How To Improve Your Surfing Skills This Year
Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate surfer, there is always room for improvement. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at five ways you can improve your surfing skills this year.
This sounds ridiculously obvious, and it is, but the only way you’re going to improve your surfing is by actually surfing regularly. If you’re fortunate enough to live relatively close to the water, try to get out in the waves at least once a week, if not more. You don’t have to surf every single day to improve but regular sessions out in the water will help make you a stronger and better surfer.
If you struggle with motivation, buddy up with someone else who enjoys surfing. Ideally, try and buddy up with someone who is better than you so that you can learn from them and improve your technique and stamina by surfing with them regularly.
Do some homework out of the water
Great surfers make the whole thing look absolutely effortless but in reality, surfing take a lot of strengths and coordination. So if you want to improve your surfing, and particularly if you can’t get out in the water as much as you’d like, you may need to put in a little bit of work at the gym or at home.
Working on gaining mobility across your thoracic spine and shoulders will assist with paddling whereas hip mobility work will help keep the strain off your lower back and knee joints. And of course, core strength work with a focus on fundamental core stability will help improve your rotation as well as provide the endurance required through your back muscles when in paddling position.
Go to a surf camp
Regular surfing is a fabulous way to improve, but sometimes you simply need to work intensely in order to see real skill development. Attending a surf camp will enable you to work with a qualified instructor to improve your skills and iron out any technical issues that are holding you back.
It’s important however to find a surf camp that suits your skill level and other requirements. If you’re a beginner, make sure your surf camp is designed for beginner level, otherwise you’ll find yourself getting frustrated and overwhelmed. But fear not because whether it’s women’s surf camps in Australia, beginner surf camps in Costa Rica or intermediate surf camps in Hawaii, there is something out there to suit every level.
Join a club
Joining a surf club is a fantastic way to pick up handy tips, improve your skills & technique and meet likeminded surfers. By joining a club, you’ll build a network of other surfers in your area who can help you to adopt a regular surfing practice that allows you to improve gradually.
Unfortunately, surfing comes easier to some people than to others. So if you’re watching your friends perform tricks whilst you’re still struggling to get the basics, don’t beat yourself up. The key is to be patient and give yourself plenty of time to practice. As we’ve already established, surfing requires core strength, upper body strength and good mobility and the more you practice, the better you will get. You just have to be patient and keep trying.
Be a skater
Getting a skating mindset and practising certain moves over and over again is a good way to learn airs. For turns, it’s still repetition, but it’s more about going out and learning how to read waves and adapt to them.
Feel the turn
Don’t analyse manoeuvres too closely. There’s so many things in surfing that can’t be taught. It’s all just feeling. It’s riding every different kind of wave and surfing every day.
Find a pusher
Surf with people better than you. This relates to anything. It’ll always help you progress. But, don’t let it defeat you and make you bummed out.
As confronting as it can be, watch footage of yourself at least once a month. I feel that this has to be the best way to learn. You can compare it to your favourite surfers, see what they have that you’re lacking, see where you can improve. Even for me, now, I’ll go and have a surf and feel like I was ripping, then I’m bummed out on the footage. Or I’ll think I’m having a shocker and the footage makes it look good. Think about what looked good, how it felt and how to do that again.
Join a club
This doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re naturally competitive and like the pressure, it helps your surfing a lot because you’ll try crazier stuff and put yourself in positions that you wouldn’t put yourself in when freesurfing. There’s also people who don’t like competing and crack under pressure. But, if you like the pressure, you’re guaranteed to push your surfing to another level.
Be a groupie
Freesurf near WT or prime events whenever you can so you can watch pros in the water. Growing up, I loved any chance I had to be around those guys or to watch a contest. Back then, I wasn’t thinking so much about learning, it was more about the experience of seeing those guys. But, looking back now, there’s guys who you’d watch in movies then see in real life and you realise there’s a difference because all the bad stuff gets chopped out in a movie. It definitely helps your confidence, knowing that. I remember when I was a grom I watched Kelly Slater in Black and White relentlessly with my brothers and I was convinced that Kelly didn’t fall off.
Don’t be proud
It ain’t easy but it helps if you ask better surfers how they nail their tricks and what techniques they use. That is, if you have the right relationship with that person. If I surf with someone and get along with them I’ll happily ask how to do things. Sometimes, I get asked myself and I’m more than happy to share what I know.
No crazy eyes
Don’t try and get in the zone in the water. I feel that it never helps when you free surf. When you go freesurfing you need to take it as a new experience and not put pressure on it. The coolest stuff happens when you’re having fun. Go out with an open attitude. If you’re having a good time and not worrying about falling off, it reflects in the way your session goes. If you paddle out going, “I’ve gotta do the sickest air,” you tend to get pissed off and never achieve it.
Know that sometimes less is more. The hardest thing for someone learning is the fact that they wanna do things the way they see them straight away, instead of taking the baby steps that the guy who can do it has taken over the years. When you see the best guys in movies do something, you forget they’ve chopped out the 800 that weren’t made or didn’t look as cool. You can’t worry about how it looks, you need to realise there’s steps to take before you get to that point. When you’re learning finners, you won’t do one like Reynolds where you hit the lip vertically and go inverted. You’ve gotta start doing little horizontal slides. You’ve gotta start basic.
