I’ve been DYING to try SurfSET fitness ever since I saw it featured on Shark Tank (it’s a guilty pleasure, alright!) back in 2012. For those that don’t know, the workout uses a stationary surfboard to replicate the muscle-toning, calorie-burning workout of a real surf session without the water. Since the show aired, SurfSET has been making quite the splash (ha!) in cities like New York, LA, and Miami, but, sadly, not in Philly. Totally unfair, right?
That’s why last month, I decided to put together a fitness class wish list, hoping that Be Wellers would be able to generate some buzz around SurfSET and maybe—just maybe—help bring this workout to Philly. After the post went up, I received word that a local yogi/trainer had a SurfSET board and was offering private 45-minute sessions. They’re run by Shelsea Acoveno, a super bubbly instructor and owner of Sea Yoga. Truth be told, one-on-ones usually aren’t my scene—there’s nowhere to hide!—but for the chance to try SurfSET, I was willing to make an exception. So that’s how, last Tuesday, I found myself in an apartment complex in Roxborough. On a surfboard.
SurfSET classes actually come in four different flavors: Burn, Balance, Build and Blend, which focus on cardio, instability, resistance training, and all of the above, respectively. Shelsea, being a yoga instructor and all, decided to teach me Balance, which borrows a surprising number of yoga poses ranging from down dog to warrior. Although I haven’t been to a yoga class in a few months, I regularly went in my past, so I felt confident I would be able to quickly get the hang of it.
As soon as I stepped onto the board, I realized how wrong I was. The board was not nearly as stable as I thought it would be (think: BOSU ball on steroids), and it tipped and shook from side-to-side with even the smallest shift in body weight. The only way I could figure out how to stay on the board was by tensing all of my muscles, especially in my core. And as soon as I finally found my hard-earned center of balance, Shelsea had me switch over to the next pose.
Now, imagine trying to rapidly complete a series of asanas on a wobbly platform. You know how in a normal yoga class, if one foot lands off the side of the mat, it’s usually fine? That’s so not the case in SurfSET. In less than 10 minutes, I was sweating like I was in a 100-plus degree Bikram class, and my legs and arms were trembling. Luckily, the upbeat pop tunes were blasting, which was enough motivation to keep me going. Although it would have been fun to hear some surfer tunes to really set the mood, this was one of those rare occasions where I actually prefer Sean Kingston to the Beach Boys.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve taken a stand-up paddleboard yoga class, and this is harder. For one, the SurfSET board is a short board, whereas SUP yoga classes use long boards that tend to be more stable. With SurfSET, if you tip to one side, you have to use alllllll your muscles to recenter yourself on the board.
The routine had a lot of fun surfer moves to make me feel like I was really catching waves. Shelsea had me paddling through the “water” at the end of my board, jumping up from a lying position to stand, and then “riding the wave” by standing in a warrior-like pose and rocking back and forth as if I was shredding at Pipeline. I’m sure I looked silly doing it, but it sure made me feel like a cool surfer chick.
The class ended in Savasana. Even here, in a total relaxation pose, I couldn’t bring myself to unclench my right arm, which I was convinced was critical to maintaining my balance on the board. I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself for finishing the class, and for feeling like I was starting to get a handle on this whole surfing thing. That was until Shelsea told me that the board was set to the easy level—and that there are actual human beings who do this on intermediate and advanced settings. Whoa.
From start to finish, SurfSET was a total body workout, and an awesome one at that. I definitely felt the burn in my legs and abs for several days after (although I’m still waiting on those surfer abs to show up). If you’re interested in training for real surfing or just want to try a fun new fitness class out, I would definitely recommend SurfSET. At $45 a pop, the sessions are a bit pricey—it is a private class after all—but Shelsea is looking for studio space where she can start teaching group lessons, so this might help with the cost.
I’ve never actually surfed, but a few more of these classes may just be enough to inspire me to try some real waves.
Sea Yoga, $45 for the first session, email@example.com, 845-313-5848, vocations vary (Shelsea will come to you).