If you haven't taken a lesson from a certified surf instructor, you should do that first. "That's how I learned," Gabeira said. "Professional instruction will help you to get overall concepts, tips, and acquire basic ocean and wave knowledge."
Paddle efficiently. "Most people focus too much on standing up on the board, but knowing how to paddle correctly is a big part of being a good surfer," said Beth Mann, a surfing instructor at the Jersey shore. "This means deep, rhythmic strokes that follow the outline of the board. A common beginner's error is paddling just with the forearm. Your entire arm needs to go in the water, or you're wasting energy by not creating an effective paddling motion."
Scan, scan, scan. It's tempting to paddle out, and zone out or chat with a friend. But don't. "You are in the ocean! You always have to be on guard," Mann said. "Constantly scan the horizon for large incoming waves that you might have to prepare for. Always be aware of your surroundings."
Don't panic. Every surfer wipes out. It's how you respond that matters. "When a rogue wave clobbers you and keeps you underwater, it's scary," said Bev Sanders, the founder of Las Olas Surf Safaris. "It's pitch black, you're upside down, and who knows what else is lurking down there." But even if it feels like forever, you're usually under for only a few seconds. "And while you're holding your breath, you're naturally floating to the surface," Sanders added. Her advice: "Stay calm, and as soon as the wave set is over, you can get your bearings and your breath, find your board, and get out of the way."
Get back on the board. "You're going to fall a lot, but this is how true surfers are made," said Dan Marrone, a surf instructor in Oahu, Hawaii. "If you can take those wipeouts, those moments of defeat and self-doubt, and you still want to go out there and try again -- welcome to the club. You're a true surfer. And if not, there's always tennis."