What I Learned from 6 Weeks in Indo


The elusive “surfed out” purple unicorn… I didn’t think they existed.

 I actually got surfed out! The first time that has ever happened to me. I’ve heard of this rare occurrence before from some fellas that had driven through Mexico but hadn’t come across it first hand.

It was like the elusive purple unicorn! By the last day, I didn’t care that it was still perfect 4-5foot. I was totally exhausted and jaded. Nearly two months in Indo were pretty damn great, and I’m already itching to get back over there.

For nearly 2 months I surfed as much as I wanted, or as much as the ocean and prevailing winds would let me. It was a lot of surfing, and I came away pondering a few new things about the human body.



It’s all about recovery and mobility, so get to know your tennis ball or lacrosse ball. A 1hr surf session probably isn’t going to wreck your body, unless you’re in pretty bad shape, but 4-6hrs of surfing will take its toll on the energy systems and muscular systems.

Muscles get sore, they get tired, they get tight, and they can begin to “stiffen” up. Here’s a simple, cheap, and effective way of keeping everything moving properly and feeling good.

If you’re surfing often, spending just a few minutes per day rolling out commonly stiff areas can make a massive difference in maintaining optimal joint mobility, and simply not hurting!

Too much tension in the lats can affect your shoulder flexion, which can offset your paddling stroke and promote shoulder impingement… tennis ball. Lower Back tension from holding a paddling posture on repeated 150meter paddle outs… tennis ball.

Hips, Posterior Shoulders, Chest, Neck, Rhomboids, Groin… tennis ball. It’s really that simple. It astounds me that more surfers don’t do this, but they’ll still bitch about their body hurting.

Roll out muscle tissue with a tennis ball. For more shoulder and tennis ball love, check out HAPPY SURF SHOULDERS


I get the beer and surfing combo post-surf thing, I really do. Nowadays, however, I rarely drink beer anymore (I’m more of a shot of tequila kind of guy). But even I sucked back some Bintangs, as I felt I was being false in a sense on my Indo trip.

But cracking the beers as soon as you hop out of the water..? Maybe I’m a weirdo, but generally after a long surf I just want some water, and usually a lot of it.

Hydration is what we call it, and you’ve probably heard that word before. Several hours of surfing in an Indo sun will drastically dehydrate you. Dehydration of even small percentages can start to impede various bodily functions.

Your weight in lbs / 2 = oz you should be drinking (minimum, and even more when active). I’m not saying to not have a beer, but I am saying to drink a lot of water. This will help with recovery as well.

Eat some fruit too. Lots of water, a bit of fruit, and some beers. Not to mention it’s hot as shit over there, so you’re basically sweating all the time. Drink a lot of water.


This was a pretty common breakfast for me: fish, eggs, coffee, fruit.

I love traveling and I love food. I food froth. There’s not really much I won’t eat or at least try, even when on the weirder end of the spectrum with food. I came across some really good tripe (stomach) on this recent Indo trip.

I also would say I eat very well, probably more so than the majority of the population. So when I travel, I’m thrown into food norms that aren’t necessarily in line with my nutritional understanding and practice.

But I’m also not some food snob asshole that would refuse to eat local cuisine because there are too many carbs, or it used bad oil or some other privileged western foodie idea. However, since I was traveling for an extended period of time, I made an effort to eat pretty damn well most of the time, and still indulge in all the new stuff I wouldn’t normally eat.

It’s all about moderation, sensibility, and doing the best you can, and realize that you will at some point eat something that destroys your guts. Next level gut destruction is part of traveling! Just try to focus on “cleaner” food options if you can. White rice, all good, and with huge amounts of surfing, the easily digested starch is a good option.

I generally opted for fish if they had it, and if not, some good looking protein from a local Warung. Nearly everything is fried or cooked in vegetable oils, but I’d always steer away from the breaded and fried options.

Fruit, lots and lots and lots of fruit. I’d buy coconut cream in a can at the shop and poor that on fruit or on rice. I was trying to get any type of quality saturated fat into my body, as they generally cook with pretty poor quality vegetable oils which can promote inflammation. I’d buy butter from local import shops and put it on my eggs and rice, again trying to get some quality fats into my system.

Warung meals of rice, protein, and vegetables were pretty typical for me. You’re not going to eat perfectly. Who cares.. you’re traveling and surfing. But you can try to eat partially clean.

Try to opt for clean carbs, fats, and protein when possible. If you’re surfing every day, it comes down to a refueling, repair, and recovery perspective, so make some decent food choices.


You could very likely benefit from having a stronger back and core. Weak backs, a weak core, and suboptimal spinal mobility combine into some really bad paddling postures.

I hammer this point because that bad paddling posture is putting some very serious strain through your neck, shoulders, and low back.

Strain can become a pain, and pain and injury are going to mess up your surf trip. So if you are an older fella or a weak younger fella, improve your shoulder mobility, improve your spinal mobility, and work on back extensor endurance. You get the gist. Work on back extensor endurance!

