It’s The Latest Fitness Craze Sweeping America: Surfing, But Not As You Know It…

There's no water, sand or waves - so how does it work?

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Surfing is cool. It’s used to sell all sorts of products, from cars to mobile phones. Landlocked shops offer surfer-inspired clothing far from any waves. Now, there’s a new trend occurring – and it’s got nothing to do with the sea.

At health clubs around the world, classes are springing up that use a new type of exercise equipment: the RipSurfer X from SurfSET Fitness.

If you crossed an Indo Board and some Bosu balance trainers with a Bic surfboard, you might get a RipSurfer X. Picture a short, thick, egg-shaped plastic surfboard mounted on three partly-inflated disks attached to a non-skid base.

ripsurferxThe RipSurfer X is designed to simulate the instability and physical demands of a surfboard on the water.

It’s touted as a way to get the strength, balance, and other exercise benefits of surfing without the necessity of a trip to the coast and all that messy sand. The only saltwater you’ll encounter is the sweat generated by your own workout.

Is gym ‘surfing’ on a SurfSET board just another fad looking to cash in on the hipness of waveriding?

“The only saltwater you’ll encounter is the sweat generated by your own workout…”

Recently I had the opportunity to take a couple of SurfSET classes to see what all the fuss is about.

Many of the places offering SurfSET are landlocked or near inconsistent surf. But I found a health club running classes just north of wave-rich San Diego in California, USA and signed up for a 3-day guest pass to check out the workout.

The beginner-level group class was lightly attended. Which is to say, only the instructor and I were present in the windowless mirrored room. When I told her I’m a surfer, she pulled a slightly more advanced RipSurfer X board from the pile; the disks underneath were less inflated for less stability.

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I took my shoes off and climbed atop the wobbly board. She ran through exercises read from a printed sheet, dispensing with the easy ones since I already have good balance and it was a one-on-one after all.

Many of the poses invoked yoga, but there was also a lot of hopping on and off of the board; one exercise was even called The Frog. On the whole, the class seemed too easy for me, and I was interested to try a higher level session.

There was slightly better attendance at the intermediate class, with three others already busy on their SurfSET boards when my husband and I arrived a few minutes late.

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The instructor quickly pulled out boards for us and we leapt into action with our classmates. This workout was more aerobics and less yoga. The fast pace found us both bashing our shins on the hard plastic rails of the board as we jumped around them. I’d just started working up a sweat after about 15 minutes when the instructor wound things down.

It turned out the club hadn’t updated the schedule to reflect his usual earlier start time, so our few minutes late meant we’d missed most of it. Still, it was enough of a taste to get the flavour of this new type of exercise.

While many of the moves paid homage to surfing, the overall SurfSET experience seemed to me as far from actual surfing as the lessons offered in Belgrade are from the sea.

“The experience seemed as far from actual surfing as the lessons offered in Belgrade are from the sea”

The board does wobble side-to-side and fore-aft, but not with the feeling of a surfboard on the water. There are only a select few movements in surfing that can be replicated by the RipSurfer X, and even those need to be modified.

For instance, it’s not possible to make a full paddle stroke because the board is too close to the floor for complete arm movement – and paddling is 90% of surfing. A surf simulator, it’s not.

Whether this relative newcomer to the “surfing sells” bandwagon will have staying power remains to be seen, but the San Diego location flared and then fizzed. SurfSET classes are no longer being offered.

This may be due to the proximity of actual ocean waves, which provide the fitness benefits of surfing without the necessity of a gym membership.

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However, if you’re looking to improve your balance, or just to get an aerobic workout that’s a bit out of the ordinary, you could do worse than a SurfSET class.

If you’re really inspired, you can even buy your own RipSurfer X and exercise in your home. Just don’t expect it to have you surfing in your living room.

There are currently three Surfset Fitness classes offered in Europe: Faro in Portugal, Sankt Pölten in Austria and Belgrade in Serbia. For more info, visit their website.

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