GoRecess Playground Pro: Mike Hartwick, SurfSET Fitness



Nickname: Spike or Harty

Classes He Teaches: Founder & CEO, SurfSET Fitness

Hometown: Bedford, NH

Background: Mike graduated from Dartmouth College in 2007 and received his MBA in International Finance while playing professional hockey overseas. Mike would train with heavy weights in the gym during hockey season, and run away to the beaches of California to enjoy daily surf sets when the season ended. Mike loved the way his body looked and felt after months of surfing, and he hated having to leave the ocean behind and lose all the conditioning that came from his surf sessions. Inspired to design a machine to mimic the amazing workout surfing provided, SurfSET Fitness was born.


What is the SurfSET workout method and what inspired you to create the program? The SurfSET workout method is a fitness program inspired by the sport of Surfing. SurfSET is the world's most unique workout, combining elements of aerobic fat burning, lean muscle build, balance and core training in one 45-minute routine on top of a custom-made unstable surfboard.

Our Fitness Team draws inspiration from the adventurous spirit of Surfing, and each workout is designed to push your limits for ultimate results. SurfSET focuses heavily on the core, where all of our strength and body control stem from.

Imagine combining the cardio benefits of Spinning with the muscle toning of TRX training and the core and balance benefits of working out on a Bosu ball. Now throw in some waves and make it fun!

What are the physical benefits of surfing and how does a SurfSET class provide similar benefits? Surfing is an extremely athletic sport. It works all major muscle groups in a dynamic environment that demands extreme focus and core strength. Cardio from paddling and explosive popup movements, isometric contractions of the legs to carve and control the board, and of course balance.

If you look at a surfer's physique you can see that the sport promotes long, lean muscle rather than the bulky body builder look. SurfSET draws on all of the movements of surfing to bring the body benefits of cardio, strength and balance training to you without the ocean.  This means improved aerobic conditioning, lean muscle build, increased core strength, agility, power, stability, flexibility and balance.

We focus on athletic movements that incorporate all major muscle groups and the tiny stabilizer muscles that give your body shape and definition. SurfSET will help define your triceps for shapely upper arms, strengthen your obliques for a tight, toned torso, and work your legs in isometric contractions for that long, lean surfer look.

How is the RipSurfer X different from other balance trainers, like an IndoBoard or a Bosu ball? The RipSurfer X (RSX) is built with an actual custom-made surfboard, engineered to allow you to perform a wide array of traditional exercises with the added core benefit of working out on an unstable surface. Other balance trainers cannot truly mimic the workout of surfing, as they are either too unstable, too small, or they do not provide the same shape and exact movement of a surfboard on water.

The RSX allows you to build aerobic conditioning, burn fat, build lean muscle, power, agility, stability and tone in addition to core and balance training. Other balance trainers can only claim 1-2 of these benefits.

The RSX was created to perfectly mimic the feeling and the physical demands of surfing. The unique side-to-side motion of the board feels just like floating atop the water on a surfboard, and allows you to train the same muscles as a surfer without the ocean.

For those who have never tried SurfSET, what should they expect in their first class and what advice do you have for SurfSET newbies? Do you need to know how to surf? You don’t need to know how to surf to try SurfSET, we focus on the fitness aspects present in surfing. The RSX is an awesome way to introduce your body to the movements of surfing. It may be a challenge for you to work on the most difficult setting, but you can start at a beginner level and work your way up as your balance, core strength and surfing muscle memory improve. Be prepared for a fast-paced, high-intensity, super fun workout!

The one move everyone should master? The pop-up; it is nearly the perfect plyometric body weight movement, incorporating a push-up, squat, abdominal crunch, and developing neural pathways to increase balance and coordination, which is vital to overall fitness.

Tell us about the SurfSET team and the instructor teaching style? The SurfSET Team is made up of Sarah Ponn, Bill Ninteau, Nick Karwoski, Hampton and myself. We all come from extremely active backgrounds, and Hampton is probably the most athletic bulldog I have ever seen! We feel the best way to train is through direct instructor participation in the workout - not only can we gauge the pace/difficulty, we love the camaraderie and community we build with each class. We also stress the importance of changing up workout routines. The beauty of SurfSET is that the instability prevents any two workouts from ever being exactly the same.

How do you become certified as a SurfSET trainer? SurfSET is taking the show on the road this Fall and Winter. We have 24 host locations across the US, where we will be offering instructor certifications, launch events and demo classes. Check here for upcoming locations, dates and to book a class near you.

Tell us about the Get On Board tour and the inspiration behind it. The ‘Get On Board’ Tour started last Fall, but was short lived, we only made it two stops before setting up shop in NYC. After a whirlwind year and a bit more experience under our belts, we are pumped to bring SurfSET to the people. The initial goal behind the trip was to feel out the interest level for the class and equipment, now we are trying to deliver on all of the requests to bring SurfSET to a particular gym or studio.


You were working in finance before starting SurfSET.  Was it a tough decision to make the entrepreneurial jump? The decision was easy, I knew early on that I wanted to start my own business, but the actual leap took a bit of coaxing.

Your proudest accomplishment since launching SurfSET? I think it is a tie between completing the first usable RSX prototype and receiving funding for the company.

Best part about going on Shark Tank? What’s it like working with Mark Cuban? The investment is a huge part of it, but also the exposure Shark Tank has brought us is quite significant. Working with Mark has been awesome, we have made some great strides and avoided major pitfalls with his guidance.

Favorite surfing spots: North Shore, Cardiff by the Sea, Ocean Beach San Fran, The Wall and, except for one minor encounter, Steamer’s Lane

Ham’s favorite surfing move? Pawside

Your personal eating style? Your guilty pleasure? Just recently went gluten-free, which has been extremely hard because bread was my guilty pleasure.

Favorite workout brand? Under Armour

Your “go-to” workout songs? Anything by MGMT or Dropkick Murphys

If you could give GoRecess users one piece of fitness advice what would it be? Your diet is just as important as your workout! "You can’t out train a bad diet."

To get an amazing, one-of-a-kind workout, find a class coming near you on GoRecess here!

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