Guide To Surf Paddle Training


Here are the BEST METHODS of surf paddling training for building an upper body that can handle some heavy paddling.

Paddle training: This original post (below) was written a few years ago. It will give you a huge amount of insight.

These more recent posts touch in detail on different aspects of upper body training, flexibility, and paddling endurance. Check them out when you’re done with this one.

How to Improve Your Paddling and Posture

Improve Paddling – Power, and Endurance

Endurance Training for the Upper Body

The majority of your time in the water is actually spent paddling (actual fact from a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study). Roughly 55% of your time in the surf is not actual surfing, it’s swinging them’ arms!

This is a current move I’ve been playing around with. It does a good job of developing endurance throughout the upper body and mimics the alternating pattern of paddling.

Surf Paddling Endurance Exercise

Watch video here

So with that being said: If you can’t paddle well, or paddle strongly, or paddle without pain, or just don’t have any endurance, you’re simply not going to catch as many waves as you could, and not be in the ocean for as long as you’d like to.

So Here It Is… The Guide For Surf Paddle Training

The shoulders, back, core, neck, and arms are an extensive amount of muscular tissue and have a variety of joints. There are a lot of things that could potentially go wrong, cause you pain. And force you to somewhat suck at paddling.
These following movements stretch, and mobilizations cover the spectrum of essential conditioning, training. And corrective exercise to get you paddling at your strongest… so get in it, surf paddle training.

Surf Paddling Muscle/Tissue Mobility

Without getting too specific, there are a lot of muscles that are essential to strong and painless paddling.

You need to keep these muscles in good health, so they can function properly. You need a little recovery work, muscle loving, and myofascial release.

This type of self-treatment/massage will help restore lost flexibility, improve postural offsets, and allow for more efficient muscle contraction, which leads to improved endurance capability.

Paddle Training – Treat Your Triceps

Fix Your Aches – Treat Your Own Shoulders….and Feet!

Surfers Guide To Upper Body Foam Rolling and Shoulder Release IF YOU HAVE SOME ACHES – this is a Must Read Must Do

Thoracic Spine Mobility

If you don’t have it, (t-spine mobility), you’re setting yourself up for eventual, pain, problems, shit paddling, and shit posture. Surf Paddle Training has to restore mobility to your thoracic spine so you can move man!

Turns Like Tom Curren and Fix Your Shoulders

Surfers Shoulders – Thoracic Mobility Part 1


Surfers Shoulders – Thoracic Mobility Part 2

Every one of those links has a movement that is STUPID EASY to work on, and can DRASTICALLY IMPROVE YOUR SHOULDER FLEXIBILITY!

This is by no means a complete list of exercises that can be used to build endurance in the necessary paddling muscle groups. It is a list of some really beneficial movements that can build dynamic strength in the upper body, and more specifically working the triceps, lats, posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and a few other paddling muscles.

The FacePull- This move is often considered Pre-hab. It does a good job of teaching scapular control and upward rotation. It will help you strengthen your Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids, Posterior Rotator Cuff, and a few other essential scapular stabilization muscles.

Surf Paddling Endurance Circuit  The post not only gives you several different exercise options but also gives your rep range recommendations for each movement. Cable alternating pulls are one of my favorite moves… check them out!

Bent Rows and a Full Metabolic Circuit– A FULL-BODY PADDLING CIRCUIT WORKOUT. This video and corresponding post give you some tips to properly performing Bent Rows – an essential move for back endurance and posterior shoulder work…. and I throw in some KB’s!

Cable Human Rows

Shoulder Y Press

 Stability Ball ATY


Another essential aspect of good paddling is getting your shoulders properly warmed up before your surfing, and activating specific muscles within the upper body that help to stabilize joints and produce movements…..  Here’s a link to a past post on my shoulder warmup sequence….. Do it!

Surf Shoulders Warmup Sequence

This is MUST DO for anyone with shoulder creaks, aches, funks, shits, pains,…. do it!


There are way too many issues with back pain to discuss right here.

If you’re getting any type of “neutral” issues, tingling, electricity, numbness, you need to get your ass to a qualified professional.  If you’re just dealing with some aches, it could very likely be that you are just weak and lazy in some of those back muscles that help keep you in a strong paddling posture.

You’ve also likely got some muscle imbalances in the back and pelvis that need to get sorted out… email me… we’ll get you figured out!

In order to build muscular endurance and strength in that aching back of yours, you need to get into some long duration postural holds.

This video and post do a great job of giving you some insight and instruction to start working on your problems….. If you don’t work to improve your problems that are limiting your surfing, they’re only going to get worse, so don’t be lazy about it. Keep yourself in the water!

Surfing With Back Pain – Don’t Do It! – How You Can Fix It!


This has been a long post, and you’re almost at the finish line, with a damn strong set of shoulders. But there is one last issue to improve so you can paddle as much as you want, and as much as you need to.

Metabolic Conditioning / Lung Capacity / Full Body Endurance. Those are all pretty much synonyms for being able to paddle your ass off.

What you essentially have to do is train your cells to be able to produce energy for extended periods of time. That’s what long duration paddling is all about.

Keeping the core tight, arms moving constantly, breathing calmly, holding your breath for duck dives, and then paddling even more!

That’s a huge demand on the body to continuously do that while providing oxygen, fuel, glucose, removing carbon dioxide, maintaining muscle contractions…. a whole lot of stuff that can make you supremely exhausted. So how can you train for this??? Some good ole’ fashioned endurance work.

  • Jump Rope
  • Rowing Machine
  • Cycling
  • Interval Jogging
  • Circuit Training
  • Boxing
  • Swimming

Any of that stuff can be a really great and enjoyable training stimulus. You can either work on more of a long, slow duration style of work output and train the “base” of aerobic conditioning.

To simulate a bit more of what we experience while we’re in some good surf, you may want to do lighter intervals, for an extended period of time.

For example, on the rowing machine, an interval would be 2-4minutes of “light” work, and then 20-45 seconds of higher intensity work. Those intensities would be alternated for up to 10,15, 0r even 20 minutes.

You could do that with any of the other exercises listed. Again, you’re just attempting to condition your body to withstand longer periods of energy output. Find something you enjoy, and get some surf training carryover benefit.


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