Nathan Florence Explains His Offseason Training Routine for Surf Season

To be voted as the best amongst your peers and fans in any given year, no matter your sport means you’re doing something amazing. For surfer Nathan Florence, that’s exactly what the last couple of years for him entailed. Earlier this year, he was named the 2023 Stab Surfer of the Year. The honor was a true recognition of his quest to chase and surf the biggest waves he could find while taking a fan base along through every part of his pursuit.


Being based in Hawaii, is it great surfing weather year-round?

Hawaii is super seasonal —not weather-wise — but as far as the surf, the swell, and the storm systems. In the winter, it’s just big waves — huge and dangerous shorelines. If we’re in the water, we’re probably going to be surfing. In the summer, it’s just flat as a lake and the complete opposite. It’s really strange because I’ve traveled the world and seen how other places work. We have no tides here really. Our tides are within a foot of each other. Whereas, you go to Europe and you might have a 10-15 foot tidal difference.

In the wintertime, when I’m surfing a lot more actively, it’s just gym work, I try to get in. For me, that’s trying to balance the imbalances that surfing causes. You are standing in a specific direction, and you’re surfing in a specific direction. You do that long enough, and your back and hips will get imbalanced. I find like the gym stuff supplements that and help cure some of those imbalances,

With your traveling schedule, how do you take care of your body throughout the year?

I involved strength training and that’s just like low rep, higher weight, and priority on form. In my head, I’m telling myself let’s make sure all structural tissues are strong because if I go on a big wave, I don’t want things to be coming apart or pulled around in different directions. I have a 10-foot board that weighs 25 pounds pulling on my leg in a 30-foot wave scenario. I want my structural ligaments and tissues to be strong. I don’t do much of benching. People joke about it in my gym, because my bench is so bad and

I’m great at deadlifts, squats, and the overhead press I like to do to keep the shoulders strong.

It’s also about keeping your engine strong. Surfing is so much cardio, and you do build a great base just from surfing alone.

But you can 100% supplement that engine by cycling. We do a ton of cycling. I found that to be great for endurance. I don’t run as much, but I do some trail stuff, and some rocking with the weight vest. I love the erg machines, —the skier, biker, and the rower. We involve a ton of that stuff because you want to have that lung capacity, and you want your body to be able to fight off that lactic acid as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Because of what we’re doing in the water, you often don’t have a calm gym setting. Maybe you fall down on a wave, and you have 15 seconds before the next wave hits. It’s not a controlled setting. We have something that we call two-wave hold downs, where you fall and the wave doesn’t allow you to come up, and you can catch another wave on the head. Then you’re looking at a 30-second hold down. Doesn’t sound like much on land, but when you’re actively struggling, pushing, and losing the oxygen, it feels like an hour down there.

I do a lot of endurance and strength training. I call the strength work prehab because I feel like it’s injury prevention. Then, just keep that engine primed for when you do get into those sticky scenarios, and all of a sudden your leash breaks, and you’ve got a long swim back to shore. I love having the confidence I can make that swim if it happens.

How big of an honor was it to be named the Stab Surfer of the Year?

It was huge for me because I put so much into the last two years. There are different sides of surfing. There’s the competitive surfing, which is like chasing the tour and there’s this other side, which is the big-wave stuff. That’s chasing the biggest heaviest waves. The ones that break on the shallowest ledges with the most water — we call them heavy water waves — are the most dangerous waves in the world.

I said no one’s doing this and I want to just go spend this entire year looking for the heaviest waves in the world, see every swell, chase every swell, and push myself at every swell. I want to push the limit of what humans can do in the water for the younger generation. So when I’m old, they’re making what I did look easy and doing the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen. I took that year, spent all my money traveling all around the world and it just paid off in dividends.

I had the best year of my life in my surf career. I pushed my limits, which was the most rewarding thing, and then was fortunate enough. The award was a peer and fan-voted thing and I won it. I just feel blessed.

There’s an element of danger in your sport. What is your relationship with fear to be able to not focus on what could happen and instead lock on what you want to happen?

You would think it was a lack of fear, but I feel like I’m more nervous and afraid than anyone. Maybe, that’s because I know I’m going to go out and put myself in this situation on purpose, and that brings on even more fear. It’s almost like when you know you have the talent to put yourself there, it gets scarier because you know you have to. I’m more afraid of disappointing myself and not going on that one that I knew I could make.

I’m more afraid of that feeling of disappointment in myself than I am afraid of what the wave of it can do to me. I’m afraid. I lose sleep over it because I don’t want to die. I just have that belief that I think I can push the limit and I think I could change the game with this. If I don’t, I’m going to be so disappointed in myself and the fear of that disappointment is greater than the fear of that situation.

I’m very comfortable in this situation as far as my ability because I grew up in the ocean. I see a lot of things others might not see because of how they grew up. I know where to sit, and where the reef bends. I know where it’s most shallow, where the rip current is. I know how to get out and in safely. That stuff does play a part in it and just allows me to push the limit even further.

Follow Nathan on Instagram @nathan_florence

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