Surfing for your fitness: our chat with Felicity Palmateer

Living in Australia, you are often not too far from the beach thanks to the simple fact that our capitol cities are all along the coast line. So have you ever considered taking up surfing for fitness? Surfing is great as an all over fitness workout, with the paddling being great cardio, good leg and core strength from standing and balancing on the board and building good shoulder and back strength. Not only that but you will be spending time enjoying the beautiful ocean.

I’ve often wanted to learn how to surf, because all surfers have such great overall fitness and I love the water, so when I was recently offered surf lesson with Felicity Palmateer, a finalist for Female Surfer of the Year (Surfing Australia) and an ambassador for Aussie Bodies and Billabong, I thought ‘YES!’ but wasn’t able to take up the offer due to timings, but we had a chat with her about one of her areas of expertise, surfing of course!


How did you get started with surfing?

My dad got me into surfing when I was pretty young. I remember the first competition I entered, I was 12 years old. And my dad was concerned when I told him I wanted to surf in it. He was worried if I lost I would be turned off surfing. But he came along and supported me and I won. I remember pulling on the jersey and he had to tie a double knot in the back because I was so small and the jersey was so baggy.

What are the fitness benefits to surfing?

I think by surfing regularly you achieve an overall ‘glow’ – a full body fitness that is the result of so many different factors. Physically, the ocean can be very demanding. Even paddling is tricky at first, and very tiring. For some people, walking long distances on sand is a workout – once you’re a surfer, you’re doing both these things, and much more, nearly every day.

Mentally, surfing can also be very meditative – the early mornings, the beautiful sunsets, floating on the sea … so mentally and physically, over time, you are engaging in a healthy activity. It’s an addiction too, a healthy one.

What traits does your body develop from regular surfing?

Regular surfing will see your shoulders and back get the greatest workout because of paddling. But yes, surfers will have decent core strength and generally high awareness – of things like balance and being quick to learn other sports, snowboarding, yoga, things like that which may be challenging for non-surfers.

What other types of workouts do you do to help your surfing?

Swimming, if the surf is flat, helps me keep that connection to the ocean and the salt water and the beach. I love running, it’s a good way for me to zone out and get my blood pumping. I also do yoga.

What are some of your favourite Australian beaches to surf on?

Margaret River, West Australia. Northern NSW. Gold Coast. And anywhere that is not crowded!

Felicity Palmateer tips for beginner surfers

  1. Get a soft board that is at least one foot taller than you are. (Longer boards are easier to balance on, catch waves, and if it’s soft there’s less chance of being hurt.)
  2. Choose the right conditions. Ideally, you can walk out and pick broken waves to catch without too much paddling. Steer clear of other surfers.
  3. Practice jumping to your feet before you paddle out.
  4. Make sure you wear the appropriate swimwear or wetsuit for the climate.
  5. Remember to be a good surfer takes time! The best have dedicated their lives to it.

A good surf school will help you with all of the above!

Check out Felicity’s Instagram to see her amazing life in the surf and sun. Find reputable surf schools at Surfing Australia.

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