Exhale at Revel's Surf-Inspired Fitness

by kristin detterline | May 20, 2013 | Past Events

I’ve only tried surfing once in my life. “Try” is the key word here: A friend and I randomly decided to shake things up during a weekend away at the Jersey Shore with a private surfing lesson a few years ago. After 45 minutes of muddling through the basics—popping up, paddling, learning which foot goes where—we took to the waves to test our first-timer technique. Good thing for the complimentary wet suits, because I spent more time in the water than on the board.

Take out those pesky, unpredictable waves and surfing is still just as challenging, as I found out during an Exhale Mind Body Spa Surfset Classic class at Revel. A best-kept secret of the spa’s impressive fitness offerings, these hour-long studio sessions take place on RipSurfer X devices: a plastic board about knee-high is loosely secured over a trio of inflatable stability balls, and resistance bands similar to the ones on Pilates reformer machines are placed on either side of the board to simulate paddling.

“People always think that it’s the board that’s unsteady, but it’s really you,” says instructor Alison Hess, who looked on as I teetered wildly for more than 30 seconds on my first try. And the more I wobbled, the more my board shifted off center, until I finally took a flying leap and started over again.

All that wobbling is where developing your core strength comes in—one of the key components of the Surfset routine—along with elements of strength training, interval training, yoga, and Pilates all rolled into one surprisingly seamless routine. “Take paddling, for instance,” says Hess, “we will use the resistance bands to bring the heart rate up, then take a break and go into child’s pose. Or do push-ups and move into downward dog. I add yoga [stances] to lengthen and strengthen muscles.”

“This program is designed to give you that lean and toned surfer physique,” adds Hess, a recreational surfer who grew up on the Jersey Shore and kept up with the sport while attending college in Hawaii. “Out of the water and in the off-season, this is the closest thing you’ll get that mimics surfing.”

Hess’s Surfset playlist is a beach bum’s dream—a mix of Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, and Jimmy Buffett. It’s surprisingly motivating when the intensity amps up midway through and it’s time to “paddle out” at full speed, with huge, sweeping arm movements and choppy leg kicks. Once out in the imaginary surf, there’s no time to admire the scenery, what with the burpees and pop-ups to get through.

Class ended with some concentrated abdominal work and full-body stretching. By that point, I was covered in sweat, and my triceps burned from all of the plank push-ups and pretend paddling. I may have been unsteady when I started, but 60 minutes later I was comfortably walking from the tip to the tail of the board and even doing some crossover footwork exercises.

Both the Surfset concept and the equipment were created by Mike Hartwick, a former professional hockey player who liked to surf during his off-season. With locations across the US, mostly in the Northeast, Exhale is the only location currently offering Surfset classes in the tri-state area. With the transient nature of Atlantic City, private classes for birthdays or bachelorette parties are a popular way to experience Surfset.

Whether you’re paddling out into the Atlantic Ocean or into an imaginary sea like the one projected onto the wall of the studio—it’s all about technique. Hess says that’s when the real workouts begin. “There’s no other workout quite like this,” she says. “Anyone can do it. An element of fun plays a huge part in this but, once you get the basics, it continues to get more challenging—and sweaty.” 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-225-9855

Categories: Past Events

photography by shutterstock.com

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