How to read the wave, improve your paddle technique, and maximize your session are essential in surfing! Here are tips for catching more waves!
Learning to catch waves can be the most challenging part of surfing, to a greater extent even than standing up on your board and staying balanced.
Your timing and speed on the paddle can depend on a number of factors: the size of your board, your positioning on your board, your positioning in the line up, the speed at which you take off, and of course, your ability to read the wave.
1) Learning to read the wave are key tips for catching more waves
What does it mean to read a wave?
Observe where the wave is breaking and where others in the lineup are positioning themselves and taking off in order to catch the wave successfully.
Part and parcel of surfing is simply observing others. Take a moment when you first paddle out–or even from the beach–to watch a set or two of waves come through.
Without understanding this, you may be paddling from too far out to catch the wave, or you may be too far ahead of the wave and pearl, or get caught in the undertow and nose dive.
Even if you are very familiar with the spot, the tide, wind direction, and weather conditions can vary and influence the way a wave breaks.
Reading the wave is arguably the most important aspect of surfing and will help you progress in your ability at a steadier and more consistent rate.
After discovering from trial and error (and from watching) where to sit and where to be to catch the wave, you will find yourself having more success in the water because you will have properly positioned yourself.
Many of the tips mentioned below have to do with reading the wave.
2) Practice in the white wash
It can sometimes be a good idea to practice on the inside of the break where the waves have already broken and are rolling in.
This will help you get more accustomed to the timing, and typically there will not be as many people on the inside where it is breaking as white wash.
Because the wave has already broken, it is easier to catch and ride. Then, once you’ve caught the wave, you can practice standing up on your own.
However, be sure to exercise caution, and be aware that you are not taking off on the same wave as someone else, or directly in front of another surfer who is paddling for the wave. Follow these tips for catching more waves!
3) Improve your paddle technique
As a rule of thumb, to catch a wave you have to be paddling at the same speed as the wave.
If you are someone who struggles with timing and frequently misses the waves you paddle for, focus on improving your technique.
Practice taking deep strokes through the water and cupping your hands so that you are actively cutting through the water tension.
In paddling, always think about moving your arms front to back, instead of up and down. You want your strokes to be frequent and follow a rhythm, thus minimizing the amount of time your arms are moving out of the water. Avoid flailing noodle arms!
This is another good opportunity to observe how surfers in the line up paddle and observing their tips for catching more waves!
You’ll notice that long, deep strokes are favored against big, over-the-head strokes. You probably have already discovered after a few days of surfing that your arms, back, and neck muscles ache! This is normal.
When learning to surf, you are conditioning your body to work different muscles than those which you exercise on a regular basis.
You are probably using muscles that you only ever use in the water. Over time, and through consistent training, your body will adapt and be less sore after every surf session.
4) Paddle perpendicular to the wave
Keep in mind that not every wave breaks parallel to the shoreline.
Some waves come in at a left or right angle. When starting out, always paddle perpendicular to a wave, so that the wave pushes you at the correct angle.
If a wave is coming in at a slight left angle, make sure you are paddling at a left angle as well.
You are paddling in the same direction as the wave, however, you want to imagine the incoming line of the wave and your board meeting to form a “T” shape.
5) Let the wave come to you
Once you’ve begun to take note of the direction and speed of the oncoming wave, focus on catching the waves that come to you.
This can be useful advice for a couple reasons. One, it is much easier to catch a wave that you are already well-positioned for. And two, it can be very frustrating to paddle way out of your way to catch a wave that is not directly headed towards you.
Once you have experience catching a lot of waves, you will start to learn how to paddle out away to chase down a wave, but no matter what, it can be helpful to think of the wave coming to you as the wave you want to go for.
6) Patience, patience, patience
All of this takes time, and while it may sound simple at first, the reality is that it takes a while to see results and to be at the point where you’re catching the majority of the waves you paddle for.
Patience also refers to having patience during your sessions. These tips for catching more waves are essential to get better!
It is better to catch fewer waves in an hour session than to burn out paddling for every wave and missing it.
Some tips for being patient in the line up: admire the rainbow, the clouds, check out what the water is doing below you, watch the waves coming in from a few breaks over to the left or right.
Remember that surfing should be fun and relaxing!
Try and try again!
Enjoy the process and do not be discouraged if it takes multiple tries and multiple surf sessions before you see “progress.”
Unlike a controlled sport where you can have unlimited balls thrown at you during a practice, or repeat a trick over and over again, with surfing you will always be at the will of nature and dealing with constantly changing elements. That’s the beauty of the sport.
Knowing your board and what works for you is also an important aspect of catching a wave, read this article to find out more!