Good Sweat

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Everybody’s gone surfing—at the gym

SurfSet indoor surfing workout reformer

This  January, SurfSet Fitness is debuting its group workout classes at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, where New Yorkers will ride the RipSurfer X, a newfangled piece of fitness equipment that resembles a surfboard-shaped Pilates Reformer.

And it’s already riding a wave.

Why? Surfing is having a serious moment. The once novel sport is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and has a growing fan base—not just in Southern California. These days, you’re practically expected to jump on a board the minute you’re off the Hampton Jitney. (Well, when the water’s warm.)

The SurfSet team is counting on this cultural cachet, hoping that the gym version will take off the way spinning did among non-cyclists.

While the machine helps surfers stay in shape in the off-season, the company is primarily pitching it as a fun, total-body workout for those who’ve never been on a board before (or who would like to practice their pop-ups before trying their luck at Far Rockaway).

What’s the workout like?

The workout had us sweating early on, with intense cardio moves that simulate surfing, like pulling the resistance bands in a paddling motion and popping up to ride a wave, combined with planks, lunges, and mountain climbers all on the board. And while you execute each motion, you’re also using core muscles to stabilize the moving board.

New York City fitness types are amped to try SurfSet. The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers has a whopping 30 weekly classes on the schedule. They’re open to non-members at $35 a pop, with members getting 15 percent off (and discounts if you buy 5- or 10-class packs). There’s also an 8-week boot camp for $285.

The RipSurfer X, created by former hockey player-surfer Mike Hartwick, took a year to develop and officially launched this November

Sarah Ponn, SurfSet’s lead fitness instructor, says that 350 non-members have already signed up and that the camp is almost full.

After March 4, the gym’s exclusive hold on the class will expire. Rather than see where the tide takes them, SurfSet is already making plans.

“Our dream is to have boutique SurfSet studios, with surf projections, wave sounds, and possibly sand!” says Ponn. “One in New York City, one on the West Coast, and then we’ll fill in between.”

But workout machines come and go. To keep making waves, SurfSet will need to cultivate the unique culture that brands like Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle have perfected. There’s a great big line separating the dedication spinners feel to raising their Flywheel numbers, say, and that old stationary bike gathering dust in your mom’s basement. To stay competitive, SurfSet needs more than just a kick-ass workout. It needs a scene. —Lisa Elaine Held

Are you going to try SurfSet? Could this be your new fitness love? Tell us in the Comments, below!

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