Home Surf Fitness The Benefits of Swimming for Surfers

The Benefits of Swimming for Surfers

by Jeffa
two swimmers preparing for a trek out in the gannel

Let’s face it, we can’t surf every day of the year. Even living by coast, there’s days when the wind blows onshore or a summer flat spell sets in.

Luckily, there’s a solution to avoid saltwater withdrawal – swimming!

Swimming is a great way to spend time in the sea, whilst keeping you fit for surfing! It’s also a saviour if you live far away from surfing beaches. This is why we’re offering a brand new Surf & Swim Retreat in 2023, so you can build experience and skills in both.

There’s a lot of crossover between swimming and surfing, which is why they compliment each other. Let’s dive into why exactly swimming is so good for surfing.

How does swimming benefit surfing?

Let’s dive in.

Swimming can build your stamina and paddle fitness.

Although we’d like to spend most of our surf standing and riding waves, 50% of our time in the water is spent paddling. Therefore you need good paddle strength and technique to get through the waves and not burn out after 10 minutes of paddling. Swimming regularly builds and maintains paddle stamina, so you can stay surf fit, ready for when the surf turns on again. Strokes such as front crawl will build endurance in your shoulders, back and triceps – key muscles used in surfing.

This is great, especially if you’re at the “white to green” stage in surfing, where you’re paddling out back to catch green waves for the first time. Being paddle fit means you’ve got energy left in the tank for those pop-ups once you’ve made it out.

Carina surfing her first green wave after paddling out back for the first time!

Build your ocean confidence

Ever wiped out but can’t feel you board dragging you? That’s the moment you realise your leash snapped and your buoyancy aid gone. This could make you panic but if you understand how to navigate the ocean through swimming you’ll be in a much calmer state.

In the seven years I’ve been surfing, I’ve had about five incidents of leashes snapping. Even if I take good care of my equipment, we can’t contend with the force of the ocean. Whilst it can be unnerving at first, I usually am pretty calm, as I know I’m a competent ocean swimmer and can get back in.

Swimming regularly gets you paddle fit for surfing!

You may feel nervous being out in the ocean, especially swimming as you don’t have a board to hold onto! Flat water, where most of us usually swim is often a lot more inviting and less scary then the surf beaches. By experiencing sea swimming, you’ll build ocean confidence ready for surfing.

If you’re knew to swimming in open water, we strongly suggest taking a course first, such as our Surf + Swim Weekend, or a Wild Swim Retreat, so you’re fully prepped on swim safety.

You’ll understand the ocean better

When you get in the ocean with a surfboard, all attention is focussed on getting that epic wave, perfecting your pop-up or practicing your cutback.

When you’re so immersed in learning something new, it can be easy to forget some important safety factors like checking in where the ocean currents are taking you, rocks, other people and paddling out safely. Reading and understanding the ocean so you can surf safely is a crucial part of surfing, and something we teach in all our Surf Sistas and Swim Sistas Retreats.

Enjoying those flat days with a slow swim on the south coast

The reason why swimming can help with understanding the ocean is because you SLOW DOWN. You have less to focus on as you’re not trying to control a surfboard, weave through the crowds and make sense of what your instructor is telling you to do. In swimming, you can focus on feeling the movement of water as you’re not lying on top of a surfboard. When planning a swimming route as well, careful consideration is taken as to which tide and route to take, and whether the spot is safe. This teaches you to be pause, observe the ocean and plan ahead. Key skills that can be applied to surfing.

You’ve got a hobby for the flat days (or when you’re landlocked)

Unfortunately the surf isn’t pumping everyday of the year. (Almost a good thing as otherwise we wouldn’t get anything done!). But when a flat spell persists for more than a few days, an ocean swim could be the tonic you need. It’ll also maintain your fitness when you have time out the water.

Open water swimming has a host of health benefits!

From boosting your immune system to reducing inflammation, swimming in the sea can have significant benefits for your health. In particular cold water swimming – you can read all about this here.

How could a Surf & Swim Retreat benefit me?

This year we’ve combined our two favourite ocean past times – surfing and swimming to offer a weekend retreat in Cornwall.

This course is perfect if you’re slightly more nervous about surfing but still eager to try. You’ll get two surf sessions and three swim sessions. During the swim sessions, you’ll have the chance to swim up to 1km under the guidance of our experienced swim coach Hannah.

Hannah will also be guiding you through swim safety in open water and what equipment to use, so you can continue open water swimming, wherever you’re based!

Our Surf Sessions are low ratio number (max four women to one Surf Sistas coach) and we tailor the coaching to your level. It’s a great option to get a taste for surfing or if you want to top up your pre-existing surf knowledge and skills with coaching pitched at your level. If you’re already a competent sea swimmer you might want to try one of our Beginner or Improver Surf courses, which is surf surf surf.

What we love about this Surf + Swimming Retreat, is that you’ll build all round ocean experience and learn skills in two saltwater sports. That means you can make the most out of your time at the coast wherever and whenever you go!

Here’s a snippet of what you can expect


14th-16th July 2023


From £525

What’s Included?

  • 3 swim sessions with our Swim Sistas Coaches (include guided coastal walks to our swim spots)
  • 2 surf sessions with Qualified female ISA Surf Sistas coaches
  • 2 nights Hotel accommodation overlooking the ocean with breakfast included
  • Wifi
  • Private Spa session on Saturday night (Spa comprises of Sauna, Hot tubs and Ice baths!)
  • Surf Sistas tote bag filled with delicious treats and goodies from our favourite brands
  • Wetsuit and surfboard hire for surf lessons
  • On the beach warm up routines to prepare you for your surf session. 

Head to our webpage for full info and to book your spot or drop us a message at surfsistas@gmail.com for a chat!

You may also like