S.E.R.F. 10 Surf Nutrition Principles

       Eating well is just as important as moving well when its come to surfing (or any sport for that matter). There are so many different diets and nutritional recommendations out there. With all the different opinions, choosing a diet that works for you can be tricky. Everybody has different nutritional needs, and everybody reacts differently to all foods. Diets, and principles are guidelines to help you discover what works for you. I have spent the past 13 years researching and testing out different diets, both on myself and clients. I have come up with 10 principles that are congruent with expert opinions and my own experiences. 10 principles that most experts will agree on, despite major differences in carb/fat/protein ratio’s and food types. These principles make sense and they work. Adhered to they will change your life, whether you need to lose weight or increase performance. Kelly Slater considers his surf performance, longevity and health when choosing food, so should you. I don’t know for sure but I bet Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning still weigh the same now as the did in their early 20’s, these tips below are also relevant for weight loss and staying lean.

I am ridiculously strict with what I put in my mouth
— Kelly Slater

1. SERF: Sit, Eat Real Food. This is the most important principle for your health, and the rest just explain this one in more detail. It is simple, logical and powerful. Firstly, Sit; relax. Your nervous system needs to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode to assimilate nutrients. If you are still in ‘fight or flight’ mode then you will not optimally digest. Sit down, breath deep, relax and chew (30 x per mouthful) your food. Appreciate and savour every mouthful, away from your laptop/work. Eat Real Food; This means minimising all processed foods, eat food that will perish, but eating it before it does. i.e. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, poultry, & nuts. And sit down, relax while you eat.

2. Eat till you are satisfied, not full. If you feel ‘full’ at the end of a meal you have overdone it. Eat till you are satisfied, not full. And if you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. Sometimes we eat lunch just because its ‘lunchtime’. There is nothing wrong with skipping a meal if you are not hungry, in fact intermittent fasting actually gives your digestive system a rest and is a very healthy practice, trust your instincts.

3. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. The quality of your food matters. Organic, Biodynamic, free-range, wild, 100% grass feed, & Non GMO foods are far superior foods. The vitamin, mineral and enzyme (nutrient) density is much higher. Shop at local farmers markets.  i.e. Above ground vegetables are nutrient dense. Processed foods like bread, biscuits, rice, etc are calorie dense.

4. 85/15 Rule. Set realistic goals, It is not realistic to expect you to never eat processed foods again. As a guideline we can expect aim to eat 100% real food during the week and reward ourselves with ‘cheat meals’ during the weekend. The 85/15 ratio in real terms: If we eat 3x per day that’s 21 meals per week. So 19 of these meals are real foods only and 3 are cheat meals (for most this will be Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner). A cheat meal does not mean McD’s!! When choosing a restaurant for your ‘cheat meals’ look for ‘farm to table’ ‘organic’ and ‘grass-fed’ options.

5. Chew your food thoroughly. (needs repeating) Chewing your food is vital in ensuring proper digestion. Sit down, relax and Slow down, enjoy every mouthful. Turn off the TV, savour and appreciate your food and the people you dine with.

6. Avoid modern poisons. If you are sticking to principle No.1 then you will already be doing this. However some things need emphasising. Alcohol, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), modern breads, pasta and other wheat/grain products, trans fats,  and processed foods & drinks; limit these as much as possible, even in ‘cheat meals’. 

7. Listen to your body. There is no ‘one’ perfect diet for everybody. We are all individuals and have different nutritional needs and food intolerances. Listen to your body. How do you feel after eating a certain food? Stomach cramps after eating stone fruit, bloating after consuming dairy products are examples that your body may not tolerate that food very well. We also need to respect our circadian/hormonal rhythms and eat appropriately, we all know a large heavy meal can chill us out and make you sleepy so save that meal for dinner. Keep breakfast and lunch light and easy to digest.

8. Eat more vegetables than meat. Never eat a portion of meat or fish larger than the size of your palm (hand without fingers), this is about 200-250 grams. You simply cannot digest anymore than this in one meal. Fill up on lots of above ground vegetables, and a small portion of underground veggie e.g. sweet potato, beetroot. In fact you can eat as many unprocessed above ground vegetables as you like! Practical example would be one 3rd of your dinner plate meat or fish, and two 3rd’s above ground vegetables or salad, and a side of underground veggies.

