Anyone who surfs knows there’s a lot more to it than standing on a board, looking cool and trying to hang five, or maybe even ten. Surfing is hard work. Yet, there are some ways to make it a little easier on your body and soul.

Surfing is great exercise. Especially with good-size waves, at least overhead, you might find yourself swimming for 20 minutes or even more at a time. Not to mention the added physical stress of ducking under the roaring, rumbling whitewater breakers that want to drag you and your board back to the beach and make you look silly.

Indeed, I consider myself an experienced surfer. However, there have been a few times when the water and the waves were too rough, too constant and too unforgiving for me to even get outside on my board. These surf sessions turned into long lessons of swimming, swearing and pain. There’s nothing worse than paddling your butt off, making it through the back of a breaking monster only to see another one smiling at you, ready to take you down.

You sprint to poke through the top, putting your face down to the board and paddling hard, but sometimes you can’t make it. That’s when the punishment begins. A breaking wave and its rumbling force will not only pick you up and throw you, it will hold you down, jerk you around, break your board, snap your leash, stir the sand and work you.

So, rather than take this watery slap in the face, you can prepare for it. Train for the bigger waves. You’ll find you like rides that are steeper, faster and lined with boxy curls that invite you in for tea, then spit you out.

There’s no substitute for solid, cardiovascular training: running, biking, swimming laps; but there are some different methods of training I’ve learned over the years from other surfers, books and magazines and oceanic tudoring.

While you might be in good shape, you definitely need some stamina to surf, particularly for bigger waves. In addition, you must never forget that surfing is as much about mind and soul as it is about physical ability.

You must be able to judge the waves, the sets and the currents. The best way to learn this skill is to watch, and not just to stand on a pier or a rocky beach. When you paddle out, watch the waves, the other surfers and the foamy currents. Watch on the horizon to get an idea what the waves look like when they’re 500 yards out from you. It’s amazing how a ripple can turn into a giant. You’ll see.

It’s also good to time sets. Don’t use your watch; you’ll look like an idiot. Just keep track of how long it takes a big set to roll through, how long it is in between them and where they’re breaking. Sometimes it’s just a big wall of pain — a good time to practice dropping in. You can try to pull off some big drops. It will help when the wave is peeling and you’ve actually got somewhere to go after you pull off the launch.

You also need to pick out a good spot to paddle out. If other surfers seem to be paddling out at one or two particular spots, try them out. Surfing, especially in an unfamiliar spot, isn’t about being a maverick. You can always paddle out next to others and then swim laterally outside the breaking perimeter to find your own space.

If there’s a jetty to walk out on and jump off into the surf, great. Just be sure you know what you’re doing and always be aware of the conditions and currents wherever you’re surfing.

While you need to keep your head up when surfing, this can be quite a strain on the neck. Paddling while laying on your stomach and keeping your head up to see what’s coming will have you feeling it long after your surf session. So be sure to keep your neck loose. It’s a good idea to work at strengthening the neck and give yourself a good stretch — neck and all — before you paddle out.

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