Why you should surf

Jul 8, 2010 at 8:05 p.m. ET

Mainstreamed by Hawaiians and sung about by The Beach Boys, surfing is one of the most physically demanding sports of the summer season. Surfing not only improves cardiovascular and muscular endurance, this popular water sport also boosts lower body and core strength. Isn’t it time to get fit by Hangin' Ten!

Woman surfer

History of surfing

The origins of surfing can be traced back to the late 1760s in Polynesia – it was initially designed as an activity for the elite ruling class in Tahiti. But it was Hawaiians who brought the sport to the general public by mass producing surf boards. The sport became popular on mainland America in 1907, when George Freeth, after moving from Hawaii to California, displayed his surfing skills at Huntington Beach, now one of the most popular surf destinations in North America.

How to start surfing

If you're into intense, focused activities – like running, snowboarding or high-intensity yoga – surfing may be the sport for you. Surfing demands both physical strength and extreme mental focus.

Sign up for surfing lessons

If you're lucky enough to live near a beach, signing up for surfing lessons is always a good place to start. If you're inland, many community centers offer surfing lessons in simulated wave pools.

Prepare your body for surfing

Before diving in, it's important to prepare your body for the physical demands of surfing. Start with an exercise routine that balances core strength with upper and lower body endurance. It's also important to stretch and stay flexible (in order to bend and move with the board while riding the waves).

Cross train for surfing

Activities like running, basketball, tennis, hiking, mountain climbing, yoga and pilates will help you stay in top surfing shape and will help stave off injury. Weight training is also incredibly important.

Surfing is a full-body workout

When we say surfing is a full-body sport, we mean it. No muscle group gets left untouched when riding the waves. From paddling the board into the water to maintaining your balance, it's an all-in-one calorie blasting and fat torching activity. Key muscle groups that get used in your average surfing session include abs, back, shoulders, neck, triceps, biceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves.

What's more, in just under an hour, a 140-pound woman can expect to burn about 200 calories (that's on top of the tightening and toning of her muscles).

Before you hit the waves, it's important to fuel up with protein and to drink enough water (even though you're working out in H2O, you can still suffer dehydration). Once your workout is over, focus on stretching so your muscles recover faster.

Up next: Rules of the waves >>

1 of 2