Deep End Fitness Helps Surfers Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Izzi Gomez, getting comfortable in the deep end. Photo: Deep End Fitness

The Inertia

Jason Kenworthy is no stranger to the ocean. A lifelong surfer, surf coach, and professional surf photographer, the San Clemente local has centered his life around chasing and riding waves. When one of the athletes Kenworthy coached invited him to attend a class at Deep End Fitness South County, a unique gym that caters their workouts towards surfers, Kenworthy thought it would be a walk in the park. But as soon as Kenworthy set foot in the pool, he was quickly humbled.

“I thought I’d crush it,” said Kenworthy. “I was a surfer and had been dealing with the ocean my whole life. I jumped into the program and realized I wasn’t where I thought, and I wasn’t prepared. That’s what kept me coming back.”

Fast forward three years and Kenworthy is now co-owner and a lead instructor at Deep End Fitness South County. He works alongside Tyrus Griffin, a senior instructor with the headquarters part of the company who runs the elite athlete’s program in Orange County.

Deep End Fitness was originally founded in 2017 by two former marines. Their mission was to promote a positive shift in mental and physical health. Of the fifteen locations across the United States, the South County location is the only one that caters primarily towards surfers—approximately 90% of their clientele are surfers.

The Deep End Fitness South County community is composed of a mix of competitive surfers, everyday surfers, groms, and people simply looking to get more comfortable in the water. Although they offer several different classes, their youth surfer program is one of the most popular.

“The intent behind the youth program was that all these kids surf in events, and they need to have the skills to get out of certain situations, deal with changing conditions, or deal with a leash breaking,” says Kenworhty. “So, we built this youth surf program so these guys could come to a safe environment and work on these things.”

Most of the kids in the grom program are up and coming young surfers who spend a lot of their time in the ocean, surfing and competing. Kenworthy says the program isn’t designed to teach people how to swim, but to help them acquire the skills they need to deal with the ever-changing conditions in the ocean.

“One of the things we found is that a lot of these kids weren’t ready for what they were being thrust into,” says Kenworthy. “Now they have a place where they can come and work on this stuff where they’re monitored and make baby steps forward. Now, they’re all crushing it and they’re super safe.”

Although classes vary, most follow a general format. Each class begins with a circle of trust where everyone states their names, swimming background, and their goals for the day. After that, the group goes into breathwork, and everyone does some type of drill or activity while holding his or her breath—the idea is to show that you can keep your breath under stress.

From there, the group goes into a warmup consisting of some laps, dolphin dives, and bobs where they let all their air out, go down to the bottom, and come back up. Workouts typically consist of some type of resistance training, with some strength training occasionally thrown in. An example workout would be a surface swim, followed by some kind of breath holding movement/function, an underwater movement, and finally some kind of calisthenic movement. Between each drill, participants focus on their breathwork to get their heart rate down.

“As a professional surfer and someone who is in the water every day, Deep End Fitness has made a world of difference for me,” says big wave surfer and Deep End Fitness instructor Izzi Gomez. “This program has helped me gain more confidence in the water and has shown me the proper techniques to push myself and exceed my expectations. The training we do in the pool is constantly translating to what I do in the ocean.”

At Deep End Fitness, safety is a huge priority and as such, all instructors go through rigorous instructor training and are CPR and AED certified. During sessions, there is always an instructor in and out of the water and the buddy system is always implemented for an added layer of protection.

In addition to groms and local surfers, Deep End Fitness has had numerous pro surfers come through their program. Past attendees include five-time world champion Carissa Moore, two-time world junior champion Vahine Fiera, big wave surfers Izzi Gomez, Chuck Patterson, Koa Smith, Kai King, and Kenworthy’s daughter and seven-time NSSA champion Bella Kenworthy.

During their time at Deep End Fitness, Kenworthy and Tyrus have witnessed so much physical and mental growth—both in themselves and in the participants. Kenworthy says most people have a similar experience to him when they first join the program but through hard work and encouragement from their fellow attendees, they improve in leaps and bounds and become all around better athletes and surfers.

“I really enjoyed diving in the deep end literally and metaphorically with Deep End,” says Carissa Moore. “It is great cross training for surfing and getting pounded. Becoming more conscious and learning how to remain calm and save energy underwater is huge to overcoming my fears and pushing my performance in the ocean.”

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