Meh, too small…
...the waves that is.
Yup, this is the response you get from most surfers rocking up to the beach when the waves are small and junkie.
But you know what?
These small junkie waves offer a tonne of opportunity - you’ve just got to know how to harness it that’s all.
And in this post I’m going to show you exactly how.
You’re about to learn nine small wave surfing tips to riding small waves better.
All will be revealed below 👇
SMALL WAVE NINJA: NINE TIPS TO SURFING SMALL WAVES LIKE A PRO!
1. THE AMP FACTOR
Are you amped, excited, frickin frothing to hit the water?
If not, you’re going to struggle right off the bat.
Surfing small waves well starts with being in the right mindset, the mindset where you’re pumped for performance surfing, you’re full of energy, and you’re ready to rip the bag out of it.
That’s the amp factor right there 👊
2. ENERGY IN, ENERGY OUT
Surfing small waves on a shortboard is not the time for soul arches and cruising.
Nah, this is when you’ve got to be really putting the work in.
You see, the reduced power of a small wave must be countered with extra energy input from the surfer riding it, otherwise the inevitable will happen and you’ll sink.
So you’ve got to be constantly adding energy into the wave as you’re riding it.
What does this look like in practice?
It means quick reflexive pumping, weight up, weight down, transitioning from rail to rail quickly, and keeping your board moving the whole time.
3. CURVE CONTROL
On larger waves you have the luxury of riding down the curve of the wave, setting your line, and going on your merry way.
Surfing small waves however, is a different story.
With the curved part of the wave being so small - and the wave having less power - you no longer have this luxury. If you take this same approach you’ll simply stall straight away and the wave will pass you by.
Instead what you must do is keep your surfboard in the curve of the wave at all times, never allowing it to reach the flats.
Your surfboard will be permanently in the power source of the wave and you’ll maintain your speed, allowing you to perform manoeuvres even in tiny waves.
This is an advanced technique but I’ll share it with you here for good measure.
When most beginners and intermediates pop to their feet their weight is either static, or compressing down through the board. This is fine when riding bigger boards, or when riding bigger waves, but try this on a shortboard in small waves however, and you’ll find yourself bogging, and stalling every time.
What advanced surfers do to combat this is incorporate a pumping mechanism into their pop up.
Yup, that’s right, as they pop to their feet their weight rises up transitioning straight into a pumping manoeuvre - keeping the board moving and planing the whole time.
And it’s this initial pump that puts their surfboards right at the top of the wave ready to drop down the curve for maximum speed.
A potent technique if you can get it right.
5. THE BOTTOM TURN TRAP...
Deep bottom turns feel frickin awesome don’t get me wrong, but whatever you do don’t do them in small waves.
Well, with the curve of the wave being so small, and the lack of power to boot, it’s super difficult to do deep bottom turns and maintain speed.
Stick instead to shallow bottom turns, and more horizontal surfing instead.
And save the vertical surfing for when the waves are bigger 👊
6. THE EXTRA PADDLE
Did you know that you can actually use the speed generated when you paddle as a mechanism for generating speed on small waves?
Well you can.
Here’s what I mean:
Normally speaking when you paddle for a wave you’re merely trying to catch the wave right?
But when it comes to small wave surfing we can step this up a notch.
Rather than simply paddling to catch the wave we’re going to add a little spice, a few extra power paddles, a few extra leg kicks, to add as much momentum to the start of the wave as possible.
This simple little hack will help you to carry more speed through your popup, and reduce your chances of bogging rail and stalling.
7. SPEED TO FEET
The whole time that you’re popping to your feet your board is slowing down.
And slowing down in any way is the enemy to surfing small waves.
So you’ve got to be swift to your feet (there’s no time for laboured popups here), popping up in the blink of an eye.
Fast, explosive, and balanced.
8. BE LIGHT ON YOUR FEET
Have you ever seen a real elegant runner, light on their feet, bouncing along like they're running on air?
It’s a beautiful sight, and it’s this same lightness you want to emulate when surfing small waves.
Heavy feet equals bogged rails, and sinking boards.
Light feet equals planing board, speed and agility.
Channel your inner feline and get that cat-like lightness enabled next time the surf is small and you’ll see the difference immediately.
9. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
When it comes to surfing small waves you want all the help you can get, and that starts with the right equipment choices.
And the big equipment choice factor is volume.
Volume adds buoyancy to your board, and that buoyancy in turn helps your surfboard to float and plane over the wave surface.
That's why small wave grovel boards are typically wider, slightly thicker and have more volume - all to help keep you flowing and maintaining speed - even when the waves are tiny.
If you haven't got a small wave grovel board already, then maybe nows the time.
WRAPPING IT UP
With small wave surfing being so technical, it’s one of the hardest skills to master in the sport.
And just like everything in life it takes a lot of time to master.
But, all the skills that you practice and refine surfing small waves translate perfectly for when the waves get bigger and more accommodating.
So don’t use small crappy waves as an excuse not to go in, just get in there, get yourself amp levels high, and go attack it.
Your surfing performance level will sky-rocket as a result I promise!
Ex WQS warrior, and all-round frother - Loz is the technical coaching queen at the House of Surf.
She is also a mindset and life coach and has a habit of living in her van way too much.