surf better

It seems that there is quite alot of material out there (books, videos, etc.) for beginning surfers but practically nothing for those that are intermediate and beyond. I’ve been surfing for about 20 years and would consider myself a pretty good surfer but I’m sure that there are some things that I could be doing that would help me to improve. Is it because surfing is such a personal, free flowing activity that anything beyond how to paddle and how to stand up just can’t be adequately articulated? Or is there some good material out there that I just haven’t found yet? By the way, I realize this is obviously not a design question but I’ve been looking through the archives and there seemed to be a fair amount of off-subject posts so I thought I’d take the liberty.

what about Taj Burrows book of HOT surfing…hes a pretty advanced surfer…

I have a video that I won in a raffle…Secrets of Power Surfing

It’s an '80’s Australian production, that goes into detail about center of gravity, momentum projection, pivot points, that kind of stuff…

It’s shortboard based, but applicable for all stand up gravity based sports…

I used one technique while snowboarding and found myself in places that I wouldn’t normally be if I didn’t use the principles in the video…

I don’t know if it’s available for sale…

That reminds me of the sequence sections I used to look at as a kid in Skateboarding magazine. They could teach you how to do a three-sixty kickflip to backside smithgrind in three easy steps. Something to the effect of: 1. Do a three sixty kickflip, 2. Catch the board mid-air and set your back truck on the ledge, 3. Do a backside smithgrind, 4. Ride off and look cool.

Beginner books are easy, there is so much that the beginner doesn’t know, that any help can be a lot. But you start to reach a level where that doesn’t apply anymore. People really can’t put that kind of stuff into words… except one: Practice. I know what you’re probably saying, Tiger Woods has a book on how to golf, and so-and-so has a book on how to do this like a pro… they’re all crap. Sure, if you’re an avid student of the sport it might help to know how the sport leaders do it… but it doesn’t mean that that will apply to your situation. Try comparing “The Book” to how Eddie van Halen plays guitar, you’ll quickly find that he doesn’t follow any of the rules, he can’t even hold a pick “correctly”.

I’ve had several hobbies over the years… I went at each of them methodically, and I studied any literature I could get my hands on. Surfing is the first hobby I’ve had where I’ve been able to leave all this behind. There are no rules. There are no requirements. Surfing has evolved so fast that there really isn’t any traditions to follow either; longboard, shortboard, kneeboard – take your pick. Get a fish and surf straight and fast, get a potato chip and do turns till you’re dizzy. Hell, get a longboard and do turns until you’re dizzy, who’s to say that’s wrong?

I haven’t been surfing 20 years, so I can’t say I know what position you’re in. But it seems to me that if you’re looking for a book to take you to the next step, you’re missing something in you’re surfing.

If you’ve been surfing for 20 years then you probably have a pretty good standard, which means you probably know how to do most things. I was in a similar position, and the way I improved was partly physical, part mental, but in both facets it involved a little work.

Something physical to help is a full range of stretching. Maybe you do it now, if you do great. Perhaps you could combine it while you practice balance stuff, using different parts of your feet and different body positions, including movement. I did this a lot, including lots of leg stretches and slow squats, and one legged balanced squats.

On the mental side, I just kept telling myself I could do it. Over-ride the negatives, you know you can surf, just hit it. Tell yourself your body is ready.

Don’t fall off unless you are pushing it. If your not pushing it you won’t fall off. When you fall off, learn from it, then push harder next time.

I did my first re-entry 360 at 36 years of age, and learned to ollie a skateboard at 37. Halfpipes only shortly before that.

And the best therapy of all, after getting physically and mentally ready, is to watch your favourite surf flick, rewind on every move you like, break it down to specifics, and study everything about the situations you like.

Once you’ve filled your visual and mental storage to capacity, wind your body up and go surf, no matter what the conditions, and feel like the luckiest person on earth, because you are.

I depends on what you mean by “better.” If you mean better for yourself, and your stoke, just surfing as much as you can, and always trying to do new fresh things, is enough. Don’t get stuck in the same old drop-in, bottom turn, cutback loop. Push yourself to try new stuff, it keeps the stoke flowing. But If you want to work on your style, the way others perceive you, the best thing you can do is have one of your pals video tape you while you surf. That way you can work out the kinks in your surfing. It allows you to see all the weird parts of your surfing that you don’t realize your doing, so you can change. But I only recommend this method for people that are interested in competition. It sorta takes some of the fun out of the whole experience. -Carl

One of the most overlooked aspects of surfing is probably physical training. I hate to say it but generally speaking when it comes to training surfers even pro surfers are wimps in the athletic world. Cardio and strength training specific to surfing will give you noticeable results. Weight lifting (lower body) , swiming, running, balance training. If your in better shape you will paddle longer, faster, take off ealier, and as a result catch more waves=better surfer.

I’ve been surfing 25 of my 40 years and I recently started watching VIDEOS VERY CLOSELY to better analyze some of the finer details. I’m a huge fan of Tom Curren and recently got the Searching for Tom Curren video. At the start of the video, on the S African right hander, IMHO defines the ultimate ride by the ultimate surfer - its a magical ride.

Here’s some handy video watching hints that has helped me quite a bit.

Watch foot placement particular the back foot - TC shifts his back foot as do most good surfers but I wasnt sure when he did the shifts. Look closely and you’ll see it.

Watch weight shift from front to back leg - this is HUGE! I was a back leg surfer most of my years but I’ve improved my surfing by shifting my weight front to back and vice versa. In the simplest sense, I drive the board with more weight on my front and top turn on the back.

