Let’s face it, one of the hardest parts of being a beginner or intermediate surfer is maintaining a high wave count during a session. We’ve all been there before where we make the long and arduous paddle out to the backline, spend 3 hours hours toiling in the lineup, and only catch one wave which we end up falling on. Arrghh! It’s super frustrating.
This post dishes out those useful little nuggets of surfer gold that will help you become a more proficient catcher of waves. By catching more waves each session, you’ll have more time standing on your board ultimately leading to you improving your surfing. Without further ado, here they are.
Get Paddle Fit
The most underrated aspect of surfing. Advanced surfers don’t tend to talk about it because it’s a given for them. However, most beginner and intermediate surfers lack the requisite paddle fitness to catch as many waves as they should.
Before expecting to be one of main guys in the lineup picking off every wave that comes your way, you should spend some time training. We’ve found the best way to get paddle fit is to swim.
Swimming helps one to get into better breathing rhythms when paddling which means that you’ll be able to paddle at a higher intensity for a more sustained period. The reality is that in many cases you’ll need to always be paddling at a high intensity.
Don’t be fooled by watching the pro’s paddle into waves on the tour. They make it look easy, but they too are paddling as hard as they can most of the time.
Choose The Right Board
Another hugely underrated element of surfing. This ultimately boils down to two features of a surfboard, namely, volume and rocker. If you’re a beginner or intermediate there’s no reason why you should try and ride that Andy Iron’s 25 Liter board you picked up an auction.
Unless it’s a really hollow reef break maxing out at 6 foot, steer clear of boards like these which are low in volume and high in rocker. Choosing the right board for the conditions is so important in surfing and this decision will play a big part in how many waves you catch in given session.
It’s fair to assume that as a beginner or lower intermediate you’re probably going to be surfing in smaller, flatter waves. The most difficult part of catching waves like these is paddling in. Getting into these waves can be really difficult. However, if you’re surf fit and you’re surfing the right board, then you’re going to be well placed to have a great session every time.
So, what is the “right” board? There is no exact answer to this question. What we will say is that we recommend not surfing a board that’s under 28 liters as a beginner or intermediate.
Moreover, be sure to ride a board with much less rocker than a traditional performance thruster. Rocker just means the curvature of the surfboard from tail to nose. You can find a more detailed explanation in this post.
A surfboard with relatively high volume gives you more buoyancy in the water which means more speed. A larger portion of your board will be gliding on top of the water than within it.
A flatter surfboard (less rocker) provides a greater surface area in contact with the water which also leads to more speed. The downside to having a flatter board is that in steeper, more hollow waves the nose of the board may dig into the face of the wave.
Sit On The Inside
A slightly higher risk move, but one that will certainly pay off. “Sitting on inside” simply means sitting a little deeper in the impact zone (where the majority of the waves break).
We advise implementing this tactic on a smaller day as you can expect to take quite a few waves on the head. Being on the inside means more duck diving and less paddling over waves.
What it does do is open up a whole treasure trove of nuggets that you won’t see in the backline. You’ll be exposed to many more waves of all shapes and sizes.
Next time time you’re surfing pay attention to who is positioned where in the lineup. You’ll most likely find that some of the strongest surfers have positioned themselves on the inside.
They know they may not get the biggest waves of session but they’ll certainly be exposed to greatest number of waves in the session.
This is more important in crowded breaks where waves can often go amiss due to lack of communication. A good example of how clear communication can benefit you in the lineup is an A frame break.
If a set comes through and you and another surfer are looking to catch the same wave, but they have priority, ask him which way they’re going on the wave and split with the peak with them.
If they say they’re going left, you go right and vice versa. Lower Trestles in California is good example of a crowded wave where you can split the peak. You see some tour surfers doing it in this video.
Late Angled Take Offs
Underutilized, but very effective. A late angled take off is simply catching a wave that has already broken by riding across from the whitewater to the open face.
Because it is counter intuitive it will seem daunting to do at first. Our advice is to try this is smaller waves to begin with. The hardest part is maintaining your balance while popping up.
It will feel like the whitewater is throwing you off your board. To resist this, stay low on your board after popping up and only stand up fully once you’ve ridden out of the whitewater and onto the open face.
Move Around In The Lineup
Ocean tides affect where a wave breaks and tides are always changing. Therefore, your position in the water should always be changing as well.
We’re not suggesting that within your surf 2-3 hour surf session the tidal change will have a significant impact on where the waves breaks, but it definitely has some impact.
Swell direction is also changing all the time which means that the waves could start to break in different places during your surf sessions, and so this is another reason to always be moving around in the lineup.
Rather than shifting around aimlessly, look and see what the incoming sets are likely to do and make your move accordingly. Another good tip is to pay attention to the locals as they know when to move into certain sections based on tide and swell direction.
Catching waves can be one of the most frustrating parts of surfing for a beginner and it is often the reason why so many give up on the sport. We’ve heard a number of beginner surfers say if only they could have their surf instructor push them into every wave they would keep on surfing for the rest of their lives.
With these tips in your arsenal we’re confident that you’ll start increasing the number of waves you catch in each session. Be sure to also check out our post on the most common surfing mistakes here. Remember, keep paddling hard and share the stoke. 🤙🏼