Hang Ten

   Few sports personify South Florida as much as surfing. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and swelling waves, Palm Beach County is the perfect place to learn this fun form of exercise, which is as beneficial for the mind as it is for the body. Surfing is a demanding aerobic workout, with a surfer’s heart rate staying above 120 beats per minute at least 80 percent of the time, according to a New Zealand study. However, it is also an ideal way to commune with nature, center the mind, and focus solely on the demands of the ocean.

   Eric Dernick, owner of Waves Surf Academy in Boca Raton, has been surfing for 17 years and loves sharing the sport with others. “Surfing provides me with serenity and happiness,” he says. PBI.com spoke with Dernick about the basics of surfing as well as the physical and mental benefits.

   Want to try it yourself? Waves Surf Academy will host a free surfing lessons event on May 7, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Anchor Park in Delray Beach. For more information, call 561-843-0481.

Eric Dernick catches a wave. Photo by Ben Hicks

PBI.com: What makes surfing a good form of exercise?

ED: Surfing encompasses a variety of different exercises that are good for both the mind and body. The average surfer is said to burn about 400 calories an hour while surfing. Surfing uses aerobic and anaerobic components and entails paddling, jumping to your feet on the board, and using your core to keep yourself stable. Surfing increases weight loss and mental well-being and also improves your balance, strength, and flexibility.

What areas of the body does surfing engage?

Your mind and body. In surfing, your mind has to be quick and focused; you have to be able to read the waves to determine where to be positioned and where to paddle. Surfing is a great cardiovascular exercise [because] your body is constantly moving or using some group of your muscles to hold your body in place while sitting, paddling, or standing. The most targeted part of a surfer’s body would be the chest, core, arms, and back muscles.

What out-of-water exercises can help someone become a better surfer?

Aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling, and jogging, and core exercises, like sit-ups, squats, planks, and jump rope. Yoga is also great for surfing, as it makes your body more flexible and well balanced.

What does an initial, beginner’s surf lesson look like?

An initial surfing lesson would begin with a warm up that usually entails static stretching for about 10 to 15 minutes. Static stretching refers to stretching and holding the stretch for a longer period of time. The second step of the lesson would be a beach instruction on how to stand up on the surfboard. This step would also consist of surf etiquette; a surfer must learn the etiquette of how to surf and respect fellow surfers in the “lineup.” After the beach instruction, we would ease into the third part of the lesson [which would be] paddling out on the surfboard. The fourth step would be paddling for a wave while being pushed into a wave by your instructor. The fifth step of the lesson is the most fun: standing up and riding the wave.

What do you like to eat before you surf?

Fruits, vegetables, good quality fats, and proteins. Avocados are an excellent source of potassium and protein, which is a great energy boost for you while you’re surfing. I enjoy having a healthy smoothie or just simply eating a banana or an apple and drinking a large bottle of water. You always want to be hydrated with any form of exercise but especially surfing.

What effect do you think surfing can have on mental health?

Surfing is great for one’s mental health. It’s a great form of stimulation for the mind. You engage with the beauty of nature out in the ocean while enjoying the peace and serenity. This form of stimulation can help a person decrease stress while increasing energy and well-being. The ocean is also very cleansing to the skin. Saltwater actually detoxifies the skin and promotes cellular regeneration. Your skin is the largest organ, and saltwater helps make it feel rejuvenated and healthy.

What is the most common hurdle new surfers face?

The most common hurdle would be popping up and standing up on the surfboard. The next common hurdle would be knowing when to paddle for a wave.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to a new surfer?

Surfing takes practice, dedication, and determination. These points will guide you in and out of the water. Above all, make sure you have fun.


Click here to head back to A South Florida Guide to Surfing.


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