Enhancing Surf Coaching Standards: The Need for a Tailored Swim Fitness Benchmark
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Enhancing Surf Coaching Standards: The Need for a Tailored Swim Fitness Benchmark

Surfing is not just a sport; it's a way of life that has captivated millions around the globe. With the increasing popularity of surfing and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), the role of surf coaches has become more critical than ever. However, the demands of surf coaching require more than just teaching techniques and strategies; it necessitates a high level of physical fitness, particularly in swimming, to ensure safety and effectiveness in the dynamic coastal environments. teaching techniques and strategies

The Importance of Fitness in Surf Coaching

Surf coaches are responsible for teaching aspiring surfers, ensuring they manage the ever-changing waves safely. This role requires not only a comprehensive understanding of surfing techniques but also exceptional swim fitness. This fitness is crucial as it directly influences a coach’s ability to teach, guide, and ensure the safety of their students in the water. The research paper "Development of a Swim Time Standard for Surf Coaches" aims to establish a tailored swim fitness standard specifically designed for surf coaches, reflecting the unique challenges they face.

Research Overview

The primary aim of the research was to develop a swim fitness benchmark tailored to the specific demands of surf coaching. This involved a comprehensive analysis of existing life-saving award fitness times and a survey of surf coaches to understand their operational demands and challenges.


The research methodology consisted of two main components:
Comparative Literature Analysis: This involved analysing swim fitness times from various life-saving organisations to create a standard for surf coaches. Surf Instructor Data Collection: A semi-structured questionnaire was sent to surf coaches to gather insights on their operational environment and fitness requirements.

Key Findings

The study highlighted several critical aspects: Divergence in Fitness Requirements: Lifeguard swim fitness times do not fully address the specific demands of surf coaching, which includes negotiating waves, quick responses to changing conditions, and extended periods in the water.
Critical Metrics for Surf Coaches: Metrics such as sprint swimming speed to participants, endurance, agility, and the ability to carry rescue equipment through challenging surf conditions are essential. Proposed Fitness Benchmark: A swim fitness time of 300m in 8 minutes in a swimming pool was proposed, aligning with the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) standards but tailored for surf coaching needs.

Implications and Recommendations

The establishment of a specific swim fitness time for surf coaches has significant implications for enhancing safety and competence. By tailoring fitness requirements to the demands of surf coaching, organizations can ensure that coaches are better equipped to handle emergencies and navigate challenging conditions.
The research recommended two options for implementing the fitness standard:
Aligning the National Surf Life Saving Award with the ILS Life Saving Award swim time of 300m in 8 minutes.
Adopting the ISA surf instructor Run-Swim-Run fitness standard, which tests surf coaches in actual surf conditions, eliminating the need for a swimming pool.
Both recommendations aim to provide a targeted and practical benchmark, reflecting the specific challenges faced by surf coaches.


This research offers valuable insights into enhancing safety standards in surf coaching by proposing a swim fitness benchmark tailored to the unique demands of the profession. Implementing these standards can significantly contribute to the safety and professional development of surf coaches, ultimately benefiting the aspiring surfers they guide.
As surfing continues to grow in popularity, ensuring that surf coaches are physically prepared to meet the demands of their role is essential. This research provides a foundation for developing more effective and safer coaching practices, fostering the growth and success of the surfing community.