The quickest way to get better at surfing is to catch more waves.
More waves = More opportunity to improve.
But how do the pro’s do it?
What are they doing that you’re not?
Well, you’re about to find out.
Keep reading to uncover the sneaky tips and tricks advanced surfers use to catch way, way more waves…
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1. PADDLE TECHNIQUE
Everyone you throw on a surfboard can paddle to a degree, but there’s a BIG difference from being a to paddle, vs being good at it.
Here’s a few quick tips to improve your technique:
2. PADDLE ENDURANCE
Increased paddle endurance is going to help you to catch more waves, period.
But how do you increase endurance?
Yes there’s on-land exercises you can do, but nothing beats the actual thing.
So, next time the waves are junky just get in there as each time you do you’re building up your endurance for next time.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Probably the biggest factor in this whole list is being on the right size equipment for your level.
The big mistake that so many surfers make is being on a surfboard that’s too small, and without enough volume.
And the result?
A massive reduction in wave count.
Don’t be this gal.
Instead, choose a surfboard that’s a match for your level and only drop down in board size when catching waves is no longer a factor - and never, ever before.
4. WAVE SELECTION
To catch more waves, it’s important to know which types of waves to catch - this is called wave selection.
You want to be selecting waves that are going to make things easy, waves that have a nice easy entry for maximum success.
This is a hard thing to teach and comes with a lot of experience, but using the stages of a wave as a visual guide will help you to identify which waves you should be catching and why.
Timing is all about how hard to paddle, and when.
Let me explain.
A wave is approaching and you are in position to catch it.
- Paddle as hard as you can?
- Paddle slowly?
- Wait for the wave to come to you then paddle at the last minute?
The answer is, all of the above and none.
You see the timing when catching a wave is so nuanced that it just all depends, and this is why we want to take it away from a binary decision making process like above, and instead be constantly reactive to the situation around us.
Just like a tennis player is always on their toes ready to react, we do the same in surfing when catching waves too.
Where you sit in the lineup is going to have a huge impact on the amount of waves you catch.
- Too far out and you’ll never catch a thing.
- Too far in and you’ll get waves on the head.
And to make things even harder, a little too far to the right or left will result in you not catching the wave either.
We call this longitudinal and latitudinal positioning.
With experience you’ll be constantly repositioning yourself to maximise your chance of catching more waves, a metre here, a metre there.
Even these tiny positional changes will help to get you in the spot to catch more waves.
7. TAIL HIGH TAKE OFF
The tail high take off is a way of connecting your board to the energy of the wave, but here’s why it’s challenging…
The sensation of catching a wave with your tail higher than your head is quite scary and confronting, conjuring up images of nosedives and wipeouts.
But counterintuitively this is what you must do if you’re serious about getting better and catching more waves.
Yes it feels scary, yes it goes against all your instincts, but if you do this right your wave count will go through the roof I promise.
8. POP AND CORK
Ah, the old Pop & Cork, my favourite.
What is it?
Also known as the no paddle takeoff the Pop & Cork is a way to catch wave without even paddling.
How is it done?
In simple terms, surfers will push the buoyancy of their surfboards underwater, releasing the pent up energy just as the wave is about to hit the back of their boards.
This energy release takes the surfer from stationary to full speed in a split second.
Done right this will double if not triple the amount of waves you catch in the surf.
9. HUNTER VS HUNTED
Are you the hunter or the hunted?
Are you the type of surfer that’s constantly monitoring their surroundings, moving here there and everywhere chasing down waves, and making positional adjustments.
Or are you the surfer that loves to just sit in the same place, have a yarn, sit and watch the world go by.
If you’re the latter and you're serious about catching more waves, you gotta switch is up.
Become the hunter, and hunt down those waves with everything you’ve got.
10. TACTICAL PADDLEOUTS
Energy conservation will go a long way in helping you increase your wave count, and tactical paddleouts are a great way to do just that.
Here’s how it works in practice:
Rather than simply hitting the beach, chucking your legrope on, and paddling out, instead, time your paddle out to coincide with the rhythm of the sets.
Tip: Wade out to chest deep water. As the last two waves of a set are about to break jump on your board and start padding. With a bit of luck after you deal with the first two waves you’ll find yourself a break in the waves to dart out the back.
11. BECOME THE SCAVENGER
Lots of people love to sit around and wait for the perfect set wave.
Sure, you might get lucky and get that one good wave, but the scavenger will be looking for the smaller waves, the waves people fall on, or the waves people paddle for and miss.
Scavenging the lineup in this way is a great way to get more waves.
12. SURFING OFF PEAK
No, I don’t mean off peak as in off the peak of the wave, instead I mean avoid surfing at the busiest times of day.
SURFING RUSH HOURS: Times to avoid.
7AM - 9AM
4PM - 6PM
These are usually between 7am-9am and 4pm-6pm
Avoiding these times will have you surfing with far less people, and give you way more opportunity to catch waves.
And for the best time of day to catch waves, why not get out for a dawny?
Be in the water at first light, and you’ll score plenty of waves.
13. LET RIPS BE YOUR FRIEND
To the uninitiated a rip can be something dangerous, something to be avoided at all costs.
However, to the skilled surfer, rips can be used as escalators to transport you out the back with ease.
In fact, some spots will have rips that’ll allow you to paddle out the back with hair dry, and zero paddling, pretty cool hey!
Learn how to use rips, save your arms, and you’ll catch more waves as a result.
14. SURF ONSHORE WAVES
So many people only surf when the waves are offshore.
This is dumb, and here’s why.
Avoiding onshore waves is like neglecting a whole area of the sport, and robs you of so much fun and learning reference experiences too.
If you can get good at surfing onshore waves, reading the chaos of the lineup, and positioning yourself well, when the wind does swing offshore you’ll become a wave catching master.
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Catching more waves gives you more reference points, and more opportunities to improve.
Put simply, surfers that catch more waves improve quicker - simples.
Sure, there’s a lot to get through in this list, but if you just start off with one or two, add them into your game, then keep building you’ll see a big difference I promise.
But don’t just take my word for it, go take some action and see for yourself.
Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.