Monday, October 30, 2017

Getting Better at Surfing - When You Can't Surf

Of course the best way to enjoy surfing and improve is to go surfing.  However, there are times when you can't get out and surf due to work, family commitments, an injury, or crappy weather/surf conditions.  Getting better at surfing takes surfing, but you can also build your skills and keep your surf stoke going at home.

Watch Surf Videos -  Everyone has their own aesthetic to what good surfing is or looks like.  I classify myself as a surf enthusiast that appreciates surfing of almost any kind.  I will watch some Big wave riding videos but mostly gravitate toward watching board surfers who dance with the water.  I mostly look for surf videos on Instagram and Facebook.  Jeff looked at my Facebook newsfeed one day and commented that it was like an ESPN reel of surfing and whitewater kayaking.  Several on Facebook that I follow include Daily Surf VideosThe Inertia, World Surf League, and Leah Dawson.  Of course, I share videos of women surfing that I find inspirational on my Facebook page - Woman on Water.  Here is one -


Big wave riding intrigues, amazes, and terrifies me.  I marvel over the speed of the water rushing up the face of the wave.  I can't even fathom the speed of the surfer screaming down the face and the ton of water that could crash on them at any moment.  Watching big wave surfing also builds my respect for the ocean and what she can dish out.


My favorite videos to watch are those of people dancing on the face of a wave.  I enjoy the pure aesthetic of it but also value the technical skills.  At home, you too can learn more about surf technique by watching videos.  Look at videos of a variety - long board, short board, body board, SUP, kayak, and body surfing.  Watch for the shape of the wave and how the rider works with the shape of the wave.  Watch their positioning, take-off angle, when they initiate bottom turns and top turns and when they run down the line.  Watch for where the rider is on the wave - at the bottom, middle, or top.  Look at their vision (where they are looking).  If SUP or surf kayak, look at how they use the paddle to balance, maintain speed, and change direction.

Envision yourself surfing that wave.  Feel the drop, use your hips and torso to change direction, weight and un-weight your rails, climb and drop, cut back, and run down the line . . . and most of all smile and relax.  Feel yourself in that happy place  - on a wave.

Get Fit - Surfing is more fun when you are fit.  There are lots of surf fitness programs out there.  Most will have you improving your flexibility, mobility, and core strength.  Fitness helps decrease injuries and a good flexibility program will keep you limber.  I have a flexibility and mobility training routine that I do that is adapted from Surf Training Success and Anna Levesque's Yoga for Paddling.  It is not some thing that I enjoy doing but it feels good when I am finished and definitely is helping with my surfing fitness.

Get Out and Paddle - Even if it is flat water, get out and paddle.  Paddling with purpose can help you build your paddling fitness and skills.  Last week, I hopped on my body board for the first time in months.  Despite regular running, mountain biking, and kayaking, I felt totally out of shape.  My legs felt like they were on fire, my shoulders felt like jello, and I was winded on the paddle out.  I don't feel this way in my surf kayak because I am regularly training in it and regularly kayaking.

For surf kayaking fitness, I find that sprints are a good way to get fit for surfing.  Use sprints to simulate situations when you need bursts of speed - like taking off or paddling out.  Also consider incorporating rolling into your sprints.

For skills, fine tune your technique on flat water.  I often wish that my students had perfected their edge control, stern rudders, and backward paddling before coming for surf lessons.  Video yourself and look at your technique with a critical eye.

Dream About Surfing - Surfing is dancing with the sea.  The ocean can be a fickle dance partner - wild and rowdy one day and gently waltzing the next.  Perfect waves are elusive; however, there is one place that I can always find a perfect wave - in my mind.
Of course the perfect surf wave is accompanied by sunshine.
Visualization is a powerful tool for improving your performance in surfing and can also be helpful in many other aspects of life.  Use your surfing experiences and visuals from photos and videos to create that perfect wave in your mind and envision yourself surfing it.  Then take it the next step and feel yourself surfing.  Relax and feel yourself surfing the wave - making the drop, climbing and dropping as you carve down the line.  I use this exercise as a time-out from the world - waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in the chair at the dentist, lying in bed at night.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne kayak surfing her home waters on the Mendocino Coast.
When you see me with that far-away look, you know I am in my happy place - on a wave.

Now - get out there and surf!


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