Watch shoulder/arm rotation particularly in sharp turns. TC leads his turns aggressively with his arms and shoulders.

Watch how tense or relaxed the individual body parts look while surfing. TCs arms are very loose and relaxed.

Videos are a great instructional resource.

Once you’ve watched the masters and know what they do, you might want to make a mental image of what you want to do. After you’ve watched a video clip, sit back, relax, close your eyes and go through every single movement in slow motion in your mind. In your minds eye you can picture yourself doing the manouvers perfectly. Stand up and try the motions with your body. You might see extremly focused alpine skiers doing this before a contest. Although it looks dumb, it helps the brain remeber the impulses needed to do the manouvers. When I competed in archery as a kid, we called it ‘baning’ in Norwegian, something like ‘patterning’ in English. There should be plenty of good books on the subject.

Some other things from the same school of theory: Don’t focus to much on mistakes. Analyse briefly, focus not on what went wrong, but on how to do it right. Then forget about the mistake, and focus on the next task. When you do something perfectly, don’t over analyse it. Instead, try to hold on to the ‘feeling’.

But then again, does surfing better make it more fun? I wouldn’t know, but some of the most clueless beginners seem to be among the most stoked surfers out there.

At just the skinny side of fifty, 35+ years playing in the water…

Stay in shape. This doesn’t mean lifting a few weights now and then, it means either what’s called ‘long, slow distance’ exercise or blue collar work. As I get paid for the latter and hurt at the former, it’s not a tough choice. Interval training ( speedplay or fartlekas the cross country ski types call it ) will bring you up to snuff fast, but it do put a strain on. I like doing my interval training in a rowing shell, but that’s me.

Challenge yourself. Go for that one when it’s less than 50/50 you might make it to the bottom. You make it, more often than you think. And then you’ll discover that the next one is more like 65/35 in your favor.

Visualisation…kinda mysto, but if you stare at a wave and figure out what you’d do with it, then you’re pre-programming yourself for those moments when you don’t have time to think. Good thing, 'cos those times will come. Also a good time to figure out your paddling and spot strategy, so you don’t burn yourself out getting out there.

As I say, after 35+ years in the water, I was stuck on an island for a couple of months. The island had great waves, good fishing…and more %$#@ surf vids than you could shake a leash at.

If I NEVER see another one of those mindless things, less plot than the cheeziest porn and dimmer commentary than the Rose Bowl Parade, I’ll be delighted. You couldn’t get me to sit there and watch one unless you either had a gun to my head ( and while I am getting older, I’m still in shape, pretty fast and definitely sneaky) or were a barely clad sweet young thing who would distract me from that idiocy on wasted magnetic tape. They help me about as much as watching Cirque de Soleil vids would, 'cos I am never gonna do those silly contest moves, nor surf Teahuatsit at triple overhead towed in behind something. For good, solid overhead waves, tucked well back and powering…nope, that’s not what they show. Waist high slop, maybe, especially if everybody seems to be wearing different coloreds shirts.They all seem to be cut in such a manner that there’s lots of spray flying and tattoos visible and that’s about it.

Watching somebody else do it won’t help you.

Trying it, failing, and then thinking about how you blew it ( there’s that ol’ mysto visualisation again) will. Thinking about body position, rails, waterflow, speed and momentum, yep, that’ll get you there. And beyond.


take a Tai Chi class… surf as much as possible. jump rope. surf sleep surf.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Doc. Visualization. It’s what I do instead of counting sheep and between smacks on the snooze button. It works.

I recommend a book called “The Centered Skier” by Denise McCluggage. Even though it is about skiing it has excellent info that can be applied to surfing. It covers inner energy, body awareness, and creative visualization. Unfortunately it has been out of print for awhile but an internet search on the used book sites can usually scare up a copy.

Very good suggestions. I don’t know if this applies to jeffrey11,but how about riding the right board for your age and ability level? I see a lot of middle aged surfer working hard on their mortgage payments still trying to surf thinned-out kids boards, missing waves, dropping in late, getting passed by the lip,etc. Sometimes I want to say something,but I know there is a lot of ego involved. Mike

Rooster makes a good point. At 40 y/o and no desire to ride longboards on a regular basis (tried them, use them, sometimes cool, mostly boring) I like a shortboard that floats me between my belly button and the lower rib cage when sitting, board parallel to the water surface (horizontal), hands resting on thighs. You can ride shorter, thinner, lighter boards with EPS/Epoxy and subtract some years off your age and improve performance, if thats what youre into. Im riding mostly 6’6 x 19…I weigh 180lb. At 40 I can still outperform most guys in the line up…mostly by experience, staying fit and riding the proper equipment.

Surfing is not a series of conscious, technical movements. Because of that there can’t be any real step-by-step instructions. I had studied the martial arts for many years and found that like surfing, being proficient or even expert has to do with intuitive movements that are split-second reactions to real-time changing conditions. This can’t be done on a conscious level. Books and videos can only give inspiration at best. Physical conditioning will drive mental conditioning, and as Doc said visualization is an important tool. The process of conjuring images of yourself doing something is a big part of learning intuitive movements along with being calm and relaxed. The old Samurai had used the term “mind of no mind” to describe the ideal mental state when in battle. What this means is that the warrior has no consciousness, only his sword does. Likewise, the best surfers have learned to see themselves as the board, not the guy on top riding it. Yes, you can learn contest tricks step-by-step because they are just that- tricks. You’ll find that they have more meaning for those watching rather than you.