Surf Nutrition Principles – SERF

Eating well is just as important as moving well when its come to surfing (or any sport for that matter). There are so many different diets and nutritional recommendations out there. With all the different opinions, choosing a diet that works for you can be tricky. Everybody has different nutritional needs, and everybody reacts differently to all foods. Diets, and principles are guidelines to help you discover what works for you. I have spent the past 13 years researching and testing out different diets, both on myself and clients. I have come up with 10 principles that are congruent with expert opinions and my own experiences. 10 principles that most experts will agree on, despite major differences in carb/fat/protein ratio’s and food types. These principles make sense and they work. Adhered to they will change your life, whether you need to lose weight or increase performance. Kelly Slater considers his surf performance, longevity and health when choosing food, so should you. I don’t know for sure but I bet Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning still weigh the same now as the did in their early 20’s, these tips below are also relevant for weight loss and staying lean.

1. SERF: Sit, Eat Real Food. This is the most important principle for your health, and the rest just explain this one in more detail. It is simple, logical and powerful. Firstly, Sit; relax. Your nervous system needs to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode to assimilate nutrients. If you are still in ‘fight or flight’ mode then you will not optimally digest. Sit down, breath deep, relax and chew (30 x per mouthful) your food. Appreciate and savour every mouthful, away from your laptop/work. Eat Real Food; This means avoiding all processed foods, eating food that will perish, but eating it before it does. i.e. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, poultry, & nuts. And sit down, relax while you eat.

2. Eat till you are satisfied, not full. If you feel ‘full’ at the end of a meal you have overdone it. Eat till you are satisfied, not full. And if you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. Sometimes we eat lunch just because its ‘lunchtime’. There is nothing wrong with skipping a meal if you are not hungry, in fact intermittent fasting actually gives your digestive system a rest and is a very healthy practice, trust your instincts.

3. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. The quality of your food matters. Organic, Biodynamic, free-range, wild, 100% grass feed, & Non GMO foods are far superior foods. The vitamin, mineral and enzyme (nutrient) density is much higher. Shop at local farmers markets.  i.e. Above ground vegetables are nutrient dense. Processed foods like bread, biscuits, rice, etc are calorie dense.

4. 85/15 Rule. Set realistic goals, It is not realistic to expect you to never eat processed foods again. As a guideline we can expect aim to eat 100% real food during the week and reward ourselves with ‘cheat meals’ during the weekend. The 85/15 ratio in real terms: If we eat 3x per day that’s 21 meals per week. So 19 of these meals are real foods only and 3 are cheat meals (for most this will be Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner). A cheat meal does not mean McD’s!! When choosing a restaurant for your ‘cheat meals’ look for ‘farm to table’ ‘organic’ and ‘grass-fed’ options.

5. Chew your food thoroughly. (needs repeating) Chewing your food is vital in ensuring proper digestion. Sit down, relax and Slow down, enjoy every mouthful. Turn off the TV, savor and appreciate your food and the people you dine with.

6. Avoid modern poisons. If you are sticking to principle No.1 then you will already be doing this. However some things need emphasising. Alcohol, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), bread pasta and other wheat/grain products, trans fats,  and processed foods & drinks are all poison. Avoid these as much as possible, even in ‘cheat meals’.

7. Listen to your body. There is no ‘one’ perfect diet for everybody. We are all individuals and have different nutritional needs and food intolerances. Listen to your body. How do you feel after eating a certain food? Stomach cramps after eating stone fruit, bloating after consuming dairy products are examples that your body may not tolerate that food very well. We also need to respect our circadian/hormonal rhythms and eat appropriately, we all know a large heavy meal can chill us out and make you sleepy so save that meal for dinner. Keep breakfast and lunch light and easy to digest.

8. Eat more vegetables than meat. Never eat a portion of meat or fish larger than the size of your palm (hand without fingers), this is about 200-250 grams. You simply cannot digest anymore than this in one meal. Fill up on lots of above ground vegetables, and a small portion of underground veggie e.g. sweet potato, beetroot. In fact you can eat as many unprocessed above ground vegetables as you like! Practical example would be one 3rd of your dinner plate meat or fish, and two 3rd’s above ground vegetables or salad, and a side of underground veggies.

9. Don’t be scared of fat. Fat is an important nutrient. It’s ok to choose the ‘fatty’ cut of meat, to add some olive oil to your salad, or to add some animal lard, ghee or coconut oil to you stir fry. Its more about the ‘quality’ of the fat that you are eating. The fat from a 100% grass-fed animal or wild fish is healthy, and essential. The fat from a grain-fed, antibiotic injected animal is toxic!!! Choose carefully. As for oils, choose grass-fed butter (ghee is better), raw organic coconut oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, grass suet or lard for cooking &olive oil, flaxseed, hempseed and chia seed oils are high in omega 3’s & are great on salads. Avoid canola, cheap butter, cottonseed, rice bran, corn and ‘vegetable’ oils!

10. Balance, moderation & variety. No one food (e.g. red meat, spinach) should be over-eaten or eaten every day. Avoid having the same chicken salad for lunch every day, variety and moderation is important. It is also wise to eat seasonally. A rotation diet is another great way to keep your diet varied.

Eat a balanced, whole food – ‘real food’ diet free from processed crap.

An example week may look like this:


Breakfast: Water

Lunch: Chicken or Tuna Salad – 100-200grms of chicken/tuna with lots of leafy greens, avocado, pine nuts, raisins, dressed with apple cider vinegar and quality olive oil.

Dinner: Roast chicken with sweet potato and steamed Broccoli (pour the chicken fat on it for flavour) & cook extra for an easy breakfast Tues.


Breakfast: Left over dinner

Lunch: 100-200 grams of fish, Big salad – lots of leafy greens with some seeds or nuts for flavour, cucumber, grated carrot, etc get creative.

Dinner: Fish, steamed veg, 30 grams rice


Breakfast: 3 poached eggs and 1 ripe banana.

Lunch: Big salad

Dinner: 200grm steak, roast veg and salad or steamed veg.

SNACKS – nuts and fruit.

You get the idea, stick to the principles above, don’t over eat. For more detailed recipes and guidelines check out Pete Evans’ book – “Going Paleo” or his web programme here (




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