It’s no secret that learning to surf is hard work and a high level of fitness is required to paddle out, pop-up, balance and turn.

By Carly Truss
All photos by Hannah Edy unless otherwise stated.

I recently joined fitness instructor, Roxy ambassador, surfer and adventure-nut Sophie Everard on her Mad to Live retreat in Portugal, the ultimate women’s surf, fitness and adventure week. The aim – to build my physical and mental strength and improve my surfing abilities. As surfing is such a physically demanding activity, to increase your learning speed and really excel it’s beneficial to put in a bit of work away from the waves – a little TLC out of the water in order to perform well in the water. This can come in many forms and exercise doesn’t need to be boring and monotonous as there are tons of fun activities out there that improve stamina, physical and mental strength. Surfing combines aerobic fitness, endurance, balance, coordination, strength, explosive power and flexibility and the Mad to Live 7 day retreat works on all of these elements via adrenaline-pumping activities and awesome fitness workouts.

Here they are – the fun box is ticked so no excuses!

Shred Ready Fitness

This routine is made up of 7 exercises which can do done anywhere (beach, park, home) and must be done in order, taking you from prone on the board to gradually standing. Sophie created this workout specifically for surfers to have a better understanding of the different surfing movements and the muscle groups and energy systems that are behind them. Designed to help you stay surf-ready when you don’t have access to surf and to develop the bodies ability to know what its doing without having to look. Click here to view the workout.


There are many similarities between boxing and surfing – both require power, speed, agility, quick reflexes, working with your breath, short sharp bursts of energy and both necessitate that mind and body work together as one. Practising those quick jabs on the boxing bag builds beneficial shoulder strength and gets you nailing explosive movements such as sharp turns, quick pop-ups and swift effective paddles. Engaging the core and rotating your hips when your throwing a jab, hook or cross punch is a similar movement to turning from your abs on the board and mentally with both sports there is a desire to executive technique perfectly.


Yoga and surfing go together like cookies and milk and engaging in regular yoga practices can massively enhance your surfing. Along with flexibility, core strength and balance, yoga helps coordinate breath and movement, awareness, help prepare your mind and body pre surf and help eliminate those post surf aches, pains and knots. Key poses to practice include the Baby Cobra, Warrior II, Sphinx Pose, Four-Limbed Staff Pose and Upward Facing Dog. Similarly to boxing and other martial arts, a big element of yoga and surfing is your breathwork. Learning to breath calmly and efficiently is going to help in those wipe out situations – if you are breathing too fast you are going to inhale more water. Breathwork is also essential when paddling for a wave, it’s important to not hold your breath and freak out as this means you are expending energy unnecessarily. When you see pro surfers doing their thing they are slow and meditative, no ones panicking, breath work is steading, heart rate is steady always saving energy for quick bursts.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a great complimentary cardio fitness element. We want to work different energy systems for surfing, it’s about aerobic and anaerobic fitness and where boxing ticks the anaerobic box, mountain biking helps build good cardio fitness allowing us to have long surf sessions. The aim is to last a long time out there and not get exhausted when paddling about.

Horse Riding

What’s critical in horse riding is engaging the core and having the strength to efficiently hold yourself up on the horse. Similarly with surfing you need incredible core strength, especially when you begin to turn and having a strong centre section of the body is essential so your not throwing out or tearing any muscles.

Running/Trail Running

Running is a great cardio workout and aerobic exercise, plus all you need is a pair of trainers and your off! Getting outside into the elements is the best way to run – having an appreciation of your outside surroundings is similar to appreciating the great ocean when we are out for a surf. If running on the sand is an option then even better as it will give your legs a real workout. Exercise aside, like surfing, running can be quite a solitary pursuit which is good for mental health and appreciating a little thinking time to yourself.

For more information on the Mad to Live retreat, the surf sessions and to find out how I got on, check out the new issue of SurfGirl, out 24th July.

All photos by Hannah Edy unless stated.

Mad to Live Soundtrack to Work-Out to: 

“The soundtrack is critical – I love music and when I create programmes or classes I feel that music can really take the participants on a journey and pump them on” – Sophie