Leg Work

Introduction and Low Dips, Cross Leg Dips


I’m always happy to see a new drift log on the beach because they offer new opportunities. But you can substitute a low wall, a park bench–anything stable at a low sitting height–for any log exercise.
For Low Dips you simply sit on the log with your feet out as far as you can reach them and hands by your hips on the log, lift yourself up a little and out far enough to clear the log, then dip as low as you can without struggling for the early reps (a little struggle is fine at the end). Don’t over-rotate your shoulder. If you need to add intensity, do it by moving your feet away from the log and straightening your legs.

Cross Leg Dips
Now let’s spice up the dips by doing some cross-legged
Same position as a low dip, but just cross one leg over the other. When you finish one side, do the other. You feel these in your thighs as well as shoulders, triceps, and core.
I like multi-muscle exercises for efficiency in my workout, and add isolated muscle exercises to target specific improvements.

Step Ups


People might expect more shoulder and arm exercises in the Waterman Workout, but I find the core and leg most important. When your surfing turns get aggressive or you’re driving hard with a paddle, it’s your legs that provide the link to the board. Even sitting in canoes, the thighs generate a lot of the power. Step ups are simple but effective–Step up with one foot, down with the other. Do the exercise briskly. If you need to increase intensity find a bigger log. Do a complete set with one leading leg, then switch your step up leg to complete the exercise. Don’t be fooled by how simple this seems, it’s the beach equivalent to running stairs.

Log Jumps


Another deceptively simple exercise is log jumps. Find something you can lean down against and jump over with both legs, forward and back. Do a good number of reps then switch your leading (upper) hand and do a second set. Increase the intensity by using a larger log and increasing your speed.

Leg Dips


Stand on your log, put one leg out and behind you, dip as low as you can go. Combines balance and a strong thigh/quad/hip flexor exercise.

Calf Raise


I do a lot of these, your calves, ankles and toes are where the power in your surfing turns originates.

Run Variations
Now that we’re warmed up we’ll add variations to the beach run and increase the intensity. Try running in a wide legged stance, doing knee lifts, alternating sprints and jogging.
If you are doing these in sand, then you should run barefoot. Any kind of shoe or slipper is going to make the instability more random and can cause injuries. The sand is unstable enough without adding to the mix. On pavement, grass or hard dirt you’ll probably want good shoes. When I have to wear them, I always prefer a very light, low shoe because balance is very important to me. I want to keep working those little ankle muscles and keeping everything flexible.

High Knee Run


We also call this “Hot Sand” because it looks like you’re trying to keep both feet off the ground. Spring upwards to increase the intensity. This is a great pliometric exercise.

Side Skip


Looks simple, but do a few hundred yards of side skip in soft sand and get back to me.

Fred Astaire


Be smooth, be light on your feet, great for balance and agility, and if you up your speed it’s a real tough leg and hip workout.

Progressive Breath Hold


If you want to mitigate some of the terror of being held down by a big wave, this is a good place to start. Breath holding is as much a mental game as it is physical, and this exercise aids both. I consider it one of the most important elements of my workout. Anyone can learn to hold their breath sitting on a couch, but when you’re being spun around in the whitewater at Jaws and trying to reach the surface its a very different thing. Any wave hold-down is tough, and this exercise gives you tools to deal with it. We’ll be holding our breath for progressively longer intervals while jogging lightly.

Start by determining the number of paces per count, where a count is one inhale, the second count is one exhale. For most people doing a jog, three paces makes a good “one” count. So it’s step, step, “one” step, step, “two” with the count on the third step. We’ll start with breathing for four counts, then holding our breath for four counts. Then progress to five and five, six and six, and so on. Take two or three deep, cleaning breaths and start jogging and counting.

Here’s some tips:

  • After holding your breath go ahead and take the first breath explosively if you like, get that gasp out of your system, but then try to calm your mind and body, make your recovery breaths deep and unhurried. Relax as much as you can.
  • Relax your mind, get in as zen-like a state as you can manage. The panicky need for air is just a feeling. You can control feelings. Push it away.
  • Make your inhale breath start in your diaphragm. Push your diaphragm out as you breath, fill your chest after you fill the bottom of your lungs. Short little breaths just move air up and down your trachea–you’re not getting the oxygen you need.

When I’m getting pummeled and held down I think of the progressive breath hold run. I know if I can hold my breath for a minute while I’m jogging, then thirty seconds in the surf is easy.