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CrossFit For Board Sports

How CrossFit can help you improve your endurance, stamina and ability on a board.

In 2002, Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, summarized world class fitness in 100 words in a CrossFit Journal article.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.

 I am going to focus on the last sentence of Glassman’s summary. CrossFit encourages athletes to regularly try new things, and to constantly throw themselves into unknown situations. This ability to be prepared for anything, is extremely important with regards to all board sports, from skateboarding to surfing and from wakeboarding to snowboarding. We cannot conjure the perfect wave, or set a ramp perfectly every time and we cannot choose the conditions of the slopes. For this reason, as a board sport athlete we need to be prepared for it all. We need to be able to ride when conditions aren’t perfect, to tackle that unexpected monster wave, to get up after we fall and to feel ready for anything.

One of CrossFit’s most notorious quotes is “our specialty is not specializing”. Many athletes, whose main goal is specialization, read this quote and think that CrossFit simply cannot be for them. This is however, far from the truth. By avoiding specialization CrossFit aims to prepare their athletes for any physical task they are faced with. This notion of needing a foundation of fitness, a non-specialized training program, is often referred to as general physical preparedness (GPP). GPP benefits the regular fitness enthusiast and can also support the expert who is seeking to improve in a specific area.  Developing a strong ability across all domains of fitness will not only aid a non-competitive person in daily activity, but also build a strong foundation for the competitive athlete. 

So, What Is CrossFit?

“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more.” 

For board sport athletes who want to remain fit and avoid injury, it is crucial to train outside of your sport. The majority of board sports are considered high-risk sports and so come with a high risk of injury. Another important element of board sports is that, for the most part, they are seasonal. Especially for those living in colder (or warmer if we are discussing snowboarding) climates, there are short riding seasons, which in turn, allows for more off-season training. If you want to boost your upcoming season, feel stronger, have more endurance, more balance, agility and even flexibility, CrossFit can help you with all of this!


So, How Exactly Can It Help?

Range of Motion

Range of Motion is defined as the full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension.

Why is Range of Motion (ROM) so important? The human body is designed to move its joints through their full range. However, as we get older (notice children tend to have flawless ROM) we sometimes lose some of our natural ROM, which can happen for numerous reasons: from training regimens to lack of training. Consequently, joints and limbs become accustomed to this limited ROM which can lead to restricted mobility. CrossFit utilizes many compound movements that work through this full range of motion. These movements engage every joint in your body in a correct manner, reducing your chances of injury. Applying a full ROM also increases the efficiency of your movements and working through a full range of motion will have positive effects on both performance and results.

An added benefit of training through your full range is that it increases your flexibility while moving. Flexibility is another key component for injury prevention as it allows your body to be pushed further within a safe range.

Core Strength

What do we actually mean by “core strength”? In spite of what most people are led to believe, your core is comprised of much more than just your abs. Your core is a complex series of muscles that include more or less everything but your arms and legs. The role of the core muscles is to stabilize the spine along the entire torso, from your pelvic girdle all the way up to your shoulders. These muscles are responsible for almost every move we make on a board. Pro wakeboarder and crossfitter Rusty Malinoski explains that “when they are engaged, they transfer power to the extremities and distribute any stress on the spine that may be caused by weight-bearing impacts…your core basically keeps you all together.”

Reaction Time

Responsiveness is a crucial component for all board sports. It is this increased reaction time that will make you light and fast on your feet, be able to pop up quickly, pass the handle with ease and so on. Reaction time itself is an inherent skill, but general response time can be enhanced by practice. The notion behind this form of training blends strength and endurance training. The goal is to avoid maxing yourself out in weight or reps but to find a good middle ground at a steady rate. CrossFit workouts are designed to increase your speed and reaction times.


Power is defined as the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. Power is a tremendously important element of all board sports. Power allows you to pop off the wake and maintain position throughout a trick, to catch a wave, and to hit a ramp or a vert. CrossFit is a sport which hones in on the importance of power with the aim of increasing your power output.


Increased endurance is beneficial for any sport, but can be particularly useful for board sports. Surfing for extended periods of time, riding behind a boat with a big wake, skating on ramps and hitting rails all require full body endurance. It is therefore important to include some endurance training in your off season. One of the best methods is interval training: many board sports require stretches of explosive energy output, in combination with bouts of lower energy output. Interval training mimics this perfectly and is the backbone of CrossFit.

Speaking from personal experience, since I started CrossFit (a little over a year ago) I have found that both my physical and mental strength have increased exponentially on a wakeboard. I tore my ACL while wakeboarding a couple of years ago and during my recovery period I set myself a number of goals. The first thing on my list of goals was to get back on my wakeboard. Many people thought I was crazy, but I had to prove to myself that I would not let an injury take me down. Whilst doing my rehab and reading a lot about injury and injury prevention I became very intrigued by CrossFit and the physical and mental resolve that defines many of the athletes. I have not looked back since, and I encourage every board sport athlete to try CrossFit and to make sure that you are doing some off season training.


Sample Workout

Warm up and mobility exercises.
Complete the following:
5 – 10 – 15 – 10 – 5 reps of:
Air Squats
Dead LiftsIn between each round hold a plank for 1 minute.

Run 400M Rest 2minutes
Run 200M Rest 1 minute
Run 400M Rest 2minutes
Run 200M

Cardio Surge Energy

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