Pilates for Athletes: Surfing Edition

by Anna Merkel, PT, DPT

Welcome to the first post in our blog series Pilates for Athletes! As a physical therapist, one of my favorite things about Pilates is how functional the exercises are for a variety of people and activities. I enlisted the help of my husband, Weston, to highlight a few Pilates exercises that are great for anyone who loves being in the water as much as he does. 

We’ll start with Pulling Straps on the Reformer. This exercise helps build strength and endurance for paddling. As Weston pulls the straps back against resistance, the carriage moves forward, mimicking a surfboard gliding through the water. 



Next up is Swan on the Chair. Surfers need good thoracic extension, or backward bending in the upper back, so they can look ahead without placing too much stress through the neck and low back as they paddle. Weston is demonstrating a variation with spinal rotation, which is necessary to look back as he paddles to catch a wave. 



Finally we have one of my favorites, the Standing Series on the Reformer. This exercise requires balance, core control, and a hefty dose of courage! Weston is maintaining a squat with his weight on the moving carriage as he presses away with his other foot. The movement of the carriage challenges balance and hip stability, much like a surfboard. 






As you can see, Pilates is perfect for surfers, whether you’re rehabbing from an injury or want to make sure you’re in top condition for the upcoming hurricane season. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned surfer or just married to one, Pilates can be adapted to help anyone live their life with spontaneous zest and pleasure!