Surfing vs Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Better Body Workout?

It seems no study has yet been published to compare surfing and stand up paddle boarding in terms of muscles worked out and calories burnt. Either way, training for these activities can be strenuous. So let’s look at the muscles that they work out.


Surfing is more like an arm activity. It demands a huge deal of work from your biceps, triceps, and deltoids–the major muscles involved. This is true especially when you’re lying on the board, in which case you don’t put a lot of action on your torso and legs. However, muscular dynamics change when you’re standing on the board. In this case, almost your entire body is doing work. Take note that standing on a surf board requires a great deal of balance. This puts a great deal of work on your core muscles–not just the abs but the entire group of muscles surrounding your midsection. That includes your back and lateral muscles as well.

The gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quads, and calves are also doing a lot of work when you’re balancing yourself on an unstable short board atop the waves. Turning the board again recruits the abs and the obliques as well as the arms and the deltoids. At the same time, your heart is working hard to keep you up. Eventually, this makes surfing an ideal fat burning and muscle toning exercise.

Stand up paddle boarding

SUP can be a barely demanding recreational activity or a strenuous physical exercise depending on the conditions of the water. So it seems it doesn’t make sense to compare surfing to SUP, because either can be just relaxing or physically demanding depending on what you’re doing. However, there are instances wherein stand up paddling requires a great deal of muscular work.

SUP boards are bigger than surfboards, but you can actually use an iSUP for surfing. That means two things. If you’re paddling quietly on a calm lake, then it’s just a but core workout for balance and a bit of arm work. The bigger board affords you of greater buoyancy. However, the size is also a detriment when it comes to maneuvering on rough waters. It’s easy to move a surfboard through the waves than to maneuver a SUP board on rough waves. It requires a greater deal of effort and muscular work. This means that you have to be really more robust when you’re SUP than when you’re surfing on waves.

Then again, you’re basically just training the same muscles–core, arms, thighs, and legs. How does SUP train your muscles. It works out your lats when you bring your arms closer to your body when you’re paddling. It works the deltoids when you raise your arms. The arm motions you do when paddling also trains your triceps and pecs. Not to mention, balancing your body on the board recruits the core, thigh, and leg muscles. However, the latter two do far greater work at maneuvering the board over the water.

Stand up paddle boarding seems the winner in this case, but you have to be physically built for this. Untrained SUP boarders have caused accidents on surfers because they could poorly control their boards. So if you decide that SUP is the way to go for you, check out some of the reviews before buying your board.

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