Know your surfboards
Learn to pick boards that suit conditions. Progressing has a lot to do with having fun. It’s silly to ride a high-performance shortboard when it’s two-foot and weak, when you could be on a fish and getting all sorts of speed to do airs. You can’t force a situation. There’s a board for every condition. There’s so many options with shapes, rockers, fins, fin systems. It’s endless. If you’re bored with something, try something different.
Know your mood
Your surf can be dictated by your mood. If you’re super amped-up on coffee and wanna go out and do a million of the sickest turns or biggest airs, you’re gonna go and try it. Not to say you’re gonna do it, but you’ll at least have the energy to try. There’s also times when you just wanna cruise and trim. The mood’s set before you paddle out.
You can do anything
View a trick as achievable. Everything takes a certain type of wave. There’ll be things that you think are unachievable until one day you surf a wave that’s perfect for that trick. Then you try it and go, wow, it is achievable. You get that little bit of inspiration and then you know what to go for when those conditions are right. Say a rodeo is something you’d love to do. If you always surf fat waves, you’re never going to get the opportunity to try it, and you’re going to think it’s unachievable. It’s about knowing waves and knowing what to try in what conditions.
Waves are teachers
There’s something to learn from every wave. If you grow up on a beachbreak you’re gonna surf different conditions 365 days a year. But if you grow up somewhere like the Gold Coast with long point breaks, you definitely have an advantage of being a local and knowing the wave inside out. Beachbreaks are always a tough one, but they’re also a good thing because you learn to adapt to every different condition. There’s a positive to everything.
Get a crazy pal
Find a friend who you can push you in big waves. You definitely need someone to push you and if they’re around the same age, even better. It’s a huge motivation. This applies to all waves, really. If you’ve got someone that’s a similar ability and age, it always brings out the best in you.
Recognise your competitiveness and play to your strength. Competitiveness isn’t something you can force. Everyone’s competitive to an extent, but it’s the people who aren’t afraid of losing or looking silly who learn the most. There’s always people who are too worried about how they’d look if they lost. Guys like Craig Anderson aren’t competitive in a contest sense, but they’re competitive in the sense that they wanna do a bigger air or get more barrels, and bring out the best movie part. You’ve gotta push your surfing when you’re filming those movie sections. Competitiveness is always there, just in different forms.
Rent a big board to make your first surf easier
If you go out surfing your first time and realize that it’s not for you, you’ll really regret spending $500 on that fancy board. Instead, rent a surfboard from a rental company. You can typically find these board rental companies next to popular surfing beaches, although you may also be able to rent a board from your instructor or borrow a spare board from your friend. Generally speaking, the larger the board, the easier it will be to balance on.
Make sure you’ll have a leg leash to stay safe in the water
Call the board rental company at the beach or ask your friend giving you a board if it will have a leg leash. A leg leash is a strong cord that connects your leg to your board. When you fall, the leash will keep your board from floating away from you. If the rental company or your friend do not have a board with a leg leash for you, you’ll have to bring one with you when you go for your first surf.
Wear tight-fitting swimwear to stay comfortable in the water
Those loose-fitting swim trunks or that flimsy bikini top may fly off or come loose if you fall in the water or get hit by a strong wave. Wear a high-waisted bikini bottom with a tight sports bikini top, a tight set of boardshorts with a waist cord, or a well-fitting wetsuit. This way your clothes will stay on when you’re in the water!
Put on water-resistant sunscreen 1 hour before going out
Don’t forget to bring waterproof sunscreen with you to the beach. Even though you’ll end up in the water a large percentage of the time, you’re going to spend a ton of time in the sun. Put the sunscreen on at least 1 hour before going out in the water to ensure that it doesn’t wash away.
Practice your swimming skills to stay safe in the ocean
Go swimming regularly in the weeks or days leading up to your first surf. Practice treading water and doing the freestyle stroke, which is similar to the paddling motion when you’re on your board. If you’re in a pool, practice swimming 3-4 laps without taking a break. If you can do this, you should be just fine in the water.
Go swimming in the ocean to get used to the movement of the waves
If it’s been a while since you’ve been out in the ocean, go to the beach a few times a week to get some swimming in and just hang out. Navigating around waves and studying how they break are key skills when it comes to surfing. Even hanging out near the shore will help you get acquainted with how the water in the ocean moves.
Use an indo board to work on your balancing skills
Get an indo board and set it down a soft carpet or cushioned floor. Place the flat platform on top of the cylinder and practice standing on it. Balancing on the board is one of the hardest parts of surfing, so getting used to your center of gravity is a great way to prepare.
Get used to the feeling of getting on the board and paddling in a pool
Go to an unoccupied pool and put the board in the middle of the water. Then, practice rolling on to the board and positioning your weight in the center. To practice paddling in the pool, enlist a friend to hold the board in place with you on it. Then, paddle forward by swinging your hands into the water in an alternating pattern. Keep your back as still as possible while pumping your arms.
Practice standing on the board in the sand before going in the water
On the beach, draw an outline of the board in the sand or lay your actual board down. Then, lay face-down on the sand or board. Put your hands flat on the board under your chest. Try popping up by sliding your feet forward and while pushing yourself up. Getting in a standing position is one of the hardest parts of surfing, so practicing this motion for 10-15 minutes will really help before going out.
Work out ahead of time to prepare physically
It takes a lot of physical energy to surf. Between the paddling, swimming, and falling, your body is going to take a beating even if the water is relatively calm. Do some calisthenics and light lifting in time leading up to the surfing sessions. Rowing exercises and dumbbell curls are great for the upper body, while squats and leg presses are great for the lower body.