Surfers often say that “more surfing” and more time in the water is the best way to get better at surfing, and while there’s certainly truth in that statement, there’s now a gym in Bali for surf training that’s specifically designed for surfers to help improve their fitness and optimize their performance out in the waves.
If you look at surfing as a professional sport (which it is) then surely there are ways to safely and efficiently train for it — this is the reasoning of Fetch Surf Training Center founder and owner, Israel Llansola Martinez.
Opening up on Bali’s Jl. Batu Belig late last year, Fetch is a gym with studio fitness classes and at the moment, it’s the first and only training center in Bali, specifically for surf fitness.
However, while created as a way to train surfers, you don’t have to be a surfer to try or benefit from this style of training as it combines exercises to improve your cardiovascular health, strength, and mobility, says Martinez.
“My program is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a surfer, if you’re a beginner, if you’re a pro, advanced, tourist, or resident. It doesn’t matter. We have one member who just started surfing two years ago. Another is Rio Waida, a professional surfer. Your level of surfing doesn’t matter. The focus for everyone is the same. Improve your surfing, your performance, your endurance.
“The only thing that’s really important for me is that if you want to train here, then you have to know it’s real hard training. It’s not just ‘Oh, I’m going to listen to music and enjoy [time] with the surfer community,’” Martinez told us from his gym, which he also refers to as “The Barrel.”
Martinez sure is serious when he says it’s “real hard.” It was literally 10 minutes into our first session at Fetch when we had to throw in the towel, attempt to catch our breath, and dry heave in the bathroom.
That said, he offers you one trial session and he accepted the “we’re too hungover to make it through this session” excuse, though honestly, it was legit hard, hangover or no.
“I’m not even going to count that as your trial, come back when you’re ready,” he told us.
From Barca to Bali
A Spanish surfer from Barcelona who now has more than 16 years of experience out in the sets and has clocked time as a personal trainer for 15 years, it was natural for Martinez to come up with a workout that would help him in the water.
“The idea was born when my progress in surfing stopped. It was super frustrating,” Martinez explained.
“That was when I tried to find the solution, not only for my fitness or my performance, but more about my movement. How I had to move on the board to make everything better.”
And so, the concept of Fetch was born in 2011 in Martinez’s home city, where he combined multiple settings: swimming pool for training, skate part for techniques, and the four types of gym sessions he offers at the current manifestation of Fetch in Bali.
His family would later decide to move over to Bali, and so, a new island incarnation of Fetch opened its doors in October last year.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering (as we were), the name is taken from a geographic and meteorological term. Fetch “defines when the line winds run in the same direction and creates the energy to make the wave. So we want to take the same concept. If the fetch is small, the result is that the wave is smaller. If the fetch is bigger, the result is that the swell is bigger,” says Martinez.
“And with this concept we want to show people if you train hard and with good direction, your results can be faster and better.”
Working Out at “The Barrel”
Martinez has developed four different types of group sessions for his trainees at Fetch: Hard Beat, Stronger, Body Control, and Flow.
Each group session is coached by Martinez himself and runs about 30-35 minutes, but don’t let the short span of time fool you into thinking you can just breeze through them — they are very high intensity. The four sessions complement each other, as each have different fitness goals.
Fetch, which really is a small minimalistic gym, has one workout studio in the gym, equipped with dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX bands, boxes, and matted floors. The walls are dark navy and Martinez says he likes to dim the lights low to simulate the feeling of being in a barrel. He turns the music up, to add to the intensity and energy, but honestly, you get the energy from Martinez himself. This Spanish man may be small in stature, but he’s mega energetic and seems to bounce around as he’s training.
The Barrel has AC, but by default, Martinez doesn’t put it on since he says it’s good to “sweat it out.” However, it gets super hot in there, so he can be persuaded to use it, or at least, turn on a fan. There is a shower you can use at the gym, but you’ll need to bring your own towel.
Now, for a breakdown of the sessions:
Hard Beat uses bootcamp and boxing techniques to target your cardiovascular fitness, to maximize performance in the wave and help your endurance when you’re out in the water. Think throwing plenty of punches and moving around as some of the main movements.
Whereas Stronger is exactly has how it sounds: the goal is building strength, specifically working on muscles that will help you paddle out and surf better. It’s not about heavy weightlifting, bur rather small dumbbells are used and the rep count is high. Think dumbbells, kettlebells, and TRX as some of the exercises. Many reps and no breaks.
