9 Things to Do When You Can’t Go Surfing

How to keep your sanity when you’re itching to surf and the ocean won’t cooperate.

There are many things a surfer can overcome: pouring rain, gusting winds, choppy water, even a few flashes of lightning if you’re feeling really reckless. The one thing a surfer can’t work with? No waves.

This was the situation that confronted Jake and I this week in Tamarindo. The few days we decided to shun the gloom-and-doom surf reports and go out anyway, we found ourselves gently rocked to a soothing ocean lullaby. Not exactly “shredding” conditions…

Normally, I’d welcome a day or two of less than stellar waves. It’d give me a chance to write during the early morning hours when I’m less likely to fall into impromptu 2-hour naps on the couch! But when a few days turned into a week, we needed to get a little creative.

9 Alternatives to Surfing For Days When The Ocean Won’t Cooperate

1. Watch a Movie About Surfing

For some reason, “Point Break” is my boyfriend and his best friend’s favorite movie ever. They get very upset when I make fun of how cheesy it is. If you can get over Keanu Reeves’ utter lack of emotion (even when he’s “angry”) and the generic surfing stock footage that doesn’t fit in at all—the movie is a surfing/extreme sports classic. And if that doesn’t get you pumped to ‘shred the gnar,’ there’s always “Endless Summer.”

2. Improve Your Paddling Stroke

One thing it seems like I never have time to do when I’m surfing daily is finding ways to surf better and not just more. Watching surfing videos is a great way to find tweaks and techniques to work on when you’re back in the water again. But don’t just watch the pros crushing barrels! YouTube is also a great resource for surfing how-to’s, like this one breaking down King Slater’s effortless paddle.

3. Let Your Cuts Heal

When I spent 2 weeks at a surf camp in Bali, the first thing I learned is that 2-3 surf sessions a day is hard on injuries. Even small cuts—especially bites from a reef break—take forever to heal because your skin is constantly wet from being in the ocean. Even just a day or two away from the ocean is enough to let cuts heal over and possibly decrease the chance of it scarring.

4. Even Out Your Tan Lines

Some people rock their leash tans as a mark of a surfer (kind of like how a Deathly Hallows tattoo lets people know you’re a true Harry Potter fan) but a day off is the perfect time to sunbathe if you’re looking to even out some of the weird tans from your surfing gear. My worst offender is the reverse “glove” tan where your hands are dark, but your arms are pale from wearing a long-sleeve rash guard!

9 Alternatives to Surfing


5. Do Laundry

When was the last time you gave your rash guard a proper wash instead of just rinsing it out and hanging it up to dry? For me, it’s almost never. Who cares if it gets stinky? It’s just going back into the ocean anyway! But no amount of light rinsing in the shower will get out everything the ocean put in, and an occasional wash helps get your rash guard back to its normal shape and softness.

6. Do A Lower- or Full-Body Workout

While surfing is a great overall workout, its exercise benefits are most aerobic and in the arms, back, shoulders, and core area. A day off from surfing is a chance to even out by doing something that targets your lower body (think squats, deadlifts, etc.) or to cross-train (e.g. running).

7. Practice Surfing in Your Living Room

The surf camp I stayed at in Bali had a device called an Indo Board. There are some other balance board brands geared towards surfers but this is the only one I’ve tried. The main benefit I got from it was better awareness and control of my core muscles. The basic board package usually goes for about $200-300.

8. Oggle Surfing Gear You Can’t Afford

Wouldn’t it be great if surfing wasn’t so dependent on the ocean’s capricious moods? Enter the electric-powered wakeboard which has been making waves (haha, get it? Making waves? I’m sure you’ll get it later…) in the surf community.

I haven’t tried any of them but if you’re interested in buying one, Digital Trends reviewed Onean about a year ago (August 2015). It’s one of most affordable ones in the market right now, starting at 4,130€ (about $4,600).

On the higher end, Euromaxx recently reported the Lampuga can get up to 50 km/h (~31 mi/h) with their most expensive model (starting at 15k+ euros, or about $17k USD), although they have a less-expensive rubber model that costs just 10,000 euros (about $11k USD)! Autoblog also reviewed the Raddin Wakejet a few days ago, although it doesn’t come cheap either, starting at $17,000.

9. Lust After Kelly Slater’s Man-Made Barrel

If you haven’t heard the news, the Kelly Slater Wave Company has pioneered the perfect, man-made on-demand barrel for surfers. Just googling the company can lead you down a rabbit hole of jealous binge-watching the videos that have emerged of pros that have been invited to try it.

With the recent investment from the World Surf League, it looks like these waves may soon be available for public consumption. No word yet on how much it’ll cost, but we can’t imagine it’ll come cheap!

What are some of the ways you cope when you want to go surfing but there aren’t any waves?