The foremost skill that you must do before becoming an advanced surfer is to learn how to catch a wave. This is one of the most fundamental skills in surfing. It may sound easy but for beginners, it can be the most challenging.
As you progress your level and practice every day, you have to be ready to feel frustrated over a lot of failed attempts. But remember that practice makes perfect and when you succeed in catching your first-ever perfect wave, the excitement can be hard to contain. Let this be the motivation to push you forward and persevere.
Pack a lot of patience and enjoy riding the waves with the following important points and tips.
Observe and Get to Know the Waves
Before you carry your surfboard and step into the water, it is important to look at the waves first. Do you see how surfers tend to sit on the sand and gaze at the ocean?
No, they are not doing it to appreciate the picturesque view, most of the time.
They are observing and studying the waves—the pattern, the shape, and the “break”. Remember how each surfing spot differs according to the surfing waves they produce? You need to get to know how each place is unique. Are you in a spot where there are lots of rocks and reefs or just pure sand at the bottom? This will help you identify surfing hazards.
If you are still a novice, choose to ride the smaller waves close (but not too close!) to the shore.
Another thing is to recognize the stages of a wave. It has basically four stages.
- The wave looks like a small bump. This is the first form. You do not have to do anything at this point.
- In the second stage, you will see that the “bump” becomes higher and larger. This is where you should catch the wave. Be ready to paddle on it.
- Stage three is where the wave is steep enough to break. A “lip” forms and crashes forward unto the surface.
- As the wave curls and breaks, you can see foams of white water on the impact zone. This is called the white water wave. Beginners can ride the white wash on this stage and let the force of the water propel you forward.
Quick Tip: Catch the wave before it breaks!
Positioning and Paddling
Catching a wave involves a lot of paddling. You should also know how to position your surfboard in the right direction before getting on it.
Reminder: If you are in an area where the crowd is heavy, always look out for people and other surfers near you while you are in the water. Chances are you will get hit by someone else’s surfboard and vice versa. Keep your distance and safety first!
The correct way to hold your surfboard on an arm’s length, on the side while facing the beach. The nose of the board should be pointing towards the shore. The best position to wait is about 4-5 meters where most of the waves break, but not too far where the depth is uncomfortable for you.
Look out for waves on their first stage (A). Now hop on your surfboard and start paddling while matching the speed of the wave as it gets from stage A to stage B. Balance yourself on the board as you lie down on top of it and paddle using both of your arms.
Tip: Look over your shoulders! Novice surfers often miss a wave because they forget to look back.
It is best to position yourself a little further back on your surfboard
As you see a wave approach behind you, feel it as it picks you up and your board rises steadily and moves forward. This is the time to push the upper part of your body upwards and put some weight on your thighs. Do not forget that arching your back should be in sync with the momentum as the wave changes and to avoid “pearling” or getting lurched off the front.
The use of bigger surfboards makes it easier to catch the waves.
If you are having a hard time keeping your balance on the board, you can practice paddling and positioning first before you try to do the “pop up”.
Get on Your Feet
Riding the wave on your feet comes after catching them. You can do this maneuver in two ways.
Use your knees as you get up slowly.
Hop on your feet quickly by pushing yourself up using your arms. This is also known as “popping up”.
Balance is the key to do this properly. If you are not sure how to do it, practice on the sand first.
Do not be afraid to fall! It will feel and look awkward during the first few attempts but with hard work, dedication, and patience, you will soon be able to strike a good surfer pose.
Enjoy the Ride!
Do not forget to relish the moment as you ride the waves.
These are the basics of surfing and the foundation you need if you are planning to catch a much bigger wave as you advance to the next level. So, keep it up and never give up!