9. Don’t be scared of fat. Fat is an important nutrient. It’s ok to choose the ‘fatty’ cut of meat, to add some olive oil to your salad, or to add some animal lard, ghee or coconut oil to you stir fry. Its more about the ‘quality’ of the fat that you are eating. The fat from a 100% grass-fed animal or wild fish is healthy, and essential. The fat from a grain-fed, antibiotic injected animal is toxic!!! Choose carefully. As for oils, choose grass-fed butter (ghee is better), raw organic coconut oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, grass suet or lard for cooking &olive oil, flaxseed, hempseed and chia seed oils are high in omega 3’s & are great on salads. Avoid canola, cheap butter, cottonseed, rice bran, corn and ‘vegetable’ oils!

10. Balance, moderation & variety. No one food (e.g. red meat, spinach) should be over-eaten or eaten every day. Avoid having the same chicken salad for lunch every day, variety and moderation is important. It is also wise to eat seasonally. A rotation diet is another great way to keep your diet varied.

Eat a balanced, whole food – ‘real food’ diet.

For more detailed info and recipes check out:  https://thepaleoway.com/


1. The pre-surf warm up is VERY important.  If you jumped out of the car and went straight into a 60m sprint you wouldn’t expect to get a good time, and you also put yourself at risk for injury. And just like sprinting, performance surfing is very demanding. The athlete is putting all their strength and power into a 3-12 sec burst of energy. So the warm up should be taken very seriously. In all other sports the athlete spends plenty of time loosening and warming up the body, and surfing should be no different. A 5 min warm up prepares the body for the explosive power and speed needed for performance surfing. The goal of the warm up is to: 1, Oxygenate the blood and send it to the muscles. 2, Lubricate and prep joints. 3, Fire up the nervous system to enhance balance and reaction time. 4, Improve body and spatial awareness.

The warm up needs to be full body and dynamic. Do NOT static stretch, static stretching is for the cool down. Here is an example of a good warm up: Surf Warm Up

2. Nutrition is the foundation of human health and performance.

“I am ridiculously strict with what I put in my mouth” Kelly Slater.

You don’t put diesel in a race car, treat your body like a race car and use the best quality fuel.

Sports nutrition is a huge topic, but here are some tips to get you started: Surf Nutrition Principles


3. Physical training other than surfing is a must.

Even in sports like Golf and Tennis where you can practice whenever you want, we see athletes training in gyms. Training for surfing is even more important because the conditions vary so much.

The forces that go through your body during a fast bottom turn on a 6-8 ft wave are huge (3-5 your body-weight). But its not always 6-8ft so we need to be making sure our athletes are prepared for those days. The top level surf athlete must be able to feel just as confident in heavy 8ft as they are in glassy 3-4ft – and that requires training. Mick, Joel, Kelly, Taj, Dorian… all the top guys train.

It doesn’t need to be much, 3 x 45min workouts per week is plenty, but it needs to be surf-specific, and it needs to be intense. A CrossFit workout or a Fitness First PT session is better than nothing, but if you are going to train for surfing then keep it surf specific and keep it safe.

Are you surf fit? Click here

Surfing requires very specific mobility and strength, surf training should be improving both, as well as preventing common surf niggles; surfers shoulder, surfers knee, ankle sprains and lower back pain etc. I run surf-specific group classes and One on One Surf Training here on Sydney’s northern beaches. Contact me here


This workout is for surfers who are new to training –

First warm up:

10 Head rotations (5 each way)
10 Shoulder rolls (5 each way)
10 Right Wrist circles (5 each way)
10 Left Wrist circles (5 each way)
10 Lateral bends (5 each way)
10 Gentle Twists (5 each way)
10 Hula’s (5each way)
10 Knee-chest (5 each side)
10 Right Ankle circles (5 each way)
10 Left Ankle circle (5 each way)
10 Layback 90-90 switches (5 each side)
10 Cat – Cows
5 Push-ups (from knees)
10 Deep squats
10 Side lunges (5 to each side)
10 Dynamic twists
10 Toe touches
30 sec’s of skipping/running on the spot.


The 10 min Workout:

1. Strict Squats – 10 reps – Keep back straight and knees wide.
2. Surf Push-ups – 8 reps –
4. Knee to opposite Elbow (from Plank position) 8 controlled reps (4 each side)
5. Side Lunges – 10 reps each side
6. WYW’s – 8 controlled reps
7. Curtsy Lunges – 10 reps each side
8. Scorpion Plank – 8 controlled reps
9. Deep Squats – 10 reps
10. Alternating – Pop-up Burpees
1 min rest: Balance for 30 sec on each leg.

Repeat  3 times

Video: (part 1)