SUP surfboard exercises like in any sport will help improve your overall fitness and increase your enjoyment while you’re out on the water. SUP surfing is incredibly fun and with a little bit of extra strength and endurance you’ll see your performance improve. There’s no reason to let the physical aspect hold you back. Embrace the challenge; it’s part of the fun!

Whether you’re new to SUP surfing or an all-season pro, it always helps to be ready for what you’re getting yourself into. Taking the time to follow a simple exercise routine can help you enhance your performance. That way when you’re out there, you’re having fun and not struggling to paddle hard enough. This is where SUP surfboard exercises come in to help you get the right workout routine.


SUP surfboard exercises make paddling out and catching a wave easier and more enjoyable.

3 Drills to Help Improve Your Surfing

There are several SUP surfboard exercises that will not only get you ready to surf but will help tone your upper body, lower body, and core. So, where do you start? We have 3 drills to help you improve your SUP surfing technique.

SUP Surfboard Exercise #1: Pistol Squats/Single-Leg Squats

Check out the video for more detail on this challenging SUP exercise.

There are numerous benefits to squats, whether you surf or not. In fact you may already be familiar with them or including them in your current routine because they’re great for other activities as well. As far as SUP surfing goes, these are used to focus on your legs which are your foundation on deck and where you’ll feel fatigue in choppy water. With powerful legs, you can more easily take on big waves and rougher water while maintaining your balance over longer distances. There are a lot of variations of squats out there, but for SUP surfing we recommend pistol squats, sometimes also known as single-leg squats.

For this squat, it’s important you keep your back straight. Start by balancing on your right leg. Your left leg should be hovering just above the ground, as if you’re balancing on one foot.

Now, dip into a squat. As you bend your knee, keeping your back straight, lower yourself down so your bottom is just above the ground. Squat as far as you can, but don’t overdo it. Do what your body will allow.

Once you’ve reached the farthest you can go, push yourself back up into standing position and switch legs. Then repeat the same sequence with your opposite leg. Repeat this squat five times when you’re first starting. As you get better, try doing more reps.

With all strength training exercises its best to work up to where you’d like to be rather than overdoing it. The more you practice this squat, the closer you’ll be able to get to the ground. And if starting on one leg is too difficult, try doing basic squats until you work up the strength for the pistol squat.

SUP Surfboard Exercise #2: SUP Surfer Burpees

Take your burpees to another level by doing them on your SUP.

You may already know what a burpee is, but have you heard of the SUP surfer burpee? These burpees will work out your core, lower legs, hips, and glutes. As a full body exercise, burpees hit just about every muscle you need to keep yourself upright on your SUP while surfing. By doing them on water you’ll engage the micro-stabilizer muscles that you wouldn’t on land. Regular practice will reduce your paddle fatigue tremendously.

Paddle your board out into water deep enough where it will be fun to fall off (just in case).

Position yourself near the center of your board so you have enough room in front and behind you to stretch out. Start by standing straight up on your SUP. Your spine should be straight and your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Now, bend your knees and lower yourself into a squatting position. As you enter a full squat, stretch your arms out straight in front of you and place your hands on the deck of your SUP surfboard.

As you place your palms flat on the deck out in front of you kick your feet back out from underneath you. You’re almost jumping from a squatted position to a push-up position. So your body should now be held above your board in push-up position.

Do a push-up, bending at the elbows, while keeping your back straight and bring your chest toward the deck of your SUP. As you push back up, bring your legs back underneath you into a squatting position.

Once you’re in a squatting position, jump straight up to a standing position. Repeat this exercise for at least 5 reps.

SUP Surfboard Exercise #3: Turkish Get-Ups

You can eventually work your way up to start using a dumbbell.

Turkish get-ups are a new craze in the fitness world. Everyone’s adding this exercise to their routine, from runners to surfers. This get-up routine gives you superb core strength. While it’s challenging, having a strong core is essential to maintaining balance on your SUP and a powerful paddle stroke. It also improves your overall mobility and gives you strong joint control.

Timing and coordination are important so it helps to watch a video, but don’t let the series of steps prevent you from giving it a try. Although this exercise benefits from having a kettle bell or hand weight available, it’s not necessary. As a beginner it’s better to focus on your form first. Once you get comfortable with the sequence you can add a weight.

Start by laying on your back in the starfish position. This means both your legs and arms should be outstretched at a 45-degree angle.

Then, bend your right leg. Your right foot should be flat on the ground and almost touching your glutes. Stretch the leg so it’s slightly further out from your hip.

Next, raise your right hand straight above your head. Then prop yourself up on your left elbow. You’ll need to push up with your right heel to get into this position.

Your upper body should be lifted off the ground with one arm still raised straight up above you. While holding yourself up on your left elbow, straighten that elbow out until your left hand is planted firmly on the ground.

Now slide your left leg underneath you. Bring it back toward your butt, by placing your left knee and left ankle back with your left hand. With your left knee directly underneath your left hip you are now ready to stand.

Engage your left leg to push you up all while keeping your back straight and your arm raised above your head. That’s it, you’re half way there.

Now, all you have to do is get back down to the original position, which simply means doing the previous steps in reverse. Once again we highly recommend watching video because it’s much easier to see than read.

Take a big step back with your left leg. You’ll be back into the lunge position. Bring your left knee to the ground.

Next bring your hips back towards your left heel keeping the kettlebell raised. Reach back placing your left hand down as you lower yourself.

Now, position your left leg so you’re sitting and it’s straight out in front of you. Slowly drop back down in the starfish position.

Keep in mind that when you’re going back down, you’re doing the same movements you made going up. You’re simply doing them in reverse. Once you watch the clip and give it a try yourself you’ll realize it’s surprisingly simple. Do five reps on one side and then switch to the other for another five.


Be sure to wear your ankle leash while you’re out there, it protects both you and your SUP.

The Bottom Line

The better shape you’re in the better you be able to attack the surf. Improving your overall strength and fitness will make the time you spend on the water that much more fun. Practice these 3 SUP surfboard exercises and you’ll feel the benefits in no time. The extra strength you gain with this fitness routine will help your balance, stroke power, and coordination while delaying the onset of fatigue. This in turn will build your confidence on the water because you’ll know you’re up for it.

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Scott November 2, 2021 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    This is fantastic! thank you! It’s really a must to be in good shape when it comes to surfing. It may look easy but it is a very demanding sport. Mentally and physical. But at the same time, the most rewarding one as well. No wonder more people now engaging into the said sport. The Olympics committee even decided to add it to their list of competitive sport for the next Olympics. Read more about it here:

    • Matt G. November 4, 2021 at 2:56 am - Reply

      Catching a wave while surfing is definitely a different level of physical challenge than paddleboarding. The trickiest part for a surfer is swimming/paddling hard enough to match the speed of the wave and then popping up to your feet and standing on a board that will sink if it’s not moving fast enough. As paddleboarders, we’re starting on our feet so we have the ability to see the wave coming from a distance and get up to speed with the help of our paddles. We don’t need a wave of a certain size to make it possible to surf because our boards are buoyant enough to support us even when we’re not moving. It still takes practice, but it’s much more approachable at all levels of fitness. It’s fun to see surfing gain olympic recognition though. I’m sure SUP will follow in time. It’s been one of the fastest growing sports for years now!

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