Cris Mills captured by Fiona Peters

Episode 28: Meet Cris Mills, aka Surf Strength Coach

This week I got to sit down for a fascinating conversation with Cris Mills. Cris has created the dream job. His work involves teaching surfers how to be better surfers and recovery for athletes in surfing. He has created his own personal brand that you may have come across online, it’s called Surf Strength Coach. He’s been making videos for over a decade and you’ll find them all over YouTube. You also may have come across some of his articles in The Inertia, on Magic Seaweed and Surfer Today.

Cris Mills. Photo by Fiona Peters

Listen to the Episode Here


I say Cris has created a dream job, because beyond doing what he loves, he also gets to travel a lot and take his clients on the most incredible waves on the planet.

I had a really enlightening conversation with Cris : we discuss Cris’ background story, how he has become specialized in helping surfers recover and find overall fitness. And how overall fitness should be apprehended in a holistic way.

“One of the biggest influences in the way I view the human body and training is a fellow named Paul Chek who runs the Chek Institute. And he basically brings it down to six foundational principles : it’s thoughts, breathing, hydration, nutrition, movement and sleep.” — Cris Mills, Surf Strength Coach

Cris has a beautiful view of the human body and it’s interaction with surfing

You’ve got to get the system of systems healthy because surfing is this beautifully dynamic interaction with energy, the ocean’s energy.” — Cris Mills , Surf Strength Coach

“And so we are all these weird constellations of energy and we’re a system of systems, so if there’s a default in any of those systems something about us will malfunction or may not function. And then it potentially prevents us from just being able to surf. And that’s our interaction : it’s a soul feeder, it’s deeper than just fun. That’s my 10000 foot overview. And then you start getting in deeper/ Does the person have the prerequisite mobility? How do their joints move? Healthy joints healthy spine shoulder hips : cool. How do they breathe? Do they have breathing awareness to deal with hold-down situations or do they have enough breathing awareness to gauge breath right to recover or as they’re increasing paddling speed or slowing down paddling speed? Do they start having just the basic strength and endurance to do what it is they want to do unimpeded. And so I do I just look at the individual and see what’s lacking what’s inhibiting their surfing. And then you just go forward from there.”

Cris Mills — Photo: Fiona Peters

We talk about the most common surfing injuries and how to prevent them

“Let’s think of a generic stereotypical 35 to 50 year old male professional surfer. The only reason I’m using this as a stereotype is because that’s generally that’s who I’m usually working with. Hips are too stiff : the hips are the crux of movement in the human body. And if those lock-up it’s going to screw things up above or below. So hips are generally too stiff. Usually there’s been some lower back thing, whether it’s a disc pathology or stenosis or something. There’s some spinal issue going on and shoulders just get worn out because, well, we don’t use them or we neglect them and then try to use them. So usually it’s the lower back thing and the shoulder thing. That’s probably what I see the most of.” — Cris Mills, Surf Strength Coach

We also talk weight control, diet and nutrition, breathing and managing fear, and how our own thoughts are all part of the equation.

Cris has a very sensible way of viewing progression in surfing :

“There is an inherent huge need for failure (in surfing) and lots and lots of it.” — Cris Mills, Surf Strength Coach

“And so often what we continue telling people in our coaching trips is that you’ve got to fall more. You have to fall more because you have to try new things and that’s the progression level.” Cris Mills, Surf Strength Coach

In fact, what is amazing is that there is a misconception that to be fit, you need work out a lot, there’s more to it folks, starting with nutrition:

“So what do we know for sure? Processed foods are pretty shitty for the human body. We know that for sure. Right? Don’t eat them. That’s pretty simple.” — Cris Mills, Surf Strength Coach.

I really love the way Cris has created a job he is passionate about and the amount of knowledge he has acquired over the years. I love Cris’ systemic approach to fitness and I think he has so much more to share. So I really encourage you to skip over to his website and sign up to one of his courses, one to one coaching or even one of his epic surf trips.Take a look at his YouTube channel because he has a really interesting series on all type of surf related injuries and how to overcome them.

To get hold of Cris, skip to his website, or follow him on Instagram , Facebook or YouTube . There is some precious content out there. The next surf trips he’s organising with Clayton Neinaber are in 2020:

  • The Mentawais for first timers to intermediate 13–25 March
  • Nicaragua in June
  • Sri Lanka
  • North Sumatra

Watch out for the app that is coming out too. All the links to the books, podcasts and references are also on the weekly article I write on In any case, you’ll be able to find Cris sharing his knowledge on his Instagram stories too. It’s well worth while.

Special thanks to Cris Mills for being such an eloquent and inspiring guest and for teaching us so much. And thank YOU for listening. You guys are amazing!

Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves!



Cris Mills captured by Fiona Peters


Cris Mills’ website :

Instagram :


Paul Chek :

Clayton Nienaber:

Related podcasts

My conversation with Jenn Biestman, co-founder of Local-ish :

My conversation with Simon Short, author of The Average Surfer’s Guide :

My conversation with Al Mennie, big wave surfer :

The Rich Roll Podcast :


How to Eat, Move and be Healthy by Paul Chek :

Prometheus Rising :

Joe Dispenza :

Cris Mills captured by Fiona Peters

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Imi Barneaud

Imi Barneaud

My name is Imi Barneaud and I am a surfer, a mum and an entrepreneur. My podcast is a series of weekly conversations with surfers about careers.