[The first in a series of Out's real-life tests of gym bunny alternatives.]
Difficulty level: 6 out of 10
Instructor/trainer required: Yes. Your best bet is one-on-one by a trained professional. Be sure to ask how long hes been surfing, whether hes CPR-trained, and what other certifications hes got under that wet suit.
Purported benefits: Cardio workout and strength-building, especially upper body, legs, and core -- plus some massively improved Zen.
Possible downsides: Death by drowning. Death by shark. Death by fiberglass board to the head.
Typical experience: A typical first-time lesson is about two hours (between $100 and $150, including rental equipment). You should get a basic overview of tides and currents and how to approach both safely; a dry-land practice run; and tips for how to fall off the board without breaking anything. Eventually youll stand up and actually surf, which will be so exhilarating all the prep work will totally seem worth it.
How well it lives up to its claims: Find an instructor as chill and encouraging as possible -- it will go a long way to getting you up on your feet. Plus, you should plan on some quality bonding time as you wait out the next wave.
Results: Youll get a great (and lengthy) workout, more than your recommended daily dose of salt intake, and the tools you need to go back in the water for more practice. Assorted bruising from getting beaten up by the ocean is a normal and brag-worthy side effect.
Where its available: The beach part is nonnegotiable. In SoCal check out ZJ Boarding House in Santa Monica (www.zjboardinghouse.com).
Celebrity acolytes: Matthew McConaughey, Justin Timberlake, and Orlando Bloom.