Getting Fit For Riding the Waves

by Bev Sanders on March 11, 2010

It amazes me how many mature women have considered the sport of surfing, but think it’s strictly for the young. As one who started surfing at age 44, I believe it’s never too late. And once you start there’s no reason to stop.

Thirteen years of teaching women to surf has taught me some things. Foremost, surfer girls come in all shapes, sizes, and from all walks of life. At Las Olas, we’ve seen the mother who came to surf camp just to hang out with her daughters keeping up with the young athletes in the lineup. I can never guess who’ll get the bug.

Based on my own experience, I’ve collected some popular myths about surfing and want to set the record straight…

Myth Number One: Upper body strength is essential.

Not so. While upper body strength is important for paddling and popping up, it’s not as important as what I consider holistic fitness. This is a balance of strength, flexibility, and a mental openness to having fun.

Myth Number Two: You must be a good swimmer.

Of course the ability to swim is essential, but does a surfer have to be a triathlete swimmer? The answer is no. More important is a knowledge of wave action and currents. A calm head will get you to the surface, back on your board, and out of the whitewater. No amount of physical strength will substitute awareness and a bit of experience.

Myth Number Three: You have to be good at sports to surf.

The more physical activities you do, the better, but being athletic isn’t a necessity for surfing. Sports have been a large part of my life, from bicycling to skiing to snowboarding and now surfing. Every activity helped, but surfing is unique. There’s a line “Only a surfer knows.” I think that’s true. Just try and explain the stoke to someone who hasn’t done it. So stay active, but don’t worry if you’re not an accomplished athlete.

So now that you know surfing is accessible to everyone, you’ve decided to go surfing and want to prep, right? Here are some ideas for getting in shape that don’t include endless reps of push ups…

Dancing Queen

I like to dance because there’s something about music that makes me forget I’m actually exercising. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Zumba classes based on Latin rhythms, but I’ll start dancing just about whenever I hear music. I just love it. Dancing is a great way to tone arms, legs, and torso. It’s also a low impact way to increase cardio and is great for coordination. Shifting weight from foot to foot reminds me of how a skilled longboarder will cross step to the nose of her board. Dancing also helps develop flexibility, balance, and grace. And lastly, dancing is really fun. So, dance like no one is watching, whenever you feel like it.


Flexibility rates very high for me when preparing for the surf. For good reason, yoga is practiced every morning at Las Olas. Yoga is also great for building core strength, a key to overall physical stamina. It helps surfers relax, breathe, and best of all, develop patience for themselves and others. Learning to go with the flow, rather than against it, is a key ingredient to enjoying the waves. Free your mind and your body will follow. Free your mind and you can surf.

Ditch the Car

Practice conscious transportation. A few years back, I gave up my car, so I walk everywhere I can. Luckily, living in a small town makes it easy. Walking has made a difference in my overall fitness. I meet new friends, reduce stress, and enjoy the neighborhood. Biking is also a great way to travel, and the freewheeling fun on my bicycle reminds me of being a kid.

Sister System

Friends will inspire you. There’s a group of women where I live who get together every Tuesday morning for a hike, kayak, or bike ride. They set aside the hours and go without fail. Having a buddy to exercise with regularly will motivate you.

Think Young, Be Young

We make girls out of women. This is a concept at the foundation of Las Olas and it can apply to many things in life. Loosen up, smile often, laugh even more. I really enjoy tumbling around in the surf. It reminds me of when I was ten years old. I’ll admit, I’ve paddled out, sat for hours and didn’t catch a wave, but something about surfing is so fresh and youthful that I wasn’t even frustrated. Again, that’s still the girl in me.

See you in the line up!

BEV SANDERS founded Las Olas Surf Safaris at the age of 44 after spending 18 years in the snowboard industry, where she was recognized as the Pioneer Woman of Snowboarding by Transworld Snowboarding Magazine and received the Tranny Award, snowboarding’s Oscar. Bev’s focus shifted when she took a surfing lesson while on vacation in Maui. Having made a lifelong commitment of helping women reach their full potential in snowboarding, Bev continued her mission and launched Las Olas at a time when surfing was a male-dominated sport. For more information, visit

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