How to Get Fit for Surf Camp

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How to Get Fit for Surf Camp

how to get fit for surf camp

Approaching your surf and yoga retreat at Pura Vida Adventures? It’s time to prepare your body for this challenging new sport.

Before hopping on that plane to Costa Rica, you can get fit for surf camp at home by adding these beginner-oriented, surf-specific moves to your regular workout (or use them to jump-start a new fitness routine).

Training of any kind before our surf camp is optional, as our retreats are welcoming to everyone and designed to help aspiring surfers of all fitness levels succeed. Nevertheless, we do occasionally hear from our guests that they wish they had worked out just a little bit more before their retreat, so we’re offering our best suggestions here!

To feel your strongest and most confident when you arrive in Costa Rica, jump into these handpicked surf-inspired exercises and incorporate them into your routine today.

The Holy Grail of Surfing: The Pop-Up

Beginner surfers often ask us what is the #1 piece of advice we can give them for their surfing journey, and it all comes down to your pop-up. Practice your pop-up on dry land as often as possible. The muscle memory you form on land for a quick and nimble pop-up will translate into quick and nimble pop-ups on the waves.

Practicing your surfing pop-up on dry land will pay dividends the next time you get in the water.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s repetitive. Yes, it’s perceived as boring. And no, it doesn’t compare to the thrill of surfing. But practicing your pop-up on dry land will pay dividends the next time you get in the water.  To learn how to correctly do a pop-up, watch this essential video from our “How to Surf” video series on YouTube.

We’ll show you two different techniques in this video. Choose one that best suits your ability and just go for it! Getting fit for surf camp can be a blast.

You’ll find that just a few of these babies will get your heart pumping, so start slowly and go easy on yourself. But with time, your pop-up practice can become a powerful workout in itself. It’s an awesome way to condition your muscles, turbocharge your cardio, and hone your surfing technique all in one. You’ll also be reinforcing the muscle memory that will keep you calm and in control of your surfboard when you’re catching waves. Stick to this routine to get fit for surf camp and you’ll earn an A+ on your homework.

Bonus tip: Keep a log of how many pop-ups you practice each day. Aim to do at least 10 pop-ups per day, and try to increase the number as you get closer to your retreat.


The Secret Sauce of Surfing: Paddling

Did you know that around 80% of the time during a surf session is spent paddling? Sure, we’re all searching for that magical feeling of popping up onto a surfboard and gliding down a wave beneath the warm tropical sun, but it’s the paddling that actually gets us there.

That’s why paying close attention to your paddling technique is the secret to catching more waves and improving your surfing rapidly.

Watch this video from our “How to Surf” series on how to paddle a surfboard, which includes 10 essential tips and hands-on demonstrations. Study the paddling technique that’s shown and note how to correctly position your body on a surfboard.

With the goal of effective paddling in mind, use these beginner exercises to gently warm up and condition your upper body for your upcoming surf sessions.

Cat-cow stretch

To have good mobility while paddling a surfboard, you want to feel open and flexible through the shoulders and upper back. We love the classic cat-cow yoga stretch for warming up the spine to help us feel this opening. Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Breathe in, and raise your head, slightly arching your back and allowing your stomach to drop down. Exhale and let your head come down while your back curves upward. Move slowly and repeat for 45 seconds.

Standing arm raises and circles

These simple movements help strengthen the shoulders and increase arm mobility. They may seem easy at first, but after a few sets, you’ll start to feel the burn. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your side with your palms facing in. Engage your core and slowly raise your arms to shoulder height, keeping them parallel to the floor. Then lower them to your sides again. Make sure to breathe with each motion, and repeat for 12 reps.

Next, start in the same standing position and raise your arms to shoulder height again, so they are parallel to the floor. Begin to rotate your arms using small controlled motions, making small circles in the air. Increase the size of the circles until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Then rotate your arms in the opposite direction. Do 12 circles in each direction, and rest for 20 seconds in between.

You can add light hand weights to either of these arm exercises for an additional challenge.


Try this exercise to strengthen your back and core muscles while also improving your posture. Lie down on your stomach and stretch your arms straight out above your head (like Superwoman flying). Flex your glutes and tighten your stomach, then lift your right arm and left leg. Hold, lower your limbs in a controlled fashion, then do the same with the other arm and leg.

Make sure to keep your neck neutral and gaze at the floor a few feet in front of you. Take a full breath during each motion. Do 12 reps of this exercise.

Need more of a challenge?

Modified push-ups (like a regular push-up, but with your knees down) are an amazing all-around exercise to target your paddling muscles. See if you can complete 10 modified push-ups, in addition to the exercises above.

Cool Down and Breathe

Getting fit for surf camp involves both mental and physical conditioning.  Watch this 25-minute yoga practice for surfers from our Yoga for Surfers series hosted by retreat yogi, Cristina Kalyani. This calming sequence focuses on balance, flexibility, concentration, and releasing tension.

Remember that maintaining a positive mindset is key to unlocking your potential when surfing, so always treat yourself with love. The ocean will give it back to you tenfold!

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