This workout is so fun, you might forget it’s work
STORY: Jennifer Bradley Franklin
PHOTOS: Stephen Payne
I’m practicing pop-ups, paddling and improving my balance atop a surfboard, and I’m doing it all within landlocked Atlanta’s city limits. “This was the workout that got me excited about working out,” says Jeanette Straeter, owner of City Surf Fitness on the edge of Old Fourth Ward.
The 26-year-old entrepreneur (pictured above) started her own journey with the company, which has licensed locations around the South, when she was a Tulane University student. After a couple of years indulging in New Orleans’s famously rich food, she knew she needed to get in shape. “I started working out to lose some weight, but once I discovered City Surf, it took me from working out because I had to, to having to force myself to take a rest day because I loved it so much.”
It’s well-known that surfing is one of the most challenging sports, requiring full-body strength (especially the core), balance, coordination and laser like concentration. It’s no wonder surfers often have strong, lean physiques. While the boards at City Surf are anchored to dry ground, participants still get the sensation of riding the waves. Each foam-topped board sits on three air-filled rubber “bladder” balls, tethered with two bungee cords on each side. Balance-blessed students may opt to lose one or both of the cords for an even bigger core challenge.
The 1,800-square-foot boutique studio feels coastal cool—as if it had been plucked from Australia’s Bondi Beach or Venice Beach in California—with its whitewashed walls, airy industrial windows, palm frond wallpaper and a wall-sized surfer riding a wave painted by Buckhead Murals. Each week, Straeter and her small team of instructors lead 60-minute classes for a maximum of 15 students, with a different theme each day, focusing on a different muscle group or workout style. For instance, Mondays are always chest, back and abs; Tuesdays are focused on legs and glutes; Wednesdays are core and cardio, and so on. Based on each day’s program, expect to use free weights ranging from two to 30 pounds, Pilates rings and balls, and resistance bands that can be used with handles or ankle straps or looped through hooks on the boards. Though the conditioning classes target specific areas, students can expect full-body engagement every time.
As this writer can attest, exercises that feel simple on solid ground can present new challenges on the surfboard. “Some people feel like they’re failing because they’re shaking,” Straeter says. “I tell people, ‘Embrace the wobble!’ You’re waking up those stabilizer muscles, and your body may have imbalances you don’t realize.” For instance, if you’re doing squats, and you’re putting too much weight in your toes, you’ll lean forward on the board. If you were on the solid floor, you wouldn’t realize and might not correct that form issue, but on the board, you’ll have to adjust to stay stable—and upright. To that end, the classes, set to tunes ranging from upbeat pop to mellow alternative, are deceptively tough. They’re fun while you’re there, but the soreness that comes in the following days confirms that the workouts are the real deal.
The appeal is catching on fast. Some City Surf clients incorporate the workouts as a counterpoint to other programs of running and spin, while others consider this their primary gym. In fact, though the studio has only been open since March, some of its regulars have already passed the 100-class mark. For now, it’s the only place you can “hang 10” in town.
City Surf Fitness Atlanta
724 Monroe Dr. N.E., 30308