Surfing: Catching your first waves
SURF GUIDE PART 8: MAKING THE MOST OF THE WHITE WATER
LET'S get straight into it and talk about catching the white-water part of the wave which is where mostly all beginner surfers start.
It is always great to start learning in small surf. You are primarily looking for small, breaking waves that you can walk out to, not the larger battering waves further out where you could get smashed (remember learning to surf should be fun). Make sure you are not holding your board in a position where a wave could knock it back into your face and cause injury.
Hold your board at arm's length with a hand on each rail and with the nose of your board pointed out to sea. Jump over the incoming white water as you walk your way out.
Look around and be aware to make sure you are not about to move into another surfer's path, or that you are not immediately behind someone who may lose control (hold) of their board.
It can be quite scary and dangerous seeing an oncoming wave with a surfboard hurtling towards you. Try and be aware of everything going on around you, keeping the safety aspect in mind at all times.
You are now at a comfortable depth where the white water is rolling towards the beach.
Keep an eye on the waves that are coming towards you, and pick the one that looks like it is big enough to pick you up and take you in.
- Surfing: Where to start when you don't know how
- Read the ocean, then hit the water
- Paddling: Getting out the back easily
If you are on an ideal-sized beginner's board for your height and weight, the wave won't have to be that big and you won't need to paddle much at all. On a smaller, lighter board, you will have to paddle a lot harder.
Just as the wave reaches about 2m behind you, push the board towards the beach and at the same time pull yourself on to the board so that you are laying balanced on top of it. Once you are laying balanced on top of your board, start to paddle - one arm at a time in rhythm - as the wave approaches from behind.
Keep paddling as the wave picks you up, and you will feel a surge or increase in speed as the wave starts to take you. As the wave starts to take you, place your hands on the rails next to you bottom ribs and arch your back to bring your weight back between your chest and thighs.
If the wave passes you by or you miss the wave, you may be lying too far back on your board. Try shifting a little further forward: you only want the nose of the board a small way (centimetres) out of the water, or start paddling earlier so you have more speed when the wave reaches you from behind.
At first, it is always a good idea to practise catching waves without attempting to stand up. This will give you a feel of catching a wave and help with learning the timing of when to start to get to your feet. By practising in small waves like this, you will develop a feel of when a wave picks you up. You can also develop your timing and practise your paddling to get extra speed to catch the wave.
Once you have caught your wave (felt that surge of extra speed) and you want to stand up, keep your chin and eyes up and proceed to use the prone to standing technique you have been shown (preferably by a qualified surf coach) to get to your feet and ride the wave. Keep your knees bent (for suspension), your back straight and your arms and hands in position as if shooting a bow and arrow.
Remember to focus on the direct line of where you are riding as, in general, where you look is where you go.
OUR XL Surfing Academy Surf Guide continues tomorrow.