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September 1

Whitewater Surfing: A Beginners Guide (plus How-To)

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Whitewater surfing…

The place where we all start as beginner surfers, and for good reason.

But how is it done, what do you need to know, and why?

All is about to be revealed.


ARE WHITEWATER WAVES GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?

Yup, whitewater waves are perfect for beginner surfers - here’s why:

  • Unlike green unbroken waves, whitewater waves have no incline: Popping-up to your feet on the flat part of the wave is much easier.
  • They break in a uniform way: Whitewater waves move through the ocean in a consistent way making them easier to predict.
  • Less chance of nosediving: Because there’s little to no inline, it makes nose diving less likely.
  • Easier to catch: Catching whitewater waves requires less timing and positioning, making them far more forgiving.
  • Safer: Catching whitewater waves removes you from the impact zone where waves break and release all their power.

This is why it’s always recommended to learn how to surf in the shallows, in the whitewater.

HOW DO YOU CATCH WHITEWATER WAVES?

To catch whitewater waves, here’s what you need to do:

STEP 1

Position yourself inside the area where waves break. This will keep you out of the impact zone.

STEP 2

When a whitewater wave is around 3-4 meters away, lie on your board and start paddling.

Make sure that you’re not too far forward that you nosedive, and not too far back. 

STEP 3

When the whitewater hits your surfboard you’ll feel a push as the wave picks you up, this is your cue to put in 3 or 4 extra paddles to make sure that you catch the wave.

STEP 4

Once the wave has picked you up, now is the time to pop-up to your feet.

STEP 5

Stay low, with your feet a little over shoulder distance apart, keep your eyes looking forward, get that surfer style going and ride the wave to the beach.

HOW DO YOU TURN IN WHITEWATER SURFING?

Once you’ve got the basics of popping up and riding straight dialled, you’re going to want to learn how to turn in the whitewater too.

THE MECHANICS OF TURNING A SURFBOARD IN THE WHITEWATER

For a surfboard to turn, it needs something to pivot from in order to do so.  

And that's where the surfboard fins come in.

Fin base length
Fin Height

The surfboard fins act similar to a rudder on a boat, sticking into the wave helping you to pivot left and right.

But that's not all...

On a surfboard we also utilise the rails (especially the back third of the board) to help grip into the wave and change direction too.

By simply adjusting your weight distribution over the board - from the balls of your feet to your heels - you're able to dictate, and control the direction that you want to travel in.

HOW TO TURN: FOREHAND

  • Pop top your feet and look in the direction of where you want to go.
  • Add weight to the balls of your feet and your toes.
  • Close your shoulders off by moving your leading arm over to your toe-side rail.

HOW TO TURN: BACKHAND

  • Pop top your feet and look in the direction of where you want to go.
  • Add weight to your heels.
  • Open your shoulders by moving your leading arm over to your heel-side rail.

Turning might feel a little foreign at first as you get used to the sensation of transitioning your weight to your toes and to your heels, but once you connect the dots things will start to take shape quickly.

You might find it easier to go one way or the other - forehand or backhand - but make sure to practice going in both directions to build up a solid foundation as it’ll serve you well in the long run.


WRAPPING IT UP

All surfers start in the whitewater, and for good reason.

It’s easier, more predictable, and is a great way to practice building up the muscle memory of paddling, and popping up to your feet.

Master the basics in the whitewater first, and once you’ve got them dialled, then it's time to tackle some green unbroken waves.

You got this 👊

Yew!
Rowan 🤙

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the nerd behind the scenes.  But when he's not knee-deep in code, you'll find him immersed in the crypto-world or sending it at his local beachie.

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