“For me, the best way is for everybody to do all four sessions. Our most famous and popular session is Stronger because people love building strength, but I have to say in my experience, if you’re able to make all four sessions, then you’re able to feel a good change in your body and your mind.”
Body Control, on the other hand, is about improving your mobility, practicing stability and techniques for all the movements you would use while surfing. Martinez calls it his favorite session. It also happens to be the one that we only lasted 10 minutes of. Think planks, chaturangas, and mountain climbers as some of the exercises.
“Body control is my favorite because it’s when you understand how your body works. You learn how you can better use all your muscles and create a sequence in a similar pattern when you’re on your board,” Martinez explained.
Finally, the most straightforward is Flow, which is a stretching session. Think a slow flow, relaxing yoga-like session.
“We need to stretch and take the tension off our muscles, increase our range of mobility, to make it more safe for your body,” says Martinez.
At the moment, there’s a fixed schedule of six to seven sessions per day, running Monday to Friday (Fetch is closed on weekends). “The weekend is the time to enjoy your surfing,” he said, when asked why they’re closed Saturday and Sunday.
Currently, you can buy five (IDR660k/US$46) or ten (IDR1.1 million/US$77)) session passes or do unlimited plans, where you pay IDR550k/US$38 for one week, IDR990k/US$69 for two weeks, IDR1.65/US$115 million for one month, IDR1.5 million/US$105 (per month) for three months, and IDR1.46 million/US$102 (per month) for six months.
Martinez says trainees can base their gym visits on their schedule, but recommends two to three times of training per week for best results.
There is a one-time IDR450k/US$31 initiation fee for becoming a member at Fetch and included in this you get a stainless steel water bottle and an organic cotton hand towel to use at the gym (they source them from local supplier, Indolinen, so you know they’re good).
Martinez also offers personal training at Fetch for those (like us) who may not be able to keep up with the level of all the group sessions, want to scale down more, and who want to just buy whatever number of sessions and do them on their own time.
After doing a few personal training sessions with him, we can say the nice thing is that Martinez really adapts the personal training to your fitness goals and needs and often will do a mix of exercises from each of his four session types within your one PT session.
We like how Martinez mixes it up and doesn’t repeat the exact same movements of each workout each time, keeping us on our toes, and seems to know how to push hard yet not over-exhaust at the same time.
So, we bet you’re wondering, has all this helped? Just to give you an idea, I’m an intermediate surfer with about one-and-a-half-years experience in the water. Since doing these sessions, I do feel stronger in the surf, able to paddle longer, harder, and faster, so yeah, it seems they’ve had an impact on my stamina and overall fitness level. But I will say, it’s really something that needs to be maintained. If I don’t keep up these high intensity workouts or surf for awhile, I feel my fitness level go down.
A single personal training session runs IDR440k/US$31, but you can buy a five-session pass for IDR1.92 million/US$134; 10 sessions for IDR3.75 million/US$262; or, 15 sessions for IDR5.3 million/US$371.
Additionally, Fetch does offer surf coaching for hour-long sessions in the water, but we haven’t tried those out yet. Buying one session is IDR880k/US$61, five sessions are IDR3.84 million/US$269, ten sessions are IDR7.5 million/US$525, and 15 sessions are IDR10.6 million/US$741.
Eco-Friendly and Plastic-Free Gym
Totally worth noting is Fetch’s eco-friendly and plastic-free philosophy.
Martinez is currently working on developing eco-friendly surf-related products for the community: “We try to create new products like surf wax or sunscreen without anything like petroleum.”
Spending so much time in the water, where you’re face-to-face with Bali’s plastic problem as it floats around you, it’s pretty much impossible not to become an environmentalist.
“When we go to the ocean everyday, we find a lot of trash, plastic, everything. It doesn’t take long to realize this is a problem. You want to enjoy your time and be safe in the water. And it’s a problem for the ocean habitat,” Martinez explained.
And in addition to equipping members with the organic cotton towels and reusable water bottles, the gym has installed a filtered water system. Members can refill their water bottles on the gym’s tap — not a common sight in Bali, where you usually see plastic bottles or at least the bigger plastic gallon refills.
“Think, if we have on average 10 guys training with us per session and we have 36 sessions per week, we might be responsible to prevent 360 water bottles per week.”