How to: Holistic Surf Training with ISA Course Presenter Marcelo Castellanos

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Hello global surfing community,

I’m Marcelo Castellanos, a holistic surf coach, ISA course presenter, Puro Surf Performance Academy Director & Founder in El Salvador, and personal coach of Bryan Perez.

I would love to share with you a couple of tips that can further your training during quarantine and thrust your skills to the next level.

To initiate a holistic surf training, we must put our mind, our spirit and our body in the best possible place. Once your body, mind and spirit are in a good place your performance increases regardless of what you do.

ISA course presenter and Puro Surf Performance Academy Director & Founder, Marcelo Castellanos.

ISA course presenter and Puro Surf Performance Academy Director & Founder, Marcelo Castellanos.

Before we start, let’s review the four pillars we should be aware of in order to create a useful plan.

  1. Body:

Every sport training program starts with the preparation of your body. This means that you have to work on those muscles and areas of your body that will be used to perform movements for specific techniques. 

For example, to perform a nice bottom-turn your body needs to compress keeping a good posture, if your body can’t accomplish this, then it’s going to be impossible to perform a good bottom-turn. There is no magic! 

  1. Technique:

Technique is a specific sequence of steps that give you a specific result. Once you learn the technique and go through the process, you create muscle memory. Consistency is key for your surfing performance. A great foundation is necessary before you start working on maneuver. 

Example: I got hooked with Jiu Jitsu 3 years ago and learnt that in order to develop a technique you have to do hundreds of drills before applying it in a fight. There’s no difference with surfing. Drill until your brain forgets and your body remembers!

  1. Tactics:

The most important thing is to learn how to create a strategy before you go out and get the most of your sessions. We’ve all heard that before, but it’s not so easy to do! Setting expectations on the session can be the difference between having fun & succeeding vs getting frustrated & mad.

For example, you don’t make a plan for your session and just go for the waves. The day before you saw a surf video with epic waves and barrels, maybe your expectations are to have an epic session and get barreled; but the real situation is that it’s windy and there are 2 foot waves. Chances are you may get frustrated haha! However, if you look at the conditions and make a strategy before going out, you are setting the right expectation. You set yourself up for specific techniques according to the conditions.  Maybe it could be working on your paddling, or positioning your feet correctly, and if you accomplish  that – you are going to feel good about your session.

  1. Mental:

This may be one of the most important areas, because you are going to create a plan to achieve your goals. Set long term, mid term, short term goals and most importantly daily goals. Once you define your route, you just have to commit to following it! To achieve your goals you’re going to have to work on basic tools, such as: motivation, relaxation, visualization and focus.

Imagine you want to get somewhere in your car, first you have to know where you are, then where you want to go; Put it on google maps and that’s going to give you specific directions, step by step, it’s very easy to get lost if you don’t follow the directions so the best thing to do is to pay attention and follow correctly (a coach can help you to create that route).

Now that we’ve reviewed the introductory pillars, let me share some specific advice on habits that are useful to develop a successful holistic lifestyle.


Breathing and meditation

Bhastrika is a breathing exercise.  Starting off our days by breathing will energize our body, it removes the cloud we have in our minds and sets us for a clear start. After this, I recommend doing meditation for 5 or 10 minutes. Stay in the present moment and allow yourself to feel gratitude.


Posture is essential so that we can develop great surfing and have good stability on our board. These days are mostly spent on the phone or the computer. We do the opposite of working on our posture, We have our shoulders forward and head down. Be aware of your posture and work on correcting it.


A lot of time is spent sitting or lying down, we must work on having a stable and balanced foundation to connect our body. The body must function as a whole unit and connect lower body, core and upper body so we start feeling more planted on our board and have more power when it comes to surfing. When you surf, you need your whole body communicating, from your feet on the board, right up through each muscle group, through your nervous system and the brain which runs the physical body.

Leg strength 

Basically when we surf, we are doing squats all the time, compact, hold, extend, and again, so you have to work on that, the more we strengthen our legs and those movements, the more comfortable we are going to feel doing the right techniques also we are going to be able to create speed and manage and combine the external force with the internal force in order to keep the flow and angle of maneuvers.


Our core is what keeps the upper part of our body with the lower part of the body connected, it is what makes us have torque force in our maneuvers and be much more explosive when it comes to surfing.


Visualization: using your imagination and being able to practice specific movements and techniques over and over again. Just make sure when visualizing to make note of how the technique is done. Watch your favorite surfer how he/she performs, we can watch it in slow motion. Observe their hands, posture, eyesight… based on the maneuver they’re doing. Keep and eye out for what part of the wave they maneuver at. Then we can take the time to visualize and see ourselves practicing that maneuver over and over again.

The brain and the body cannot distinguish whether it is reality or just imagination, so our entire nervous system and all muscles are working as if we were really doing it.

Flow Motion: Practicing the movements combined with visualizing the technique out of the water; it can be done with a simulator (skateboard), or it can be done without using anything, basically repeating movements over and over again until they are automated. The learning process occurs in three stages:

  1. The first stage is to learn the technique
  2. The second stage is to perfect these movements,  we can film ourselves or tell someone to film us to make sure we are doing it well.
  3. Lastly, automation or the creation of muscle memory from the movements done through repetition — it is important to make sure that we are doing it right. We do not want to create muscular memory of a movement that is poorly done.
Balance and strength exercises led by ISA Course Presenter Marcelo Castellanos at Puro Surf in El Salvador.

Balance and strength exercises led by ISA Course Presenter Marcelo Castellanos at Puro Surf in El Salvador.

General advice

Having a good diet, in addition to adequate breathing and meditation are key to start off with a clear mind and feeling great. Take a shot of ginger, a shot of vinegar with water, and stay hydrated. By doing this, not only are we helping our body to level our PH, we are also benefiting our immune system and much more. Psychologically we are starting our day in the best way.`

There are several exercises you can find online, in order to work on those 6 habits mentioned above. There are thousands of routines and professionals in each area; Mick Fanning just released one that is very good, Ginastica Natural with Raphael Romano, Foundation Training with Doctor Goodman, Wim Hoff breath work, Yoga with Tim, just to mention a few. I recommend them all to work on your body and mind to be able to rotate in one motion as a whole unit. The result of this will improve your surfing regardless of the level you’re in.

They have different program availability as well and really recommend that you work with a certified ISA Coach that can help you on this journey.

Last but not least it is important to make a training plan on paper or on Excel. Put it somewhere visible, so you can mark with an X the activities that you complete during the day. You want to see your plan full of Xs, that’s going to motivate you to keep going or highlight where you get stuck. 

Now you have no excuses! I can only encourage you to put it into practice, because the difference between the intelligent and the wise is that the intelligent knows what to do, but the wise does what they have to do.

To learn more you can contact me through instagram @marcelocsurf or email marcelo@purosurf.com

Thank you!

Marcelo with Pan Am medalist and student Bryan Perez.

Marcelo with Pan Am medalist and student Bryan Perez.