On a layover in NYC a while ago I already figured out that NY offers waves. Where there are waves, you can usually find surfers, but I honestly did not expect that in the city that never sleeps there would be such a strong surf community. It’s a city that is famous for it’s rush, but also for its glamour and magical atmosphere. I can never forget the woman who changed out of a wetsuit into heels, a blazer, and a pencil skirt. Maybe that’s the reason why the surfers in New York City are a special bunch.
To be honest, Surfing in NY is completely different to Surfing in a place that’s famous for it’s waves. To surf in NY means effort. You must really want to surf, and you must really love the waves if you decide to surf in NY. The closest spot to the city I have been to is Rockaway Beach, which is part of Long Island. It’s a long crowded subway ride from downtown Manhattan. On some days you emerge to find world class barreling waves, but, on many other days, the ocean does its best impression of a lake.
Maybe it was days like those that let Diana and her husband Aaron, the owners of Surfset NYC, think about a way to also work on their surf skills when the ocean is flat. I stumbled upon Surfset when looking online for workouts to do on layover in NYC. After hearing about it, I had to find out about the true reasons for them creating workouts with Surfset in New York City of all places. I was in the city on a flat day, so I was super stoked that I had the time to join Diana for a workout on one of the roofs overlooking the beautiful city of New York. I was puzzled to imagine how a land workout on a stationary surfboard should improve my surf skills, and a workout that gives me at least a little bit the feeling that I am surfing. I was very pleasantly surprised!
I was already there, so I used my chance and asked her for an interview. I figured she could explain it best:
Diana, Aaron, I guess we have the same passion? Since when do you guys surf and how often do you really get to surf living in a city like NYC?
"I learned to surf when I was about 13 years old. I had cousins in San Diego that taught me to surf! Aaron learned to surf when he was in university and studied abroad in Australia.
There is actually a great surfing community in NYC. Aaron will surf all year (even during the winter!), but I normally surf from about May – November. We love to surf in Long Beach, NY, the Jersey Shore and in Montauk. We try to go surfing at least once per week, but since we’ve been running our own business, we usually get out about every other week."
For those out there that don’t know yet: What exactly is SURFSET NYC?
"Aaron and I are the owners of SURFSET NYC, a surf-inspired fitness business. Our workouts are equal parts challenging & fun!
For our SURF classes, we use land-based, unstable surfboards to mimic the challenges of being on water. We offer everything from interval-based SURF Blend & Burn classes that combine elements of cardio, strength and balance training in a workout sure to leave you drenched in salt water (aka sweat!) to SURF Strength & Yoga classes that bring the strength and challenges of SUP Yoga to land!
Our new SHORE classes are everything but a "day at the beach." We do mat-based classes that still focus on building the muscles and skills surfers need with everything from yoga classes to circuit-based workouts that incorporate volleyballs, sandbags & towels.
We have a studio in the East Village (downtown Manhattan), and we have several pop-up locations around the city! We’ll be teaching outdoor rooftop classes at Arlo SoHo through the end of October!"
What is the idea behind a workout like Surfset? Was a flat day really the initiator for the idea of Surfset NYC?
"We’re really inspired by surfing – the physical, mental and emotional challenges and joys of the sport! We wanted NYers to experience that whether they are surfers are not!
While the Atlantic Ocean is close and accessible by public transportation, we know a lot of NY surfers may not be able to get out in the water as often as they would like and non-surfers may be unable to try the sport. We try to make surfing more accessible and less intimidating whether you want to surf in the ocean or experience the inspiration behind the sport in our fitness classes."
I saw it by myself. You are super fit and super trained. Does Surfset also help your surf skills? If so, what translates the most to surfing?
"Thank you so much! You are really strong too! We loved having you in class!
SURFSET NYC has really helped my surfing! It helped me really build my upper body strength, which helps with paddling. Everything we do on the unstable surfboard builds a lot of core strength and control, which is crucial for surfing. My balance is better than ever from working out on our unstable surfboards.
In addition to building strength that surfers need, we also focus on a lot of surfing technique. It is so important to practice pop-ups on land before you surf in the ocean. Our surfboards at SURFSET NYC are amazing because they give you feedback into any misalignments or instabilities you may have. For surfers, it helps to correct these misalignments and improve pop-up form and for non-surfers it helps with body alignment, which is important for everyday life!
You will increase your stability, enhance your cardio capabilities and strengthen your body (especially core) in the most effective, functional ways possible."
What is the most important part of the workout? Is it the strength or is it really more about the balance? Or maybe a healthy mix of both?
"Both strength and balance are so important! Our workouts are so unique because we combine cardio and strength on an unstable surface. Balance and stability are the foundations of our workout. It’s not just about balance in a controlled environment. We focus on building stability and discovering how to find your own personal balance points in an unstable, ever changing environment. Once you build your stability, then we really focus on building strength in your whole body (especially core!)."
Do you get more surfers or more non-surfers? Does it ever inspire the non-surfers to become surfers after trying this?
"About 25% of our clients are experienced surfers, about 50% are beginners or people that would like to learn to surf and about 25% of our clients are non-surfers (that might not know how to swim), but are looking for a fun, total-body workout.
We do inspire a lot of non-surfers to become surfers! We’re really excited and proud to inspire people to try something new or build the confidence to try a sport that they always wanted to try. We do Epic Beach Day surf retreats in the summer where many beginners try surfing for the first time! We partner with our favorite surf school – Skudin Surf – in Long Beach, NY. They’re also a family business, and the owners are world class, big wave surfers! Epic Beach Days are some of our favorite days of the year!"
Okay and one last question: What do you recommend somebody who might be landlocked and doesn’t have the chance to join a workout like Surfset? Is there any exercise he or she could do to improve their surf skills?
"Yes! The SURFSET workout is really for everyone! We teach classes for surfers and non-surfers alike to people from age 2-86! You can find us at www.surfsetnyc.com and @surfsetnyc
To improve surfing skills, practice pop-ups on the ground, build core strength and enhance your balance. Follow us on Instagram (@surfsetnyc) for more surfing inspiration and exercises!"
I want to say thank you to Diana and Aaron for that great interview and thank you that I was able to experience such an amazing workout. I really want to make it clear that this wasn’t a collaboration. I found them on Google after I was looking for a fun workout for my layover, and I paid for it by myself. It blew away my expectations, and, since I liked it so much, I really wanted to share my experience with you guys. Check out the hype for yourself and tell me what you think!