How to burn a bunch of calories on a surfboard…in Atlanta?

At Dallas, Texas-based City Surf, indoor surfboards are the gym equipment
City Surf Atlanta
Posing on the surf boards at City Surf

Photograph courtesy of City Surf

Pity the person who asks, in an online post, where you can surf in Atlanta. On Quora.com, a transplant from California wondered if you could practice surfing here and was practically LOL’d off the Internet (“The answer is flat-out no.”) Obviously this land-locked city isn’t known for its swells, unless you count the waves that cars kick up (and douse me with) during rainy-day runs. But that California kid was on to something, because it turns out you can practice surfing in Atlanta, thanks to a new workout studio called City Surf Fitness.

City Surf Atlanta
The boards at City Surf

Photograph courtesy of City Surf

A franchise that started in similarly landlocked Dallas, Texas, City Surf offers 50-minute classes that combine cardio with weight-training and moves that mimic what you’d do out on the waves, all while balancing atop an unstable surfboard. The SURFSET RipSurfer X board (first featured in season 4, episode 1 of Shark Tank) looks like a surfboard perched on top of three side-by-side exercise balls and resting on an upside-down step-aerobics step. Resistance bands increase or decrease the difficulty. A session is said to burn more than 200 calories and costs $22 to drop in or $95 for a five class pack.

I’ve long admired how lean and tan and relaxed surfer girls appear to be. I was a devoted viewer of MTV’s Surf Girls reality competition show in 2003 (and really wished I had a butt like winner Mary Osborne). But I’ve never had the chance to try surfing myself, or maybe I haven’t sought out the opportunity because I’ve feared cracking my head on a cluster of coral like Kate Bosworth’s character did in the 2002 movie, Blue Crush. (Surfer girls were really popular in the early-aughts.) So the idea of trying a group fitness class that simulated surfing—and took place indoors, where the only thing I might drown in is my own sweat—was very appealing.

The small, bright, calming studio is located off of Ponce and features three rows of RipSurfer boards, as well as hand weights and other accessories. In the class I took, City Surf Circuits, we started by getting acquainted with how to use the board (hands at the nose, feet in the center of the board). The instructor was cheerful and patient, even when one student basically decided he couldn’t handle the board at all, and took us through 30-second to one-minute sets of lunges, burpees, push-ups, and sit-ups on the board.

City Surf Atlanta
At City Surf, class participants do lunges and push-ups on indoor surf boards.

Photograph courtesy of City Surf

I broke a sweat quickly, though anyone who’s met me knows that can happen when I’m pretty much sitting still (see above drowning comment). It took until about minute-30 for the class to feel particularly challenging for me. At that point, my legs and core began to feel the effects of having to balance on this wobbly board for the entirety of the class—I was engaging all of those muscles with every move, even if we were focusing primarily on, say, biceps curls. And I was having fun; there was something almost playful and childlike about jumping out to a plank on a surfboard. It helped that the instructor distracted us with a question of the day—traveling from participant to participant and asking each of us to weigh in on the best place to eat fast food—and played songs from Taylor Swift’s frenemies.

Overall, the 50 minutes passed by quickly and not too painfully. But I know it was a good workout because the next day, and for three days afterward, I experienced muscle soreness (mostly the inner thighs, glutes, and hamstrings)—and, perhaps, a small, fleeting idea of what it would be like to be a real-life surfer girl. Even with no ocean in sight.