I have to admit, the promise of a surfer’s body – lean and muscular without the bulk, sharp and symmetrical lines and a balanced athletic physique – is what first drew me to a SURFSET class. Well, that, and the fact that I would get to play on a surfboard for 50 minutes.

Was I in need of a serious butt-kicking after being slack on my fitness routine for weeks? Yes. Did I expect the class to be challenging? Sure. Was I prepared for the physical and mental strength the class demanded? Nope.

I’d like to think I had an excuse for my sad performance. I was a good seven minutes late to my SURFSET class. (Chelsea Piers in New York City is really big.) That’s basically an eternity in the fitness world, or at least enough to miss the instructor’s valuable direction. By the time I finally located the fitness studio, I swept into the session in a total flurry and hopped right on. Bad idea.

As I floundered on the wobbling board, thrashing my arms to and fro, I grasped in vain for an invisible bar or rope. In what I’m sure was an act of mercy, the instructor – real-life surfer Aaron Thouvenin – came over and offered me his hand to help steady my shaky legs.

“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “It just takes a few minutes for your body to get used to it. Focus on engaging your core.”

“Am I gonna fall?” I asked, forcing a laugh so as not to appear completely nerdy and inept. (I’m pretty sure I failed.)

“If you do, just step right off the board and you’ll be fine.”

Sure, OK. Got it. Thanks, guy.

But Aaron was right. Over the next 40 or so minutes, he guided the group through a series of surfing-inspired workouts designed to increase strength and flexibility. I grew more confident and stable on the board with each duck dive. By the last interval, I was popping up to surfer’s stance without a second thought, albeit more slowly than my classmates.

I zeroed in on my core and threw all of my energy into the flow of class. Sure, my board still quivered. But I was enjoying it. No, loving it. When the class was finished, I was actually sad. I wanted more paddling. I wanted more imaginary waves. I just wanted more.

If you’re craving a fresh workout to add to your fitness routine, check out a SURFSET class in your area. Just learn from my mistake. Get there early and ask for advice before you get on board the first time.

You’re going to feel unsure at first. You’re going to get better. You’re going to love it.

SURFSET: Know Before You Go

  • Show up to the session a bit early to familiarize yourself with the board.
  • SURFSET classes don’t require any special clothing or gear, but some places ask that you go barefoot or wear socks only on the surfboard.
  • Classes are a fun and team-like environment. The one I took at Chelsea Piers only holds up to 10 students (we had five), and Aaron made it feel friendly but exciting. We cracked jokes throughout.
  • It’s a challenging workout, but SURFSET is good for all fitness levels and body types. Classes accommodate students of all ages, and instructors can work one-on-one with anyone who needs a little more guidance or assistance, so don’t feel intimidated!
  • It takes a few minutes to trust yourself and the surfboard. Standing up on the board is all about balance and core strength, so engage those belly muscles and focus your energy. You’ll grow more confident with each class and eventually the shakes will go away.

Why It’s A Good Workout
SURFSET is a multiplanar exercise, which means it’s based on a sport (in this case, surfing) and works different parts of your body at the same time. You build muscle and increase cardiovascular fitness while paddling, tone your arms when duck-diving through the “waves,” and strengthen your core and pectoral muscles with each pop-up maneuver. Even standing on the board and simulating the wave riding is good for you. The exercise strengthens your legs while improving flexibility and posture, and you’ll burn fat and build lean muscle with each class.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance writer specializing in travel, spa, and beauty and wellness. She’s the author of The Food Lovers’ Guide To Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appeared in publications like American Spa, The Knot, The New York Post, SheKnows.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Little_K.

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Katarina is a freelance writer specializing in travel, spa, and beauty and wellness. She’s the author of The Food Lovers’ Guide To Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about interesting destinations and fashionable travel. Her work has appeared in publications like American Spa, The New York Post, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Travel + Leisure online and more.