Jennifer Lynn | Contributing Writer | Sunday, 5 November 2017

Debrief Does: Surfset Barre At Sandbox Fitness

Debrief Does: Surfset Barre At Sandbox Fitness

The Debrief: What happens when you take a traditional barre class, add a surfboard and a giant indoor sandbox, and send the most uncoordinated writer you know to try it? You’re about to find out.

Despite the fitness fanatic reputation of most Angelenos, our writer Jen hasn’t set foot in a gym since relocating from London to sunny Los Angeles three months ago, preferring to explore the city’s drinking spots instead. What happened when we sent her to try a workout more quintessentially LA than the Hollywood Sign? Read on to find out… 

My lack of coordination means that I avoid group fitness classes like the plague, preferring to run or swim solo when I really must work out, for fear of embarrassment at not being able to do half the moves set by the instructor. However, when it came to LA’s Sandbox Fitness I was more than a little curious. It’s hard not to be when you find out all the classes are taken in a giant sandbox, in a Sherman Oaks studio, with many of them performed on indoor surf trainer boards. 

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I love the beach and have always wanted to learn to surf, so the Surfset Barre class seemed like a good first step in finding my core strength and working on my balance, with its Pilates-style moves not sounding too painful either. Sandbox Fitness owners Minna and David Herskowitz do offer some off-board classes in the sandpit, including TRX and Sandworks Bootcamp, but I was determined to master the board.

While the whole point of exercising on sand is that it doesn’t impact your joints the way pounding a pavement or a treadmill does, with that added comfort comes greater resistance, all in aid of muscle-shaping and fat shedding. How would I get on? Well…

First thoughts?

Wow, this is literally an indoor sandpit, and those really are surfboards. But why are there TRX bands hanging from the ceiling? Did I accidentally show up for the wrong class? And, oh my, am I at the front?!

How difficult is it?

Sandbox Fitness co-owner Minna had assured me that I wouldn’t need to take the Surfset 101 class for beginners in order to try Surfset Barre as it’s considered one of the easier classes that the studio offers. But then I saw those TRX bands… which were just being used to hold my barre in place above the surfboard. Phew. 

Despite initially feeling a bit wobbly on the board, I soon found my centre of gravity, and the actual movements – split into groups of leg, arm and core exercises – were pretty straightforward. That doesn’t mean that the planks don’t burn and your arms don’t start to ache from doing reps with sandbags, but once you get the hang of balancing on the board, everything else falls into place.

Do I need a working knowledge of exercise beforehand?

Not at all, especially if you have a great instructor like Jessica Gilbert, who took my class and was super patient with our multi-ability group. Most of the moves can be adapted if you’re finding them too difficult, whether that means planking in the sand instead of on your board, or holding on to your barre for balance rather than reaching your arm out over it.

Can I fit it into a lunch break?

Yep, so no worrying about getting up early to fit it in before work, or dragging yourself to a studio after a long day. Surfset Barre only takes 45 minutes, leaving you with 15ish to shower, inhale a sandwich, place a cheeky ASOS order or whatever your heart desires. 

Could I take a mate?

Definitely! Class sizes are small due to the equipment needed and how much space the surfboards take up, but if you book ahead you’ll totally get your bud on the same timeslot – plus you might want them to snap a picture of you on your board. As far as workout classes go, Surfset Barre is pretty grammable. 

Would I need to shower after?

The Sandbox Fitness studio was actually a really pleasant temperature considering the mid-October LA heatwave, so while the workout did make me break a sweat, I didn’t feel sorry for my Uber driver afterwards. You could get off with a baby wipe bath and some deodorant. Just don’t roll in the sand.

Was it fun though?

SO. MUCH. FUN. I can’t emphasise enough how much I loved this class and how many endorphins my body released because of it – and I never feel like that about group exercise. The surfboards and the sand are a major novelty, plus you don’t spend so long on any one move that it becomes boring or unbearable, and in all honesty, I would have happily kept going for another 15 minutes.

Where can I try it in the UK?

While you await a Sandbox Fitness franchise across the pond, there are a few gyms in England and Ireland that currently offer Surfset classes, though Surfset Barre is yet to be introduced. Check out a full list of Surfset locations here.

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Follow Jen on Instagram @barbiesnaps