3 Common Surfing Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Back

two people walking in the water with surfboards surfing

two people walking in the water with surfboards surfing

Do you love catching waves but worry about the toll surfing might take on your back? Surfing is a fun summer activity that offers an incredible workout, but it also poses some unique challenges to your back health. As a physical therapist, I often see surfers who experience back pain due to common mistakes in their technique and preparation.

In this blog, we’ll explore three common surfing mistakes that can hurt your back and provide practical solutions to help you avoid them. Let’s dive in and discover how to surf smart and stay pain-free!

More Posts Like This From Intecore Physical Therapy:

Beach Running 101: 7 Tips for a Safe and Effective Workout

Runners Knee Stretches: Top 5 Stretches Every Runner Needs to Know

Why Regular Body Maintenance is Crucial for Long-Term Health

Mistake 1: Incorrect Paddling Technique

woman paddling and surfing

One of the most common mistakes I see surfers make, is incorrect paddling technique which can put a lot of strain on your back muscles. When you paddle incorrectly, you risk overworking certain muscles and neglecting others, leading to imbalance and pain.

Many surfers make the mistake of arching their back excessively while paddling, which can compress the spine and cause discomfort. Another common error is using only the arms to paddle instead of engaging the core muscles. This not only tires out your arms quickly but also fails to support your back properly, leading to muscle strain and potential long-term issues like chronic back pain or injuries.

Mistake 2: Poor Posture When Sitting on the Board

Sitting on your surfboard with poor posture can lead to significant back pain. Whether you’re waiting for the next wave or just taking a break, how you sit on the board matters.

Common posture issues include slouching or leaning too far forward or backward. When you slouch, you compress your spine, which can lead to discomfort and long-term damage. Leaning too far forward or backward can also strain the muscles in your back, causing pain and reducing your stability on the board.

To maintain proper posture while sitting on the board, follow these tips:

  • Keep Your Back Straight: Try to keep your spine in a neutral position without slouching. Imagine a string pulling the top of your head towards the sky to help you sit up straight.
  • Distribute Your Weight Evenly: Sit so that your weight is balanced evenly on the board. Avoid leaning too far in any direction.
  • Engage Your Core: Just like when paddling, use your core muscles to support your posture. This will help take some of the load off your back.

Mistake 3: Inadequate Warm-Up and Stretching

One of the biggest mistakes surfers make is skipping the warm-up and stretching routine before hitting the waves. Warm-ups and stretches are vital for preparing your body for the physical demands of surfing and preventing injuries, including back pain.

Jumping straight into surfing without a proper warm-up can leave your muscles stiff and unprepared for the intense activity. This can lead to muscle stiffness and increase the risk of strains and sprains, particularly in your back.

Here are some tips for surfing warm-ups:

  • Start with Dynamic Stretches: Begin your warm-up with dynamic stretches to get your blood flowing and muscles ready for action. Examples include leg swings, arm circles, and torso twists.
  • Focus on the Back and Core: Include stretches that target the back and core muscles. Try cat-cow stretches, gentle twists, and pelvic tilts to loosen up these areas.
  • Include Mobility Exercises: Incorporate mobility exercises like hip circles and ankle rolls to improve overall flexibility and joint mobility.
  • Finish with Static Stretches: After your surf session, cool down with static stretches to help your muscles recover. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, focusing on areas like the hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back.


Surfing is an incredible sport that offers a ton of physical benefits, but it’s essential to avoid common mistakes so you don’t get back pain that stops you from enjoying it!

By paying attention to your paddling technique, maintaining good posture on the board, and committing to a thorough warm-up and stretching routine, you can protect your back and enjoy your time in the water.

Remember, taking care of your back is crucial for your surfing performance and overall well-being.

If you have any persistent pain or concerns – we’re here to help you stay active and healthy while enjoying the sport you love!

Get in touch today to get the help you need. Call us now: 949-569-5742 or visit here to schedule an appointment.

Andrew Vertson

You Might Also Like...