Ride the wave of fitness: New fitness class at Anna Maria Island Community Center offers core, balance training on a surf board

Herald Health CorrespondentJanuary 14, 2014 

Scott Lubore and Eileen Heffernan were watching the television show "Shark Tank" when the creators of Surfset Fitness appeared as one of the contestants seeking investors. Their product was an indoor surfboard they created and named the RipSurfer X that can be used in an exercise class.

The inventors wowed the "Shark Tank" panel and got their funding. They also wowed Lubore and Heffernan who purchased 11 boards in hopes of riding a new fitness wave to bring Surfset to Manatee and Sarasota. Their first set-up is at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, where Surfset classes started Jan. 6.

"We just thought it was really cool," said Heffernan about first seeing the Surfset Fitness concept on "Shark Tank."

For anyone bored with exercise classes, this might shake things up. Surfset is a bit of Pilates, some yoga, and lots of lunges, planks and lateral crunches, all done on a slightly wobbly surfboard. There are surfer moves, too, like paddling while prone on the 70-inch-long board or "riding the waves" in a surfer stance.

The surfboard sits on rubber balls that are held in place by a flat, rimmed tray with some room for rolling and letting the board move. Resistance straps stabilize the board; adjusting the straps regulates the degree of wobble.

The concept of Surfset is to simulate the effect of surfing the waves. It challenges muscles used in surfing, the sport that keeps the bodies of beach boys and gals in such tip-top shape.

The workout routines include "yoga-inspired surf movement," said Heffernan. One exercise is the "duck and dive" -- stand up, reach forward to the ground and keep legs straight -- that is similar to yoga's downward dog pose.

But balancing on the surfboard gives the exercise routines something extra, said Heffernan. It forces the body to stay in alignment and core muscles to stay engaged.

"It also forces you to support your weaker side in order to stay in alignment. A lot of people have weaker muscles on one side and they don't realize it until they get on the board," said Lubore.

Surfset is able to accommodate all levels, he said. Those who aren't quite ready to balance on their own can go to the equivalent of the shallow end of the pool. The Surfset classes in the community center are in a room with a ballet barre: Set up the surfboard near the wall; hold on. Or start out by sitting on the board instead of standing.

Lubore and Heffernan are personal trainers who moved to Bradenton from Maryland last June. After their move, they met Caleb Roberts, an Anna Maria Island native who joined them to teach Surfset classes.

At one of the first classes last week, a small group of men and women were working up a sweat by the middle of the 45-minute workout. All those lunges and crunches pump up the cardio factor.

"It was fun and a total challenge," said Jason Shields, a 36-year-old event planner who sets up Red Bull fests across the country. He once lived in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he surfed frequently. He's also a snow skier.

Surfset "really works the 'micro muscles' -- things you don't normally work out," he said.

The Surfset workout is for people who want to get in shape with an emphasis on core strength and balance, or to be in condition for water sports. Surfing in the perpetually calm Gulf of Mexico is limited except when extreme weather creates waves. But paddle boarding is big here and Surfset is a good way to prepare for staying upright while paddling, said Heffernan. Surfset also helps skateboarders, she said.

And as the next new thing, it could add some freshness and novelty to exercise routines.

Classes at the Anna Maria Island Community Center are 9-10 a.m. and 10:15-11:15 a.m. Mondays; 4-5 p.m. and 5:15-6:15 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m.-noon and 12:15-1:15 p.m. Fridays at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. Cost per class: $20/members, $25/nonmembers. Packages prices may be available at a discount. To register, call the center at 941-778-1908. For more information about Surfset Fitness classes, call Island Surfset at 941-223-5977 or email scott.lubore@gmail.com.

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at shemmingway@hotmail.com.

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