We present seven steps to fast-track your surfing skills.
Most people just tell you to surf more, work on your fitness, and surf some more. The ‘surf more to improve approach’ does work, but there are several alternative methods to jump-start your surfing performance. Some of them don’t even involve surfing.
Best Friend Forever
One of the most efficient ways of improving your game is working with your ego. Surfers are naturally competitive, even if it is an individual sport. However, if you find a wingman, someone who has similar skills to you, surfing together will push your performance levels.
The ideal BFF should actually be slightly better than you, or at least have some skills that are superior to yours. Maybe it is charging barrels, or perhaps it is going over the ledge in big surf. Either way, if there is a performance incentive because your ego wants to be as good or better than your BFF, your surfing will naturally improve. When you do get that better barrel or bigger wave, your confidence will soar.
There has been so much shouted about volume the last few years that all other technical aspects and other dims seem to be discarded. All the questions are about volume. It’s not quite as simple as it looks.
Many people believe that you can get more volume to compensate for being unfit, being overweight, and being lazy. Volume helps, but at some point, a board can become totally dysfunctional if it has too much volume.
If you have a board that has so much volume that you can’t sink a rail, you’re fooling yourself on the volume thing. Speak to a shaper, focus equally on your tail shape, and taper those rails—function before fashion is the route to improving.
Make A Fool Out Of You
One of the heaviest things to do in your fledgeling surfing lifespan is to get someone to film you for a session. It has to be in good waves, where you can express yourself adequately over an hour or two at a venue you are comfortable with.
Then go home, grab a beer or a soda, sit back and watch the show on a screen.
Many people are utterly dismayed when they see themselves surfing for the first time. Still, it is essential to look past the negatives and glean the positives out of the experience. Maybe if you can alter your stance just a little, then you might be able to turn harder off the bottom. Perhaps you need to drop your trailing arm a little to have more composure. You can only learn from your mistakes in surfing and improve if you can see them.
Heavy Rock Jump
It is one of the scariest parts of surfing, yet it has to be conquered. At some stage in your surfing life, you will need to negotiate a gnarly rock jump or, alternatively, do the walk of shame. There is no coming back from a walk of shame for being too scared to jump off the rocks.
So work it out.
The trick to dealing with a super-heavy rock jump is to take your time. Don’t get rushed into it. Watch a few sets wash over the jump spot, and roughly work out how much time in between sets.
Then try and put your eyes on a few rocks leading out. Try and visualize a path through the chaos.
Watch a local jump. Watch a few more locals jump.
Don’t ever be ashamed of asking someone to spot for you. If someone has a vantage spot and who you trust, let them indicate a break in the sets.
When you commit, do not ever hesitate; just go with full intent. Hesitate, and it’s too late.
Ride Another Board
It can be highly beneficial to have a go at another board riding sport. Whether it be snowboarding, skateboarding, kiteboarding or foil surfing, to get a better understanding of your surfboard and how it moves in the water.
In snowboarding, the tiniest movement on the heel or toe-side can turn the board sharply and somewhat uncontrollably at first. As you become accustomed to the finer edge of your turn, you get a better understanding of how to turn off the rails.
Skateboarding has a similar effect, with tiny changes at speed having more considerable consequences and a better understanding of body weight and board movement.
Each and every board sport has something to offer the surfer, and riding another board or trying another boardsport is part of the journey of improving your surfing.
Hit The Pool
The proliferation of wave pools is a global phenomenon, and it is a great time to take full advantage. Many people will talk about nothing comparing to surfing in the ocean. Still, nothing can beat the work done in a wave pool when it comes to improving your surfing technique and actual moves.
Whether it is a Wavegarden Cove, a Surf Lakes pool or an American Wave Machine, or even a Kelly Slater Wave Ranch, the most essential element of surfing a wave pool is repetition. More so than what could ever be found in the ocean. At a pool like the Cove, you could pinpoint your weakness, find the best wave setting for it, and book sessions until you have improved and perfected your weakness.
If it’s a backhand barrel, then get a few Pro Sessions under your belt of even a Beast Mode session. Keep at it; keep pulling in on your backhand. Practice grabbing your rail, different grabs, foot placement, leading with your front hand or even stalling in the tube. Keep at it until you have it dialled. Your improvement will be so much faster than doing the same thing in the ocean.
At some stage in your surfing life, you have to go against all of your instincts and paddle out into uncomfortably large surf. You will need to get a bigger board, get your head around the fact that you’re going into surf that you are not comfortable with, and paddle out there.
Whether you catch any waves or not is irrelevant. The fact is that you changed your mindset away from your usual comfort zone to head to an unknown place. You will learn more about yourself by that simple process of stepping up that you will learn through hundreds of sessions. If you falter, and you come to the cold realization that big waves are not for you, well, that means that you have learned something new, and you’ve improved again.