We’ve all been there, sitting out the back and wondering why we’re the only one who can’t seem to catch a wave. Do you just paddle into shore or stick it out until you finally get one?
Like I said, we’ve all been there before. But what steps can we take to eradicate these wave-starved sessions?
Here are 11 hacks to up your wave count:
1.Paddle with purpose…to “Spot X”
Sitting in one spot and hoping a wave magically comes to you might work if you’re Rob Machado but it’s not great for the rest of us. You always need to be aware of the ocean’s movements. To help maximize your chances of catching more waves you need to paddle with intention and move into the best places to catch them. This could mean your best approach is paddling into the peak then quickly turning around, or maybe it’s paddling further out toward an oncoming set.
When you see a set in the distance that’s going to break further down the beach, you have to paddle with purpose to “Spot X.” Spot X will be your best possible takeoff point.
2. Line up with a landmark
The ocean is a massive playing field with nothing that will allow you to visually gauge your positioning. This is why you must use land markers to find your positioning. Use buildings, trees, rocks, sunbathers etc, as landmarks to line up with. This will help you to hold your position on the peak through big lulls or rips and make sure you stay in the appropriate takeoff zone.
If possible, you can line yourself up with more than one landmark to better gauge not only your positioning along a beach but also your distance out to sea.
3. Try to find your rhythm early
Sometimes you have to surf yourself into a rhythm. The longer you take to catch your first wave, the harder it will be to get going.
As soon as you’re out the back, take off on any green wave you can find. It doesn’t have to be the set of the day, just something with a little wall to get your feet in the wax. This can set you up with a little momentum for the rest of your surf.
If you’re enjoying this article about Beginner Hacks, then you’ll probably find my other writing on 3 Biggest Pop up Mistakes useful.
4. Move around
Have you ever noticed how much the top surfers paddle around? They’re constantly on the move.
So often surfers are like sheep, constantly herding together. But don’t be afraid to break free from the pack and go it alone. Once you make a break from the pack you can bet others will follow the moment they see you catch a half decent wave. Don’t get your heart set on one peak. Paddle around, try new positioning and get busy.
5. Hijack your negative self-talk
Negative self-talk will always deliver a negative outcome. A simple shift of your self-talk can have the biggest impact on your surfing (and life). Be thankful for the fact that you’re surfing, embrace everything it has to offer, and don’t beat yourself up about everything.
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6. Are you riding the right surfboard?
Do you feel a lot of drag when you’re paddling? Are you losing paddle battles to 6-year-old groms? If the answer is yes to either of the above, then you may just be on the wrong board for your size and ability.
The goal for many is to surf on the smallest board possible. But this mindset often sets aside the fact that we still need to be able to catch waves. Unless you have the fitness, balance, strength, and technique, you’re better off sticking to a board with more volume.
7. Get some speed
This one is pretty simple. Being able to paddle faster is going to help you catch more waves. Not only will it physically get you to the takeoff spot quickest and into those waves, but it also increases your margin for error as you can take off on waves much earlier.
8. Take stock of your paddling technique
The two most important things to good technique are minimizing your drag (resistance to your paddling) and maximizing your propulsion (efficiency of moving forward).
9. Look for where the wave is pitching
Reading waves is an art. More experienced surfers are able to read waves with very little effort. They seems to know the ocean and the waves like the back of their hand.
If you’re a newbie in this arena, the part of the wave you will need to focus on the most is where the wave peaks. The peak is going to be the best and most difficult place to take off from. There will be more experiences surfers vying for positioning and the drop will be much steeper than the shoulder. But the more you are able to read the pitch in the wave the easier you will be able to read the rest of the wave.
Jostling for position where the waves pitches is going to up your wave count, your confidence will skyrocket, and over time, your success rate at making the steeper drops will improve. Just know this is also a place where you need to be even more aware of all the etiquette that governs a lineup.
10. Keep your chin down
This is a simple hack that’s going to really increase your wave count.
When you’re paddling on flat water the length of your board planes through the water. Meanwhile, when you’re paddling for a wave the surface of the water is now curved. This creates an uneven weight distribution on your board, shifting the majority of your weight to the back of your board and causing drag.
To combat this, simply push your chin towards the deck of your board. This helps distribute your weight forward and helps you to take off under the lip rather than on top of it.
11. Hang around less experienced surfers
We all want to be on the best waves but the best waves also bring the thickest crowds.
If you’re a beginner looking to improve, wave count is actually far more important than wave quality. The ocean is a constantly changing canvas, and each and every wave is an opportunity to learn something new at this stage of your surfing. Don’t follow the crowds and leave yourself with just two waves each session. Drop those expectations for the time being, pick a mediocre bank, and get a ton of waves.
If you want a full breakdown of the correct paddling technique, grab a free copy of our How to Paddle Handbook.