How to Train for Big Wave Surfing

How to Train for Big Wave Surfing

Chin-ups, front squats, push-ups, running, and other mobility drills are some of the physical training that you can do to prepare yourself for big wave surfing.

But, you should also work to strengthen your mind by practicing mindfulness and meditation before you paddle in and test your skills in the deeper parts of the ocean.

How to train for big wave surfing?

Surfing is a kind of sport that involves a high amount of risk even if you’re still a beginner. This is because you have to deal with waves that can get as tall as the towering buildings in the city. Aside from that, you’ll have to perform in the deeper part of the ocean to catch waves.

In addition to that, you will encounter some wildlife that can attack you once they feel threatened in their own habitat. Also, the power of the waves and the seaweeds could trap you underwater, causing you to drown.

And such risks increase when you’re surfing the deeper parts of the water with bigger waves. 

For that reason, it is a must that you ensure proper preparation before surfing big waves in Portugal for example. But, we’re not just talking about surfing every day and honing your skills.

Yes, they are important too because, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. But, you shouldn’t only rely on these when preparing to surf big waves.

To train for big wave surfing, you also need to make sure that you’re able to strengthen your body. This way, you can move with ease when navigating through massive and powerful waves.

Apart from your body, you should also make sure that you’re able to prepare mentally. This means that your mind is as strong as your body. This way, you’ll still be able to relax and make quick yet sound decisions while surfing.

How can I train to get better at surfing?

Surfers don’t just surf whenever they wish and catch whichever wave they want. Despite having advanced skills and years of experience, pro surfers also take their time to prepare themselves before surfing big waves.

If you’re planning to go big wave surfing soon, here are some ways how you can prepare your mind and body. However, do note that the steps may vary from person to person as it may depend on what your body actually needs.


By now, everyone probably knows how important regular exercise is. It keeps the body physically strong and helps with building muscles and achieving your body goals. However, the exercises to prepare for big wave surfing can be a little different than your regular routine.

If you plan on surfing big waves, chin-ups, front squats, pushups, and running are the exercises you might want to work on more. This is because such exercises target the group of muscles that are vital in surfing, such as the legs and arms.


Chin-ups can help you improve your balance, especially when getting up on a surfboard. If you’re not used to doing this exercise, you can start by using a chin-up bar.

When doing chin-ups, make sure that you’re not letting yourself merely hang. Then, lift your body until your chin is higher than the bar.

Ideally, you want to do two sets of six reps each for this. But, don’t push yourself too hard; make sure to take even a one-minute break in between.

If you can’t do it yet, don’t worry. You can simply start with as many chin-ups as you can. Then, work your way up once you’re used to the exercise.

Front Squats

In surfing, you will squat a lot. So, as early as now, you might want to get yourself used to it and add front squats to your routine. But, make sure that you’re doing the correct squat pattern. This will work wonders for your endurance, as well as your posture.

For this exercise, it’s ideal to do three sets of 12 squats. Start by using your own bodyweight to master the correct squat pattern first. Once you’ve gotten used to it, gradually add extra weight. Doing so will further strengthen your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.


When catching a wave, you’ll need to paddle your way to the wave first. Then, you need to push yourself up to stand on your board. These moves require stronger arms and core muscles. And to improve the strength of your arms, push-ups are one of the ideal workouts that you need.

Like any other exercise, make sure to start doing as many as you can. Then, gradually increase the number as your arms and core grow stronger. If you want to make it more challenging, you can elevate your legs. You can also add weights to your back. And if you’re having a hard time doing push-ups, you can use a resistance band first.


This might sound a bit weird for some, but running is actually an important exercise that you should add to your routine when preparing for big-wave surfing. It turns out, running can actually increase your endurance by improving your lung capacity.

This exercise is also great for strengthening your legs, which is important when navigating your board through the water. Most importantly, this will help you maintain your ideal weight.

Mobility Drills

Mobility drills can be very helpful in improving your endurance. With this, you’ll stay agile for more years to come.

To start, you can simply spend mere 10 minutes of your time before you start your full workout routine. Gently stretch your ankles, spine, hips, shoulders, and neck. 

Improve Breathing Technique

Surfing big waves are risky. It can even threaten the lives of pro surfers. Thus, another way to prepare for big-wave surfing is to improve your breathing technique. This way, in case you’re put on survival mode after a huge fall, you’ll be able to hold your breath longer.

To improve your breathing technique, one of the things you can do is to swim more. This will help improve your lung capacity.

You can also take breath-holding classes in water. This will gradually increase your capabilities in holding your breath.  Plus, you will learn different techniques that will make you more confident when paddling into heavy water. 

Another way to do that is by doing aerobic exercises, such as running, rowing, and cycling. For many, they can be quite exhausting. But, trust us, this will help increase your lung capacity.

Try to listen to some upbeat music that will raise your energy while running. Over time, you might not even know that you’ve already spent more time running since you’re enjoying the music you’re listening to while running.


When you’re a beginner surfer, it’s really scary to lose your board, especially if you don’t know how to swim. If you lose your board, you’ll have o choice but to swim to get to the beach. And the bigger the wave you’re planning to surf, the more you should know how to swim. Because if you lose your board, you’ll have no choice but to swim in the deeper part of the ocean.

For that reason, make sure that you’re also an excellent swimmer. And to do that, you can take swimming lessons. This way, you’ll get more confident in the water. And in case a huge wave traps you underwater, you’ll know how you can swim to survive.

Strengthen Mind

The mind plays a huge role in your resilience and confidence. Without a sound mind, you will not be able to make the right decisions fast while surfing. It can also affect how you can make the most out of your surfing experience.

However, it’s natural for surfers to feel anxious, worried, and less confident, especially when they see how big the waves in an area can get. Despite the years of experience and the skill you’ve mastered, sometimes, the waves can still create fear even in seasoned surfers.

But, there is a way to strengthen your mind — and that is by practicing self-awareness, breathing exercises, and stress management.

Before you paddle out in the ocean, make sure to ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the waves. Also, before you head out in the ocean, make sure that you are in the “present.” This means that you’re mentally aware of what’s happening around you and that you’re not too anxious about what you’re about to do.

This will help you put your fear into perspective, as per Natxo Gonzalez in an interview. As a result, it can help you clear your mind from the adrenaline you’re feeling.

If you’re feeling like you can’t control that fear, it’s best not to test your limits as it could affect your surfing experience. Worse is that it might even put you to danger since you can’t think clearly due to the worry, adrenaline, and other emotions you’re feeling.

Surfing is a risky sport. Hence, no matter how skilled you are, it is always best to come prepared to keep accidents at bay.

About David Miller

Passionnate about extreme sports since a young age, I started my journey with brazilian Jiu Jitsu and skydiving. After 2000 jumps, I’m now a professionnel skydiver focus on wingsuit flying. I’m writing about all kind of extreme sports, trying to find the best spots in the world to do it.

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