I Tried It: The Surfset Workout (and I Didn’t Fall Once!)

With eyes on the surfer bod prize, Caitlin Kenny attempts Toronto's latest fitness craze


I dragged FLARE’s Jillian Vieira (left) along for the sweat sesh. Unfair advantage: she knows how to surf

“No one ever falls off—well, rarely,” Alexandra Vinichenko half-reassures me as I sway dangerously on my surfboard in midtown Toronto. Blessed with about as much balance as a baby giraffe, I had the bright idea of taking a Surfset class. As if burpees and squats aren’t hard enough, why not do them on a surfboard that’s mounted on stability balls?

The idea behind the workout is to maximize muscle burn as you squeeze everything you’ve got to counter the board’s shakiness. It turned into a bona fide business when former pro hockey player Mike Hartwick—who loved to surf in his off-season—successfully pitched it on Shark Tank, the American Dragon’s Den. With a location newly opened in Toronto, I figured I’d attempt my own Bey-style sexy surfbort moment.

There are 13 boards in the studio, which is fitted with two-inch rubber floors that help soften the blow should I fall off, Vinichenko explains, before taking me through a series of squats, lunges, planks, push-ups and *shudder* burpees. I manage without falling off, but I’ve never yelped so much during a workout, near-screaming with every near-tumble. The moves are all named to theme: wave runner, the Surfset equivalent of planking mountain climbers; hot sand, where you hop on and off the board pretending the “sand” is burning as much as your calves; and starfish, a particularly deceiving move that came near the end of the workout. Starfish is so-called because you lie on your back with legs and arms spread out, dangling off your board, so I’m thinking, “Woo, time for the surfer girl’s Shavasana (my all-time favourite yoga move)!” Wrong. That’s just the starting position for what is legitimately the hardest ab exercise on the planet. On Vinichenko’s count, I’m to crunch up and form a V with my legs and arms, but instead I just flop around on the board laughing—it feels exactly like when you’re drunk and fall down and the earth is for sure moving under you.

Ridiculously sweaty and sore all over (totally recommend for anyone wanting to work muscles they never knew they had), we wrap up with yoga-style stretching and the punniest of salutes: Namasurf.