We were back in the water last weekend giving surfing another try. This was our surf third lesson and we finally felt like we had a good enough handle on how to manage ourselves on the board to start to focus on finessing the fundamentals. Here are a few tips we picked up:
A lot of surfing is learning how to manage yourself and your board in the water
Feeling safe and confident in the ocean will allow you to focus on your surfing ability. The waves were pretty big last weekend so we had to learn how to handle ourselves and our board while paddling out and over them. The key is pushing up on your board and arching your back—the larger the wave, the more you should arch.
Still, we took a few waves in the face and inhaled a lot of salt water until our instructor clued us in on a pro tip: take a breathe and hum (literally) while going though the wave. This will help you control pushing air out of your nose so you don’t take in any water.
If your back is to the wave, lean into it. And don’t be afraid to bail. Your safest bet when you think a wave is going to throw you and the board is to clear the board so it doesn’t end up becoming another hazard you have to try to avoid.
It’s all in the angle
Once you’ve paddled past those large breaking waves, look for ones that are building to about a 35 to 45 degree angle. At 35 degrees, you should be paddling to try to match the wave’s speed and at 45 degrees you should be read to pop up on the board. Anything less steep will roll out from under you and anything more will topple over before you can catch it.
Look at the direction the waves are breaking
Waves tend to break to the left at the Rockaways but this varies by beach. The surfer nearest the peak has the right to the wave and when you do catch one, be sure to look where you’re going to avoid other surfers. Our instructor likened this to merging a car onto the freeway.
Get ready… pop up!
When you’ve spotted a wave with the right angle and you’re clear to try to catch it, curl your toes, lift your knees up and lock your legs. You don’t want to have to worry about this step while you’re trying to pop up so get in the habit of getting into it before you start to paddle to catch the wave.
Also, you have more time than you think. We rushed our first few pop ups and were told to slow down and take our time paddling. The pop up itself should be as fluid as possible—get off your hands as soon quickly and swing your legs beneath you to avoid getting stuck on your knees. One tip that helped us was to think of our hands as feet. Your hands should jump up rather than push up.
Keep you your head up. Way up. In fact, don’t ever really look down.
One issue we were having after we popped up was that our body was going exactly where our gaze was focused—down on the board. Once we made a point of keeping our gaze on the top of the light posts on the boardwalk, we were a lot more successful staying up.
Our instructor recommended we practice our pop ups will watching TV. Keeping our eyes on the set will help build the muscle memory to keep our head up rather than give in to the tendency to look at where our feet are on the board.
Keep a wide stance
Once we got up, we fell a few times because our stance was really narrow. We had better luck when we spread our feet out and bent our knees (all while keeping our head up of course).
Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything there is to remember while surfing, think of each step as an item on a to do list and focus on getting to the next step rather than the entire task at hand. This will prevent you from rushing through it or getting overwhelmed.