What can you do when there’s just no waves? Or if you’re stuck in land between surf trips? One of the best ways to maintain your surf level is to incorporate a Balance Board into your fitness regime. Surf Practice at home with a Balance Board can improve your strength, stability, mobility and coordination. Balance Boards are relatively easy to store and can be used on almost any flat surface.
In this article we will cover what a Balance Board is and give you some of our top Surf Exercises on a Balance Board. This is one of the easiest fitness tools to make yourself. As such, we’ve also included tips for How To Make Your Own Balance Board.
What is a Balance Board?
A Balance Board is commonly used for recreation, balance training, athletic training and muscle memory.
It is basically a lever board, similar to a see-saw, that the user stands on with the front and back foot at opposite ends of the board, like a Surfboard. The challenge is to stay balanced enough to keep the board’s edges from touching the ground and from falling off.
There are a few different designs of Balance Board. The difference between each is how unstable they are, in how many and in which ways the board turns and/or sways and how its fulcrum contacts the board and the ground.
The user stands on a board which is usually longer than it is wide, with curved corners. This board sits on top of a fulcrum, a pivot point or axis. The height of the fulcrum is typically between 3 and 6 inches. Due to the fulcrum’s instability, you must remain balanced to stop the board from touching the ground.
Using a balance board exercises the parts of the body that implement the act of balancing (toes, soles, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, arms and neck) and the parts of the brain that create the sense of balance (inner ears, cerebellum, proprioceptors and eyes).
The board can move in various dimensions: sliding, pivoting, rotating, tilting, rolling or some combination of these. The speed of the board changes depending on the shape and size of the fulcrum, whether it is attached to or constrained by to the board.
The board should have a rough surface to give you some traction underfoot. If your board is wood is should be left unvarnished and unpolished. If it’s plastic you can use some grip tape or even leftover surf wax.
Types of Balance Boards for Surfers
A few of the more popular brands are described here to demonstrate some different Balance Board design types.
‘Indo’ Rocker Board
The Indo Rocker Board has a cylindrical fulcrum and a pill shaped board. This design allows you to exercise on an unstable surface and improve your balance on the surfboard. This design is the most common, and also the easiest to make yourself at home. But if you prefer to just buy one you can find them available at most big surf shops or online.
The motion on the Indo Rocker Board isn’t used too often by the average surfer while on a wave. For most surfers, the benefit will come from strength and balance development. The ability to make steady movements while remaining in control is what we are training with this type of Balance Board.
Fitness Cushion + Board
This design is great for doing push-ups, pop ups, squats or any sort of weight training. It’s also great for improving your balance in rotation, as well as in compression/expansion and front/back weight control. We will discuss this further in the Exercises section of this article. You can also adjust the air pressure in your cushion to make it more or less unstable.
Rocker – Roller Board
This balance trainer is on a guided track with a small roller, the “rock”. This trainer is not surfing specific but benefits all board riders, especially skaters & snowboarders.
The roller has a different form in different models. Some are a cylinder and some are a cylinder in their midsection that tapers toward the two ends.
The Rocker – Rollers greatest strength is its trick ability. Search the videos online to see what can be done. Because of the trick capability, it is almost an entirely new sport with lots of room for creativity. Fun to use and an excellent tool for developing strength and coordination.
The GoofBoard pivots heel to toe, instead of front to back. The bottom of the board has guards on either rail to make sure the board does not shoot out from under you.
This Balance Board mimics surfing down the line, and is an excellent option for Longboarders. We say this because of the ability to practice cross stepping and other down-the-line maneuvers. Training on this board helps stimulate the small twitch muscles in your legs that you use in the water.
The GoofBoard is a relatively large Balance Board which makes it great for practicing footwork but limits options as a multipurpose trainer.
The SurfZone is lifted on a hard plastic half sphere. You must apply complete balance to stay on. It is more challenging to balance than any other model.
You can mimic this design at home by placing a board on top of a Bosu Ball. If you already have a Bosu Ball, this is a great tool to use in your homemade Balance Board. Use the Bosu Ball as your fulcrum and a skimboard, bodyboard or broken surfboard as your board.
Surf Exercises on a Balance Board
The exercises you can develop will vary depending on the type of Balance Board you choose, and of course your Surf Level.
Beginners – Balance and Strength
Maintaining your Center of Gravity is one of the first challenges in surfing. Beginners can use a Balance Board to improve control over their Center of Gravity and to work on Compression and Expansion.
- Begin by maintaining balance on your board, with a soft bed in the knees and arms extended lightly in front of you. It can help to find a fixed point in front of you to watch, preferably at eye level.
- Once you can remain stable for an extended period, begin to work on your Compression and Expansion. Bend your knees to compress, straighten to expand. How low can you go while maintaining your balance? Keep practicing daily and after a few weeks you should see a big improvement in your balance and control.
How To Make Your Own Balance Board
Brand name Indo or Balance Boards can cost over €100. But the design and function is so simple that you can easily make your own at home for less than half the price. Here are some hints and ideas for two different Balance Board designs:
This is the simpler of the two because it just entails buying two different bits and using them together. This is possibly a bit more expensive.
- Fitness Cushion (1 or 2)
- Skimboard, Bodyboard or an old or broken Surfboard
Basically, you just put the Board of your choice on top of the Fitness Cushion, and go! Skimboards and Bodyboards are very cheap to buy at beach stores or second hand online. If your board has a slippery deck, it’s a good idea to apply some wax, or to use this without socks to avoid slipping.
If you have 2 Fitness Cushions, you can place one at the front and one at the back of your board to create an axis. Use this set up to practice maneuvers like bottom turns, top turns, cut backs and landing floaters.
This is a nice option because both parts can also be used individually for fitness (cushion) or fun (skimboard). You may even already have some of these materials in your garage.
This is a little more DIY and requires some tools, at the very least a hand saw. Some sandpaper would also be useful to clean the edges. If you have access to a table saw and power sander the job will be much quicker.
- Plyboard 760mm x 470mm (optional – check various board dimensions and consider your own weight)
- PVC tubing 4 or 6inch diameter and 500mm length
- Cork Sheet with Adhesive Backing
- Hand or Table Saw
- Sand paper or Hand Sander
The first step is to round the corners of the board. Draw the profile you’d like, to create a more pill shape, or egg shape. Once you’ve settled on a profile you like, cut the corners and sand the edges.
Next, work on your roller. The Cork Sheet is the material we’ve chosen to create the necessary friction between the plastic PVC roller and the board. This is necessary, otherwise the board will too easily slip on the roller. For simplicity sake, we wrapped the entire PVC roller with the Cork Sheet. Again, you can use a little creativity here, for example, by creating stripes of cork tape around the roller. These should go around the roller, as opposed to along the length of it.
Find lots more ideas on our Pinterest Board for BALANCE BOARDS.