Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Speed is Everything: Pendulum Surfing

I was watching surfing in town a few days ago. A thought struck me. The surfers that looked good managed to keep a type of speed and flow in their surfing. They were easy to look at. Conversely, the surfers that looked jerky and rough failed to maintain speed throughout their ride. They were hard to look at. This leaded me to the question: “how does one maintain speed through the whole ride?” It is a simple question yet a very difficult task. My conclusion was that one must surf as if they were a pendulum! Here are a few tips.

I was once told by the famous shaper Ben Aipa that surfboards were like airplane wings. This is true. If you look at your tail; the upper rails are rounded and the lower rail section is usually flat (in modern surfboards). As the water wraps around the rail there is more friction on the top rounded rail and less friction on the lower edged rail. This causes lift. If you are surfing with no speed, you are handicapping yourself as your board wants to lift but cannot as you are going to slow. It is as if you are on a jet airplane that is going down a runway yet cannot take off due to low speed. The question becomes, “how do you create speed?” if your board only works at a certain threshold of speed?

The Take Off

The take-off is key to good surfing. This is your initial burst of energy as you start off at the top of the wave and gravity accelerates you down to the bottom of the wave. Utilizing this speed cannot be understated as it is the first event in a process of speed “nurturing” and “continuance”. You carry this speed into your first maneuver. If you fail to use the speed in your drop, you are destroying the potential of the wave to be surfed in a pendulum fashion. The drop sets up for your fist turn; the bottom turn.

The Bottom Turn

After you drop to the bottom of the wave, you will usually have a great deal of velocity. You must utilize this speed or lose it. The best way to transform the speed from the drop in to a maneuver is to bottom turn. A bottom turn literally means turning off the bottom of the wave and heading towards the top of the wave where you prepare for your top turn. Classic speed surfing is an activity where you move the board from top to bottom of the wave, bottom to top of the wave and top to bottom of the wave (that is a mouthful, yet it is key to understand). Like a pendulum, you do not bleed off any speed! Up, down, up, down. You utilize the force of gravity, as a pendulum. It is really that simple!

The Top-Turn

The top turn has many variations. Yet any good top turn is set up by a solid bottom turn. A top turn is done, as the name entails, at the top of the wave. A top turn can be an off the lip, floater, or snap at the top of the wave. The important fact is that it is done in the top ¼ of the wave face. By turning at the very top of the wave you start heading back down to the bottom of the wave gaining a great deal of momentum and speed. This speed is then used again in the bottom turn to project you up the face for another top turn. In this way, you do not loose speed throughout your entire ride.

Top turn—Bottom turn---Top turn---Bottom turn = FLOW!

A surfer who is able to utilize this type of Pendulum speed, moving from the top of the wave to the bottom repetitively, gains what surfers call “good flow”. If you look at Kelly Slater surfing, he is continually manipulating his speed in this pendulum, yoyo fashion and he draws a beautiful line in the process. No one can argue that Slater does not have good flow in his surfing. We can create flow like he does by surfing like a pendulum.

Don’t surf the bottom of the wave

Some SUP surfers and long-boarders make the mistake of surfing the bottom 1/3 of the wave. By doing this they miss the “power pocket” of the wave. Because they are not continually climbing and dropping, they lose speed and fall off or bog a rail. They are not utilizing the “gravity potential of the wave” as they don’t climb high enough up the face to gain speed dropping down the face. This is a common mistake of beginners that I wish you to avoid.

Don’t worry if you can get pendulum surfing right off the bat. It takes a lot of time to master. Yet once you get it down, your surfing experience will be greatly enhanced. Also, I believe that drawing a good line in ones surfing is like being an artist. The wave is your canvas. Why just use the bottom third of your art piece? Use the whole canvas to draw out your dreams! Until next time, practice you pendulum surfing!

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