Why Do My Ribs Hurt After Surfing?

Do you get sore ribs after every paddling session? Does the same thing keep happening without knowing why? 

If you surf, then you spend a lot of time lying on your stomach, getting hit by ocean waves, and the aftermath makes you question whether you want to surf again or not.

Before you start to fret about the pain in your ribs, know that it’s actually normal for a surfer to experience this type of pain and bruising. A surfboard can definitely do that to you. A little bit of discomfort while paddling is inevitable, but there are ways you can deal with it by understanding what makes it happen in the first place.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about protecting your ribs while surfing and how to treat your bruised rib.


How Do You Protect Your Ribs When Surfing?

Your surfboard is the culprit behind your sore ribs, so you should protect your ribs from the deck of the board whenever you paddle because that’s when your ribs are in constant contact with the surfboard and feeling all the repercussions.

Soft boards

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the board is to replace it with a soft or soft-top surfboard. Unfortunately, the traditional surfboards that most surfers use are more abrasive than they think, especially for beginners.

A soft one will put less stress on your body, minimise the risk of damage, and be much gentler on your rib cage. As a result, paddling will be much more comfortable.


Beginners can protect themselves from occasional sore ribs and abs by bettering their techniques and learning from experienced surfers.

For example, you may be using excessive chest breathing, putting too much pressure on your ribs for no reason. Doing breathing exercises will help you breathe correctly and position your ribs correctly. Consequently, you’ll surf better and safer because your ribs will protrude less.

Similarly, a limited range of motion leads to rib bruising because you’ll overarch your lower back and flare your ribs unnecessarily. A simple way to avoid this is to increase the range of motion in your shoulders and keep your ribs down.

When in the prone position, a common mistake among many surfers is to rock from side to side, which puts a lot of pressure on the sternum. So, it would help if you learned to stabilise yourself to protect your body.

Amateurs also tend not to use their hands when bracing for impact, meaning that the surfboards end up hitting the rib cage when they drop after a big wave. You can easily protect your ribs by utilising your hands to absorb the impact instead of your ribs. 

In addition, core-strengthening exercises can do wonders to protect you when you surf because they reduce the likelihood of bruising or injury. 

Also, yoga poses like the Chair Pose, Camel Pose, Sphinx Pose, and many more are recommended for anyone who wants to surf. This is because yoga strengthens your muscles, gives you a sense of calm, keeps you from injuring yourself, and helps you recover faster.


Note that you’re more likely to experience sore ribs in the summer since you’ll be wearing lighter items on your torso when you surf because of the oceans warmer temperatures. This will expose your lower ribs every time the board drops with significant force and lead to rib pain. 

Years ago, there wasn’t much to do about that. Nowadays, many surfers report feeling better after wearing a thicker wetsuit or rib guard that protects the body and skin because there’s a broader variety in wetsuits. As a result, you’ll reduce the likelihood of bruising or dealing with a skin abrasion issue.

One caveat to consider when wearing a wetsuit is to try and avoid another surfing nuisance, and that is surf rash.

How Do You Treat Bruised Ribs From Surfing?

Rib bruising is painful and can easily ruin your surf trip, but it’s not the end of the world. It usually goes away on its own after 24 hours. In many cases, you can go back into the water after a couple of days.

That being said, there are ways to accelerate the healing. For example, if you’ve been surfing for a few days in a row, it’s time to rest. Additionally, you can apply ice to the bruised area to reduce any swelling and pain. 

Of course, it’s always good to get yourself medically checked to ensure that you’re not dealing with a serious injury or broken ribs. Plus, you need to seek medical attention once you feel that the pain is getting worse, as any delay will not be in your favour. 

Also, it’s important to make sure that what you’re dealing with is a bruising issue, not a skin abrasion issue, which is also common among those who surf frequently.

While the idea of always getting sore ribs makes surfing sounds like it’s terrible for you, surfing is actually phenomenally good for you. So feel free to click this article to learn more about the benefits of surfing that you’ll enjoy, even if your ribs have taken quite a few knocks over the years.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, getting sore ribs is pretty standard when you surf; it’s almost a part of the experience that you need to go through to say that you’ve really surfed.

However, it’s easy to avoid by learning proper paddling techniques, putting on a wetsuit, or using the right surfboard. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and feel less pain as you get more comfortable and confident in your surfing ability.

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