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Monday, January 6, 2014

3 Surf Tips for Catching Waves | Know Your Break, Board, and Body

Let’s face it: surfing is a difficult sport. Those that are able to stand up and ride a wave their first day are few and far between; and rightfully so -- you’re practically walking on water! Being a skater or snowboarder certainly helps, but imagine riding a skate ramp that is constantly changing underneath you...that is surfing. But people do it, and do it well. So what’s their secret? 

Three helpful tips for catching more waves tips: 

(1) know your break 
(2) know your board
(3) know your body

Sunrise session on a weak swell? Better bring a longboard...

(1) Know Your Break

Understanding the spots where you surf is the first step in a successful surf session. Is it big and dumpy? Small, but long rides? Breaking left or right? A beach, rock or reef break? All of these will inform your decision of where, when, and how you should paddle out. Of course this knowledge comes from a variety of sources: surf reports, locals, videos, personal experience...anything to help increase your awareness of a spot is beneficial.

No matter what, I always watch a set or two come through before paddling out. Too many times I’ve been over excited about the session ahead of me, and paddled right into a big dumpy set. By the time it passes and you’ve made it to the break, you’re worn out and your amp-level is low. Watch other surfers and where the waves break. This will save you so much time and energy.

Also, always talk to people -- to find out information about your spot, and to make more surf buddies! Just last week I went surfing with a new friend at a familiar spot, and he informed me of a channel right next to a groin that was pretty much a paddle-out-conveyor-belt, getting me to the break in no time! Though I had surfed there many times, I never noticed the channel, which ended up paying off huge when a head-high set came through during my paddle out!

(2) Know Your Board

I started surfing on my Dad’s old swallow-tail from the 80’s, and rode it pretty poorly for about 10 years before a friend gave me an Al Merrick that was way more suited for my skill level. Imagine the time I would have saved had I not started on a board that was too short and as squirrely as a chihuahua on roller skates!

Here’s a great article on choosing your surfboard based on the waves. I usually recommend the Wave Storm for beginners, available for $100 at Costco. It’s a big foam beast that sometimes feels like you’re riding a giant shovel, but it catches pretty much everything and is surprisingly responsive.

(3) Know Your Body

Once you have a board and feel comfortable on it, the next step is developing a physical awareness on the water. The biggest aspect to this is weight distribution.

Being able to shift your weight along the board can make a world of difference to catching more waves and having longer rides. Are you paddling for a wave that just isn’t picking you up? Maybe you need to lean forward. Are you nose diving? Take a little hop back on the board as you drop in. Keep losing your balance when you stand up? You probably need to bend your knees and stay low.

All of these things are part of feeling your way along the wave, and being able to adjust yourself physically to stay riding. Little shifts in your steps and foot adjustments can be the difference between riding a wave to its end or wiping out. And remember, tips will help, but most physical awareness comes from feeling comfortable on your board and trying out different methods on the wave. So get out there and start riding!

There are plenty of resources online for more specific surf tips, especially blogs and YouTube; but as I said earlier, making friends on the waves is the best thing you can do to improve your surfing and your fun!

I’d love to hear whether these help or not, or if you have more tips of your own -- leave a comment below and get the conversation going!