Body and Mind: Health Benefits of Surfing

body and mind: health benefits of surfing

I am extremely excited to announce that today I am taking the plunge and committing to mastering a sport that I have long admired…surfing!  And I couldn’t think of a better day for my board to be delivered as the sun is shining, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the waves here are finally starting to take shape.  My dad, who has been a dedicated surfer for several decades now, was kind enough to send me one of his collection of boards and I have been counting down to this day when it will finally arrive on my doorstep!

Having grown up in sunny Southern California, I was part of a community where surfing was more like a religion than a sport.  I remember salt water pouring out of the noses of my classmates during high school and digging urchin spines out of many feet during my days working at the school nurses office.  I always admired those passionate followers that braved the frigid water and foggy mornings in the middle of winter in the hopes of catching that perfect wave.  And now I am proud to claim my place among them.

There are many reasons why I am excited to dive in to the waves, most notably the fact that it will get me into great shape for summer.  It is no surprise that all of the paddling and swimming involved builds great upper body muscle tone and core strength.  I will also burn roughly 200 calories per hour according to the Glamour health calculator.

But there are many other benefits gained from surfing that extend beyond just the physical realm.  In fact, some of the most powerful positive results are the psychological impacts of surfing.  All of the surfers I have known throughout my life have always shared the same sunny disposition, positive outlook on life and quiet calm confidence.  And after doing a little research, I found out why.

Mood enhancer

A study presented at the American Psychological Association in 2010 by doctoral student Ryan Pittsinger showed that 30 minutes of surfing showed a dramatic increase in positive feelings and reduction in negative emotions and fatigue.


In the same study, Pittsinger documented overwhelming responses of tranquility and calmness.  Much like yoga, surfing keeps the mind focused completely in the present moment which helps surfers achieve a zen-like meditative state.

Self-confidence booster

Surfing is used as “ocean therapy” through a program offered by the Jimmy Miller Foundation for at-risk children as a way to increase their self-confidence and build self-efficacy.  The Foundation also works with the Wounded Warrior Program to help veterans presented with physical and emotional challenges use ocean therapy to help with their recovery.

Anyone have any tips for this new surfer girl?!  I would be so grateful for you to share them with me in the comments box!!!



4 Responses to Body and Mind: Health Benefits of Surfing

  1. Yassir says:

    You go Nessy Girl! I get my best research ideas in the water! so there is one more benefit!

    Here are three tips:
    1- Always put the center of gravity of your body ahead when you re paddling for a wave. This is the number one mistake beginners do, they can’t catch waves because they re too far back or leaning back. Instead, paddle hard three or four strokes, then jump up
    2- Second tip is how to avoid nose-diving, which you will do plenty of times. as you paddle with your front chest leading, stand up with your center of gravity a bit in the back
    3- The most important tip is: practice. surfing every day, (or twice a day), will get you on a wave doing tricks in a few months. Surfing one a week won’t take you far. Practice practice practice, and catch as many waves as you can in a session, regardless of how big. If you think i’s too big, just remember it’s beautiful liquid water that will only throw your around a bit.

    Finally, I recommend Paddle Boarding if surfing gets too problematic, more fun, way less hassle and falling… Enjoy the rides :)

    • admin says:

      Thank you Yassir, you are the best!!! You were such a patient and awesome teacher last summer. I am soo excited to get in the water and practice with your coaching! Hope you are enjoying some good surf out at Scripps pier!!! I will keep you posted on my progress:)

  2. Kathryn says:

    How exciting! I wish I had some tips, I’ve only been twice in my life… I think I love the idea of surfing more than being out in the cold water! :)

    • admin says:

      Hee hee! I feel you Kathryn! That’s why I’m starting out here in Florida where the water is way warmer;)

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