Catching Waves (Unbroken)

Lesson 9 Chapter 2

It's always great to start learning in smaller surf. You are primarily looking for small, breaking waves that you can walk out to, not the larger battering waves further out where you could get smashed (remember learning to surf should be fun).

There not a huge amount of difference between one whitewater to another, however, you will have a far greater chance of balancing on softer more MELLOW waves than you will on big dumping, surging waves.

In this area you are exposed to constantly changing conditions like rips and currents, so be aware of your environment and be open to moving to safer or even better areas of the beach.

Look around you and make sure you are not about to move into another surfer's path, or that you are not immediately behind someone who may lose control of their board.

It can be quite scary and dangerous seeing an oncoming wave with a surfboard hurtling towards you. Try and be aware of everything going on around you, keeping the safety aspect in mind at all times.

How to Find & catch broken waves

√ 1. Getting in position - You are now at a comfortable depth where the white water is rolling towards the beach. Let some whitewater roll by, getting a feel for the rhythm and power of the wave. Keep an eye on the waves coming towards you, and pick the wave that looks like it's big enough to pick you up and take you

Pro tip: Always keep your surfboard at your side with the nose pointing towards the beach in the 'ready position'. Never let your surfboard get between you and the waves, as the whitewater waves still have a lot of power and can flick your surfboard into your chest and push you under the water

√ 2. As the wave approaches, roll onto your board - Just as the wave reaches about 2m behind you, push the board towards the beach and at the same time roll yourself on to the board so that you are lying balanced on top. Once you are laying balanced on top of your board, start to paddle - one arm at a time in rhythm - as the wave approaches from behind

√ 3. Paddle at the same speed as the wave - Keep paddling as the wave picks you up, you will feel a surge or increase in speed as the wave starts to take you

Pro tip: If you are on an ideal-sized beginner's board for your height and weight, the wave won't have to be that big and you won't need to paddle much at all. On a smaller, lighter board, you will have to paddle a lot harder

√ 4Stick - you need to stick with the wave as it surges you forward. Remeber to paddle TWO extra strokes to be sure you are on the wave. It is with this extra speed and the correct timing determines when you make your pop up

√ 5. Momentum - The wave needs every bit of help it can get from you. If you don't have the right speed and the right momentum the wave will simply pass you by

Common mistakes

Feel is your most important thing to remember. As cheesy as it is… Most of surfing is to do with feeling.

Timing comes down to you feeling the wave and reading the wave correctly.

Wrong choice of a wave. This will be evident immediately as you will wipe out. Be patient, wait for the mellow waves to take you all the way to shore

Too much power. If you’ve caught some big whitewater that either has just dumped before you or has double up, you are likely going to get nailed unless you have complete control over your board. This means when the wave crashes, it will propel you way further in front of the wave with more power and speed than you were expecting. If you are lucky enough to stay on, you are likely to get to your feet but once the wave catches up with you, it will surge forward and be extremely difficult to balance 

Too little power. If you have chosen a tiny wave it won't have the power and the momentum to carry you forward. You will know this because you’ll come off the back as the wave continues to shore

Standing up to early. Often it can feel like the wave has collected you and you're ready to pop. Wrong. If you're finding you're coming off the back of the wave, that's a very big indication you're popping up too early. When you start to catch the green wave (unbroken) you will seriously want to stop that. Seeing the perfect wave run away from you will not be fun!

Standing up too late. More poignant at the immediate level, as you’ll be standing up on the ‘flat’s’ which is the part of the wave that is flat. It can happen on whitewater waves too and the similar outcome will occur. As you slow down, the wave catches up to you and knocks you off your board, unless you have better balance than Kelly

Board direction. Make sure the nose of the board is directly facing the shore. Any kind of the wrong angle and the wave will collect the board and send you into the water 

Incorrect body position. If you are even the slightest off center on your board, you’ll struggle to paddle effectively and gain the speed that you’ll need to catch the wave

Don't paddle too fast, too early and burn all of your energy. Timing is key and this is something that comes with more experience

Nose diving. You nose dive because of two factor:

  1. Poor positioning/ wrong wave
  2. Paddling with bad technique

Don't rely on your surf coach to place you in the right spot position all the time. Allow for some independence so you can learn first hand