There is no magic trick or tip to make you a great surfer. Surf a lot and watch the good riders around you. Stay in shape and learn how to choose the right equipment and then maybe you’ll get better. That’s it.
But what really constitutes a good surfer? I mean, we all know it when we see it; if you were trying to explain that intangible element that separates the great from the mediocre, what would you say?
Speed maybe. Power, sure. Balance and style…no doubt. But for me, thinking like a contest judge, a surf writer, and a guy who is a hopeless fiend for the sport…It’s all about flow. It’s how a surfer links his maneuvers.
Anyone can throw down one good move and then lose the rhythm of the wave. And anyone can hold a line and stand in full straight-legged glory all the way across the face and make it to the shoulder. But a good surfer can complete moves and link them together while staying in tune with the wave. So if you want to improve your technique, this has to be high on your priority list. Here are some magic bullet points:
Dropping deep into the trough can often allow a fast-breaking wave to go on without you. So keep an eye down the line as you paddle. You may need to paddle at an angle, so to gain a few feet and a few seconds of a head start to get ahead of the lip. You can do this in both small and large surf, but it usually works best in mushier sections as the wave face is not as vertical and lends itself better to this approach.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
As you begin your wave, look down the line and try to anticipate where you want to end up. If you are shooting far for the shoulder, then you may have plenty of room for several maneuvers, but if the wave is standing up and closing out then you may need to quickly pump to the falling section to bust out one quick move. You should be thinking about this as you drop in or even as you paddle for a wave.
Speed, Speed, Speed
In order to link moves, you will have to keep your speed. So that means, no matter what maneuver you bust, you must always get back to the power center of the wave: mid-way up the most vertical section of the wave.
Don’t Use All Your Juice
When you go for your moves (whether it be a cutback or a blow-tail off the lip), avoid using all your energy. Try to save some of your momentum for the recovery and turn it into the next move. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself motionless in the soup while the wave moves on.
If you can remain centered over the mid-point of your surfboard, you’ll stay in control. Whether your fins slip or your rail digs, keep your heart lined up with your stringer (that’s pretty poetic really) and you’ll have a better chance of staying on the open face and on to your next maneuver.
Use All of Your Body
In order to get in and out of different maneuvers, you will have to use your knees, back, ankles, feet, and sometimes arms. Remember that modern surfing asks riders to be both a feather and a knife…both an ice skater and an acrobat, so you have to be both powerful and weightless at times. This means applying pressure from every conceivable place you possess.
There is no way to read an article and apply this right away. Instead, like watching a surf video, it will be more subliminal. Think about these tips and your body will start to follow the concepts. It’s rather metaphysical really, but so is surfing.