You can find just about any workout in New York City to suit your taste, but can you picture surfing in the wintertime?
By Giselle Castro
It might sound far-fetched, but wait until you try out SurfSet Fitness NYC. The genius behind SurfSet is professional hockey player, and CEO, Michael Hartwick. He began surfing during the off-season and loved the lean and toned look it gave him. To maintain his surfing routine, he decided to come up with a method that mimicked riding waves indoors called, SurfSet Fitness. Hartwick was even featured on the show Shark Tank in 2012 where he won over the judges and convinced entrepreneur, Mark Cuban to invest in his business idea.
Since its launch, SurfSet has been popping up across the nation. Unlike traditional surfing, SurfSet is done inside on a short surfboard supported by three inflatable balls on a base and two elastic bands strapped on the sides. Classes have become popular with members of The Sports Club at Chelsea Piers for the past two years, which was SurfSet’s first NYC home. Despite the fact that I’d never surfed before- I decided to give the class a try at their Paradise Factory studio in the East Village.
SurfSet Fitness Master Trainers and ambassadors, Aaron Thouvenin and Diana Garrett decided to launch SurfSet Fitness NYC in October 2014 to spread the word to fitness lovers across the city. I was a bit intimidated walking into the studio, but found it appealing that a mother and her young son were taking the class together. SurfSet offers classes for children and adults, respectively, but soon will be launching a class which allows families to participate in it together.
Before the class began, Thouvenin reassured me that it was normal to feel off balance upon standing on the board.
“The last half of class is generally much easier than the first 10 minutes, because your body is trying to figure out what it needs to do to balance on [the board] and do the moves,” Aaron Thouvenin, Master Trainer
The 45-minute class began with a basic warm-up (on the floor), and then we went on to get familiar with the board. Initially, standing on an unstable surface is a shock to your body and forces you to focus on stabilizing. But after learning how to stay on, squat, lunge, do pushups, planks, and other moves on the board, I was hooked. It does take some time to adjust, but once you get the hang of it, you don’t even realize that you’re working out.
Impressively, the majority of the class became acquainted with the board relatively quickly and seemed to be having fun. According to Thouvenin, that’s one of the main things that makes SurfSet different from other workouts. “It’s a fun vibe, and we have a surf movie going in the background to add to the effect,” he says. “Most importantly, you need to bring your sense of humor and your humility, because it’s a very unique challenge, not to mention how good it is for your core and full body muscles.” “Stabilizing on the board makes it a more effective workout because you’re engaging more muscles on a full body surf-fitness trainer that mimics the instability in the water,” Thouvenin points out.
So, how long does it take before you become a pro on the board? “I always tell people to give yourself at least three classes to get really familiar with the board and how to move around on it efficiently,” he advises. After instructors see their students get better at maneuvering themselves on the board, he says they move on to improving technique and into more sports-specific moves.
If you’re apprehensive about trying out this workout, Thouvenin heeds that everyone can benefit from SurfSet. “A lot of people have come in and tell us they know the benefits of yoga, but don’t enjoy taking the classes because the pace is too slow,” he explains. “We incorporate some yoga and pilates-inspired moves throughout the class to continue to work on that flexibility, but maybe do it in a little more upbeat way.”
In fact, Thouvenin says they’ve had students continue returning because they claim that SurfSet has helped open up their hips and regain their flexibility. Besides the physiological benefits, he says the most important thing he hopes students leave with is this:
“I want to see a big smile, and through that I can see that they know they really accomplished something today.”
If you’re ready to take on this unique challenge, SurfSet Fitness NYC can be found at their new studios at the Paradise Factory, The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, or their pop-up location at the DREAM Downtown Hotel. For further information on the class and locations, you can check out their website here.
GISELLE CASTRO is a freelance women’s lifestyle writer who has been published in Women’s Health, SELF Magazine, and Mamaslatinas.com. She enjoys trying out the latest fitness craze, meeting equally fit-minded people, and maintaining a positive and healthy lifestyle.
AWAY was directed and produced by Elisa Bates.