As a professional surfing coach, I am sometimes asked what does it take to be a good surfer. I always reply “the basics”. Powerful surfing that looks “good “relies on a few simple foundations. There is nothing fancy. Here are a few base points that a SUP or long boarder can always rely on to improve their surfing.
Surf in the Pocket
One of the most basic mistakes that I see is when surfers don’t “pocket surf”. The pocket is where the most power of the wave is. It exists on every breaking wave and the pocket is directly next to the breaking portion of the wave. It is where the wave bowls up the most. By surfing the pocket one can utilize the natural power of the wave in the most efficient manner. Many surfers and SUP surfers miss the pocket and get too far out on the shoulder of the wave. As the shoulder is not as steep as the pocket, it lacks power to push your board and hence you lose speed. This leads to ugly surfing that is slow and jerky. When you pocket surf, you look as if you are integrated with the wave and flowing. When you miss the pocket, this flow is interrupted and bad form is the result.
Sweep your Board
Many surfers new to the sport of SUP or longboarding fail to Sweep the board. What does this mean? When you don’t sweep the board you “half turn”. A half turn is just that, a short turn. A short turn which is held for only a second creates an ugly surfing style. When you half turn the board only does short arcs. Your surfing will lack flow. That is why sweeping your turns looks good. When you sweep your turn, you engage your maneuver a full 180 degrees in a long arc across the wave. You start off with your turn with your nose pointed towards the shoulder and you cutback a long arc where you boards sweeps and face the whitewash in a full ½ circle turn. This may sound confusing but watch Kai Lenny cutback or Kelly Slater cutback. They sweep their boards around in beautiful arcs. Kai and Slater certainly don’t half turn and the result is beautiful surfing that is as smooth as silk.
Commitment is Key
Some people surf as if they are almost afraid of the wave. This is called safety surfing. It is boring to watch and gets repetitive. It also destroys your style. Good surfing relies on commitment! One day I was surfing a contest and the head judge jack Shiply came up to me and told me to get more committed to my maneuvers. What does this mean? If there is a lip in front of you attack it with an aggressive off the lip. Don’t go around it. Yes, you may fall off but at least you committed to it. This commitment will transform into “power surfing” with time; where you are engaging the wave in a confident and controlled manner. You don’t want to be known as the surfer with a weak style, where one is always avoiding the lip and re-entry sections.
If you can apply these three points to your surfing approach, your surfing will definitely improve. Don’t worry if you cannot get these techniques overnight. It takes years of practice. By following this simple approach to surfing you will most surely look like a better surfer or Super. Commitment, Sweep and Pocket Surfing has always been my mantra. Not only does it look good but you can get more out of your surfing experience.