Learn How to Prevent Surfing Injuries

min read


The Sports Injury Clinic

Sarah Pike

October 8, 2019


As the weather begins to warm up, most of us will start returning to the waves. No matter if we are a novice or a professional surfer, we're all at risk of injury. Surfing is a wonderful sport that not only requires physical skill, but ocean intuition. Paddling and duck diving places high demand on the shoulders. The stance and manoeuvres essential to stay on the surfboard require leg and core strength, as well as back mobility.

Like all sports, there is a risk of injury every time we step into the water. The most common injuries are lacerations (42%), contusions (13%) and acute sprains (12%), while its possible to acquire head and spinal injuries. The individuals more at risk are older surfers, professionals and big wave riders (source - Nathanson, 2002).

Of course, not all injuries are preventable but there are steps we can take to reduce our risk. It's best to only surf in conditions suited to our ability and to always adhere to surfing etiquette.

Acute injuries such as MCL, ACL and ankle ligament injuries usually come from aerial manoeuvres, a bad tumble or awkward twisting movements. A strength program can work as a protective measure against such injuries.

The repetitive nature of paddling and the position of the back can also lead to back pain and shoulder injuries. Repetitive twisting movements, usually in one direction, can lead to uneven strength and stability. This is influenced by whether we're a natural or goofy footer.

To prevent back and shoulder injuries:

  • Warm up
  • Pace ourselves
  • Implement strength training


Warm up before we begin surfing:

We all want to jump straight into the water after suiting up, but by completing a small warm up we can greatly reduce the risk of injury.

Full body warm up:

  1. Start with a fast-paced walk or jog to the break
  2. Free squats 10-15
  3. Arm swings/circles/t-swings x 10 in both directions
  4. Upper back extension/cobras x 10
  5. Standing upper back rotation x 10


Strength training for surfing:

Listed below are a few basic strength exercises. Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, to be completed 3 times a week.


  1. Shoulder press
  2. Scapular rows
  3. Push ups


  1. Double/single leg squats
  2. Hamstring curls
  3. Double/single leg calf raises


  1. Lumbar rolls
  2. Chest openers
  3. Thoracic rotations on fit ball
  4. 4 point + leg/arm extension

Dynamic balance:

  1. Single leg stance, throwing ball at the wall
  2. Single leg stance on wobble board

If you'd like a demonstration of the exercises above, or an individualised strength program, book an appointment with either a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist. If you currently have any injury related to surfing, pop in to see any of our Physiotherapists to complete an assessment and determine the best form of treatment and rehabilitation. To book an appointment, call us on 9783 9990 or book online.


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The Sports Injury Clinic acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the Bunurong people, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
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