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5 Similarities Between BJJ And Surf 

SURF | By Olivia Leone 2018

When Rolls Gracie opened an academy in Arpoador, little did he know that it would be the catalyst for a new BJJ-Surf subculture. The relationship didn’t start out on a good note, however, as the local surfers were first introduced to jiu-jitsu when they became the victims of an altercation over surf etiquette. 


As the story goes, the surfers faced off with the jiu-jitsu practitioners on the beach, but were outclassed in a very short amount of time. After realising the effectiveness of jiu-jitsu as a martial art, the local surfers attended classes at Rolls’ academy, and long-time love affair between the two sports was born. 


Anyone who has surfed and trained BJJ will tell you that there’s a few  remarkable similarities between the two. It’s no coincidence that eleven-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater is a blue belt, and 10-time BJJ world Champion Marcus Almeida is an avid surfer. Surfing and BJJ have coexisted as a subculture in many parts of the world for a while now, and here are five reasons why the two go hand-in-hand. 

1. They require a similar mindset 

Both disciplines take an incredible amount of time and dedication before a level of proficiency is achieved. Consistency is key here, as with any new hobby. But unlike basket weaving, grappling and surfing can really chew you up and spit you out—and giving up can become incredibly tempting.


It could take a really, really long time before you feel like you’re actually improving, and you’re likely to experience some really unpleasant moments on the mats and on your board before you start enjoying it. Are you sold yet? Perseverance and consistency is what will separate the chaff from the wheat!

2. Staying calm is essential

Whether you’re getting steamrolled by a guy who’s 40 kilos heavier, or you’re spinning around in the dark, murky depths of the ocean, panicking isn’t going to help. Both sports demand that you learn how to stay calm in the face of (sometimes terrifying) adversity. 


Jiu-jitsu practitioners will often find themselves in incredibly uncomfortable and claustrophobic positions, and anyone who’s had a bad time surfing can attest that their life has flashed before their eyes at least once. Maintaining composure in these situations is key, and it’ll become easier the more you practice it. You may find that you carry this composed mindset with you in your day-to-day life, too. 

3. They teach you to go with the flow

Mother nature is a force to be reckoned with. You can’t control the ocean, and oftentimes you’ll just have to take what you’re given. Rough and rugged surf conditions aren’t ideal, but they can sometimes make for the best lessons. Learning to go with the flow and let go of your desire to control is an important aspect of surfing. 


Similarly, in jiu-jitsu you can’t always force your will upon an unpredictable opponent. Learning to adapt, to flow, and to accept is as important on the mats as it is in the ocean. The conditions and the outcomes may not always be what you want, and that’s fine. 

4. They will boost your atheletcism 

Increased athleticism is a merit of both sports. Surfing and grappling are incredibly tough workouts and consistent practice will help you develop better coordination, explosiveness, cardio, and balance. 


Another similarity between the two is that they depend on good timing and the ability to string several techniques together. All of these components (timing, balance, coordination, cardio & explosiveness) are essential in high-level jiu-jitsu and surfing.  

5.You'll get addicted 

Regardless of how many times you get smashed in jiu-jitsu, you always seem to be back for more. It’s the same in surfing. Whether you got ragdolled or you hit a new milestone, you seem to find yourself padding back out in search of more waves. An especially good session can leave you with a euphoric feeling (or “stoke” in surf-slang) that lasts for hours, or even days. Both disciplines are great stress-busters, and there’s something incredibly invigorating and moreish about them.

SURF & ROLL at Bali MMA 

At Bali MMA, we’re lucky to have a number of world-class breaks right on our doorstep that suit beginners through to advanced surfers. Our jiu-jitsu program runs from Monday to Saturday, so you can enjoy a session with our high-level coaches before heading to the ocean to cool off. We also offer 1-1 surf lessons that include board rental, transport, and an hour-long lesson with a qualified surf coach. Get in touch today to find out more about our Train & Surf camps.