The best kinds of activities for your wellbeing are those that have the power to nourish you both inside and out. Especially if you don’t have a ton of free time for self-care, finding hobbies that can provide all-around benefits allow you to stay grounded and healthy without sacrificing other wellness habits like getting enough sleep.
While it may not be accessible to everyone, given its location-specific nature, surfing is a surprisingly beneficial activity that can fuel your body and your mind. If you’ve ever considered taking up this sport, or just want to feel extra good about already surfing on the regular, here’s what you should know about the many upsides to riding those waves.
What Makes Surfing Special?
Surfing is a very unique sport. It’s a solo endeavor, yet it has a thriving community. It has a high learning curve and can be very hard to get good at, yet you can surf well into your golden years if you’re proficient. It’s super athletic and yet also very peaceful.
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There’s a lot to love about surfing, and that means there’s something for everyone: It’s challenging, it brings you closer to the awesome power of nature, it’s confidence-building and it’s amazing for your physical fitness. It’s also fairly accessible financially if you’re in close proximity to the ocean—you can get a used surfboard for a few hundred bucks and ride it for free whenever your schedule (and the swell) allows. You can also go out for a one-hour session, or stay in the waves all day so there’s lots of flexibility time-wise, too.
Surfing may not be the easiest sport to get involved in but chances are you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.
The Physical Benefits of Surfing
There are many physical benefits of surfing that come from the actual act of paddling for waves and riding on them. A full body sport, surfing is incredible for building muscle and increasing your overall health. Here’s more detail about its multiple physical benefits:
Improved heart health
Suring is great cardiovascular exercise. The research team at Cal State San Marcos studies the health benefits of surfing and found that the mechanics of the sport contribute to overall better cardiovascular health. In studying surfers who range in age from their teens to age 65, researchers analyzed various data like heart rates and oxygen intake to show the clear heart health benefits of surfing.
More muscle strength
As a full-body sport, surfing causes you to engage a number of muscle groups, including the core, the arms and shoulders, the neck and the legs. As you use your muscles to paddle for waves, stand on the board and balance, you increase muscle strength without lifting a single weight. If you’re wanting to build muscle but you don’t like gyms or machines, surfing is a great option.
Better flexibility and range of motion
Surfing itself can help you increase flexibility but getting tossed off your board also helps improve your ability to stretch and twist into different positions.
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Having to angle your board through waves and keep yourself upright while waiting for the right wave requires flexibility and agility, which you’ll build as you continue to surf.
Good balance and coordination
Riding waves requires great balance—without it you won’t be able to stay on your board. Surfing helps build your balancing and coordination skills, which are essential to have especially as people age. Since this sport is one you can continue doing later in life, it’s an excellent activity to improve in so that you can keep up your coordination and decrease the risk of falls and injuries when you’re older.
Mental Benefits of Surfing
While the physical benefits of surfing are many, the mental benefits are perhaps even more impactful. Few sports and activities provide the myriad physical and mental benefits that surfing does. Here are some of the key ways that surfing can improve your overall quality of life via mental health:
Creates opportunities for mindfulness
As any surfer will tell you, being out in the waves is like being in a kind of trance. It’s just you, your board and the water. Surfing puts you into a zone where you’re able to tune out the world around you and just focus on the here and now. It’s a great opportunity for practicing mindfulness and truly living in the moment.
Provides connection with nature
In our busy, overconnected lives, it’s rare that we get the chance to simply enjoy the natural environment. Surfing gives you the opportunity to connect with nature on a big scale and remember your place in the world as just one small human as you bob around in the huge ocean. In this way, surfing is a reminder of the awesomeness of our planet and provides a humbling experience at the same time.
Heightens self confidence
Surfing has a pretty high learning curve—it takes a while to get proficient enough to stand up on your board, let alone actually ride a wave without wiping out.
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Putting in the time and commitment to the sport gives you a sense of accomplishment as you get better and better at riding the waves. As you continue to do this challenging activity, your self-confidence will soar.
Helps relieve stress
Whether you’re ripping up the waves or cruising rollers on a longboard, surfing helps soothe the soul. The combination of a great workout and a natural setting is an ideal recipe for relieving stress and finding a sense of peace. Water is inherently calming to most people and being within the rhythm of the waves can calm even the most anxious of minds.
Improves sleep and mood
Like all vigorous exercise, surfing can help increase endorphins and get your body exhausted for sleep at the end of the day. If you surf in the morning right after waking, this can regulate your sleep-wake cycle by giving your body a healthy dose of serotonin and sunlight, which can also help treat seasonal depression.
Riding the Waves
Surfing may seem like an intimidating sport and, yes, it certainly does take some time to get good enough at it for it to be enjoyable. But once you catch your first wave you’ll likely get hooked on the sport like so many people have before you. If you’re looking for a physical challenge that can also provide a number of mental benefits, including the ability to really commune with nature, this sport is an ideal choice.
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