If you nail this, then paddling will be so much easier, your back is far less likely to get irritated, and it provides a stronger platform for strong paddling. Cobras, Stability Ball Alternating Supermans, Foundation Training Postures, and Glute-Ham Raises are just a few options to improve the endurance and work capacity of the back extensor muscle groups. If you can hold a 3minute cobra, then your paddling posture should be pretty ace.

Basic control, endurance, and posture is the beginning, and then progress into more training.. check out this full article:


If you are working on some trip-preparation training, add in some extra shoulder work. Posterior rotator cuff work, extra shoulder stabilization work, hanging scapular stabilization, anything to get a bit more strength and integrity to your shoulder girdle, and especially your rotator cuff. Paddling is an internal rotation of the shoulder and extension.

You’ll do a lot of that movement on an extended surf trip. When the arm is going through that motion, the rotator cuff, and especially the posterior cuff (infraspinatus and teres minor) are working to stabilise your humeral head along with several other muscles, while you drive your arm through the water.

External rotation of the humerus isn’t a movement that modern life trains very frequently, but people should, and especially surfers to keep the shoulder “balanced”. I bit of focused effort, even on the old school arm external rotations can help to keep your shoulder feeling and moving well.

This article covers this type of training in detail, give it a look if you need ideas or guidance on proper shoulder training: SURF SHOULDERS


Nothing is as good as actually surfing and paddling to build up your ability to paddle. But that’s not always an option. My first week in Indo was an eye-opener to my levels of conditioning or “surf fitness”.

It’s also incredible at how fast you can get it back, which is an interesting physiologic response in my opinion.

Anyways, if you can get your conditioning levels up, it would drastically help you on your trip. There are numerous ways to do it, all sorts of different cardio options, but if you look at surfing, you’re paddling a lot.

A lot! Swimming is a damn good idea if you can, or look to Pulling Cardio Circuits. Pulling movements, in a variety of rep ranges, combined with some “cardio” movement. Jumprope, sprints, crawling, row machine, something that gets the heart rate up and can keep it up for a bit of time.

Training pulling movements, both strength, and endurance-focused (lower rep and higher rep), combined with a “cardio” movement, repeated for several circuits, could have a really beneficial response to your conditioning levels.

Not only are you getting in high levels of pulling (paddling is pulling), but you’re also working on your bodies ability to deal with extended bouts of energy demand, and continuing to pull, and continuing to produce energy…. kind of sounds like what you do when you’re surfing. Two weeks of focused Pulling Cardio Circuits would get you sorted!


I’m hugely competitive, and even more so with myself. Surfing can absolutely do your head in if you get into a bad headspace, have some particular expectations, or start getting annoyed with yourself. I’m sure you can all understand that.

Just prior to leaving for Indo, I had some technique coaching with Clayton Nienaber up on the Gold Coast of Oz. This dude is next level with his biomechanics understanding, check him out Clayton Surf Coaching .

He made some big changes and suggestions to what I was doing in the surf, so going to Indo and getting some good waves was a perfect chance to give it a go. Taking a few steps back to move a few steps forward… and that can be hellishly frustrating.

But it was absolutely worthwhile. And once you seem to chill, focus on fun, allow the movements to happen, and try not to force them too much, it all seems to come together.

I’m not trying to be all zen and deep about surfing, but as with any sport, if you get into a bad headspace, try to force things to happen, and stop having fun, well that’s probably going to keep screwing things up.

Try to have some fun, and definitely hook up with a good technique coach!


I had a 5 8″ Hypto Krypto, and a 6 1″ custom Town & Country from Buzz in Byron Bay as a step up. Those 2 boards had me completely sorted. Not that this is insightful info, but I thought some of you would be curious as to what I had with me.

That hypto was good in a lot of surf, and the bigger reefy days I surfed that 6 1″. There was maybe 1 day that I would have like a bigger board, but other than that I was all good. I’d like to get my hands on one of those lost mini-drivers or a good firewire for next trip. If Lost or Firewire wants to sponsor me, hit me up! Ha!!

Indo was rad. I will be back, and I will be back often. Great food, good waves, lots of options, fairly cheap, and a lot of room to explore.

– cris

surf / movement / nutrition / life

Grab the Surf Athlete Program & Enhance Your Surfing & Health Today…and Forever


  • Great insights, thank for sharing Chris. I am headed for Vancouver Island and I will be staying for a few months. Talking about some cold water surfing and I need to get in shape soon. Your tips are a great help.  One question: Where did u stay in Indo? Just curious since I also spent 2 months there last year. Cheers. Philipp
  • Philigran cold surf man!  i've only had to wear booties once.      indo, traveled quite a bit, but this most recent time I was only in Bali.  next time i'll hit up java.    in bali, surfed a lot of west coast, with a  few trips over to the east coast.  some great waves while i was over there... absolutely loved it!
  • awesome article mate. thanks for sharing. will be implementing much of this for our trip next weekend. yew !
    • cheers man! what are you Indo plans?

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