New ‘surfing' fitness regime hits Singapore

Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in the world of cars and motorsports. She is equally enthusiastic about health and fitness and is always on the lookout for the latest workout trends. More of her at and on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (cheryltay11).

You can’t really go surfing on the tiny waves that roll into Singapore’s beaches, so for local enthusiasts, the solution is a Bali getaway to revive those lean, mean six-pack abs that hardcore surfers boast.

Enter Surfset Singapore – a pioneering, unique fitness programme inspired by surfing and stand-up-paddling, where one does exercises on an actual six-foot-long surfboard perched 11 inches off the ground.

The concept, first launched in the US in 2011 by former professional hockey player Mike Hartwick, mimics a surfboard’s movement on water, complete with side-to-side motions. The result is a total body workout that improves balance, core strength and cardio capacity while toning your muscles.

Because the boards are unstable, you’ll find yourself struggling just to execute moves that are simple to do on flat ground. But this instability is controlled by springs of varying levels so those who have balance issues or lower fitness levels need not worry.

Basically, you don’t have to be interested in surfing to attend Surfset classes – you just have to be interested in training the same muscles as a surfer’s, minus the sun, sand and sea.

‘A good sweat’

I attended a Surfset class which focuses primarily on core strength, thus there were lots of Pilates-inspired as well as traditional compound body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches and even Downward Dog.

It’s definitely no walk in the park – I couldn’t stand up from a lunge without losing my balance, and spent some time getting used to it. I worked out a good sweat just from struggling to keep balance.

Beginners are required to attend the Balance class first, to get introduced to the board and learn how to control it. Then there is the Sweat class, conducted at a fast pace to produce that high intensity workout you so desire.

Each class is 45 minutes long and membership so far has ranged from 20 to 60 years old.

Better than Pilates?

Melissa Goh, Surfset Singapore’s founder and instructor, started out by ordering the equipment for herself to try.

“I was very convinced that it would work, so I brought it in for personal use, and I realised how it really works the core a lot,” said Goh, who was previously a Pilates instructor. “In Pilates we always encourage people to activate their core but they don’t feel it as much as you would feel it on the boards here.”

“In fact, working out on this board has strengthened me more than Pilates did, thus I decided to open a specific studio for it here,” she added.

Quick tip: the key is to remain calm on the board and not have any sudden, jerky movements as that might cause you to lose balance. Now go get that awesome surfer’s body!

Surfset Singapore is located at 454B Joo Chiat Road. A single class costs S$35 or you can choose a package of 10 sessions for S$310.