RateYourBurn | EVENT REVIEW: SurfSET Demo Event

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Where: 151 W 26th Street, New York, NY

What’s SurfSET? A Surf Workout Minus the Water.

Just another Thursday night in NYC… working out, drinking margaritas, making new friends...surfing?

surfset surfboard

Thanks to a buddy of mine, I got an invite to the SurfSET event in Chelsea. 

The event.

Hosted in the apartment of a Chelsea elevator building, the setting was intimate, the people were friendly, the margs were yum, and there were about 8 million snacks. I see you know the way to my heart, SurfSET. Mini cheesecakes? Yes please.

Note: drinking a marg before the demo class may not have been the best idea of time.

The founders.

Let’s just say that the SurfSET team is not ugly. It's a trifecta of pretty people. Mike Hartwick (founder) and Bill Ninteau (Business Development) both give off the "chill California dude" vibe with their tan skin and casually gelled locks; Sarah Ponn (Fitness and Nutrition Expert) is the poster child for hot blond surfer chicks. All three have athletic backgrounds - the men in hockey and the woman in personal training & Pilates. 

Hartwick is originally from New Hampshire, so apparently the cool Cali thing can be learned. Maybe there's still hope for all the type-A, anal-retentive NYC narcissists out there? (me).

Importantly, these are people that you would want to grab a beer with after work. Very cool kids.

SurfSET event setup Chelsea

The demo class.

It was only 25 minutes, but fun! I was dripping sweat on my board, which pleased me. Sarah had prepared the routine as a mini-class, but it was actually a workout, which was appreciated.

Essentially, the method presents a series of exercises on an unstable surface. That unstable surface happens to be a surf board, so there are lots of surf-themed moves, but the workout boils down to the fact that instability makes everything harder. You could do a million and one surf- and non-surf- related workouts on this thing. That’s the beauty of it. Some of the moves we did:

  • Jump ups. Moving from your stomach to standing in a single jump. When we did several of these in a row, it was reminiscent of burpees.
  • “Paddling”. Stomach-down on the board, we grabbed the handles at the front and alternated arms pulling back the straps. Surprisingly hard and 100% shoulders, traps, and oblique work. This will give you a tomato face real quick (have you ever seen someone at the gym doing the KrankCycle? It's harder for our body to get oxygen to the smaller muscles quickly, so doing sustained aerobic activity with the arms makes your face turn stop-sign color remarkably fast.)
  • Sideways board walks. Purely a balance exercise. We karaoke’d slowly across the board, each foot touching the outside of the other to maintain a small center of gravity.
  • Single-leg paddling. Balancing on one leg, we pretended to dip the other foot into the water below.
  • Lunges. Harder than it sounds, when you’re on a board.
  • Abs. We did an abs sequence with our backs on the board – the instability added oomph to otherwise standard exercises.

Their vision for the group classes includes a huge projector in the background, playing surf- or ocean- related videos as participants sweat it out on their Rip Surfer X contraptions.


It sounds like the price for a 45 minute class is going to ring up around $30-$35, which is at the high end of boutique method pricing in the city (though significantly lower than privates or duo-sessions with other expensive equipment, like the reformer). Surfset is essentially leasing out the equipment and method to participating gyms. Chelsea Piers is the first to sign up in NYC.

SurfStyle-Endurance and Strength Training

The Equipment.

These things aren’t cheap, in case you were thinking about buying one for your home. I was told that they run around $900. What looks like a true surf board (minus the fitted yoga-mat shaped pad that fits into it) sits atop several inflated discs. The board is fastened securely to both the front and back of the equipment, so the board will never fall off, even though you might feel like that’s a definite possibility when you’re balancing on it. The thing does shift around quite a bit underfoot.

At the front of the machine are two handles that you can “paddle” with when you’re on your stomach (as if you’re swimming in the ocean.) I imagine they’ll come up with other ways to use these suckers as well.


I will definitely go back and give this thing a go in the full-class format – and anyone who loves mixing up their routine should give it a go. In typical RateYourBurn fashion, I think the success of the class will hinge heavily upon how well the company attracts awesome instructors – and the effectiveness of the training program. There was mention of a computer program that would generate classes based on different criteria entered by the instructor. An interesting idea, but a solid instructor trumps a computer any day, IMO.

From the SurfSET Fitness websiteThe paddling component of the SurfSET program builds in both cardio and resistance exercise that mimics the motions of surfing. Various compound and multi-joint movements create a dynamic strength training routine that will keep the heart rate up and torch body fat. Specific exercises targeting key muscles in the upper and lower body help develop agility, power and an athletic rather than bulky appearance.

Find out more about SurfSET Fitness at www.surfsetfitness.com

Find SurfSET on facebook

Follow SurfSet on twitter 

Read more about SurfSET in Well+Good NYC, the NY Daily News, the Wall Street Journal and on Gilt City

Read an article about the three founders on TheDartmouth.com


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Comments 1 Comments

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