HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SURFING

Cotty, Rebrix and Nathan Fletcher, strong paddlers all. Photo: Laurel

1. BECOME A STRONGER PADDLER

Paddling is probably not something you’ve given much thought to, but being a strong paddler makes all the difference to your wave count. Without meaning to state the obvious, the more you catch the more you surf the more you improve, etc. If you can increase your wave count by 20% through a bit better paddling/an extra 1/8th” on the stringer, that’s like one whole extra session’s worth of waves every 4th surf. Like, way better than Costa Coffee’s loyalty card!

Thickness: Don’t be shy to err on the side of thickness. The 90’s happened darling, then we all got over it and moved on. Well some of us, anyway. Even if you don’t want to go extra thickness as such in your dims, you can always just ask your shaper to take a bit less foam off up into the nose. That applies for your boards for waves from 1ft to 100ft.

Paddle battles: Ever tried spring paddling whilst cracking up laughing? Hard isn’t it? It’s a bit like climbing the rope at school and getting a semi… it feels weird. Anyway, paddle battles with your bro are like the the aquatic version of arm wrestles (fun!), without the shattered wrist/purple faces/burst blood vessel in eyeball.

Devon’s Andrew Cotton, seen here going right is fairly pragmatic about the fine art of paddle:
“ Just put your head down, paddle like fuck…”

Notably impressive paddlers include: Nathan Hedge (weren’t expecting us to tell you to be more like him today, were ya?), and probably Parko, since he paddles the Molokai channel for breakfast)

2. ENJOY THE WIPEOUTS

1988 Pipe Master and former SW France resident Rob Page once heckled the editor of this magazine, who was somewhat fearful of a big winter’s day at La Nord, “If I take me leash off, paddle into a 10ft-er and backflip out of the lip, will you catch a couple medium sized ones…?” Although the bluff was never actually called on that occasion, the principal held that the worst kind of wipeout can be character-building, prove that it’s never as bad as you imagine, and free us up to tackle the juice with renewed vigour.

Surfing is not as dangerous a sport as it looks. Wipeouts look hideous, but within the realms of an everyday surfer’s idea of big, are unlikely to be life-threatening. If the surf is towards the upper size limit of your enjoyment threshold, getting an early wipeout under your belt and getting straight back in the saddle can be the best way to enjoy your surf.

“I try to relax as much as possible and stay calm,” reckons Alex Botelho (pictured). To me, the way I make myself stay calm is to remember that there’s no other choice at that moment, so you might as well make the best of it. As long as you have a good breath of air before the impact, that thought keeps me pretty calm. After the wave has done its business with you and lets you go, I like to grab a hold of my leash to gain orientation and to help get back up a bit quicker. Then, paddle back out for another one (another wave, not wipeout haha). Wipeouts can be fun, it’s all part of the experience, right?”

3.DRAW OUT YOUR BOTTOM TURN

These days, everyone’s in such a hurry aren’t they? Kids are in a hurry to be adults, porn hides in internet airwaves rather than under the mattress and is in a hurry to gratify your stalk instantly, hurry! hurry! hurry! Even surfers are in such a hurry to get up the wave to the lip.

You see, bottom turns get no audible props, and inspired by today’s rad starlets, it’s all a bit of a flap towards above the coping glory. But bottom turns are so much more of a dependable source of pleasure. Bottom turns are like dogs, reliable, loving you back, faithful. Top turns are like cats; fickle, pretty maybe, there one minute, gone the next, only nice when they want something. Maybe they love you, maybe they don’t. In this uncertain, hurried world, nailing on a staple like a solid bottom turn is a building block to stokey heights, and drawing out your bottom turn will make you a better surfer.

- On your next surf, unless it’s in 15ft freight train pits, make a conscious effort to extend your line from take off down and out, heck even give a touch of outside rail and possibly even a look-behind-you head fade before arcing majestically down the line.

- Get low, giving the water surface that delicate, intimate caress. You love it, after all. Touch it, smell it, lick it, spit on it, pull its hair.

- From there pull in/hoik upwards violently and detonate tail/set a section-making, ground-covering line, whatever. You options are all open and all beautiful.

The most obvious reference is to check out Curren at J-Bay (or anywhere) for the finest fades on film. But basically, any top pro, be it a Kelly, Joel, Mick, Taj, Michel, Jeremy etc etc, all these guys have masterful bottom turns.

4. PULL IN

If you were raised at G-Land or Pipe or perhaps in Tahiti ‘tube riding’ is just ‘surfing’, much in the same way that Chinese people just call it ‘food’ rather than Chinese food. But for the rest of us that happened to plough our path to shredness on a macro-tidal, largely flat, usually average to very average beachbreak, tube riding skills must be acquired rather than come instinctively in the embryonic stoke stages.

The trouble with it is that the longer you develop your surfing without regular tubing, the harder it’ll be- come when you do get in tunnel ditch situations. Your instinctive line will be either to pump away from the tube or bottom turn and drive around under it, since the line required for the act itself is kind of counter-intuitive to the basic functioning surfing line (slowing down, staying mid-face).

In short, surf more hollow waves more often in your formative years, because a time will come when joining-the-dots wiggling will be tedious, and only tubes will do.

- Locate the nearest break to you known for tubular tendencies, familiarize yourself with the conditions required and lay siege.

- Go to Indo at the earliest opportunity.

- Never claim to have got barreled if you know you didn’t really. Karma dictates that for every falsely claimed tube, 3 rightful tubular opportunities are lost forever.

- Great tuberiders include are many, everyone on tour is good in the barrel. But we reckon if you’re gonna emu- late anyone, try Aritz. His tubing has turned him from tour also-ran into Internet sensation, and we love him for it.

5. LAUGH

“The best surfer is the one having the most fun (even if it’s a girl)…” OK that’s become an odious cliché, don’t repeat that. But it is worth reminding ourselves from time to time than in the endless quest for progression, not to get too… serious. If you want to be all serious, try triathlon.

Aside from the general warm fuzzy benefits of being a great time guy/gal, having fun actually relaxes you, loosens your body and thus steepens your progres- sion. Plus, you’ll stay in longer, and staying in longer means more means waves more chances to get better etc etc. But! There’s more to it than that. There’s like, science, and shit. Studies show that laughter im- proves motor skills (moving your hands, arms and legs in response to stimuli i.e. pitching lips), increases beta-endorphins by 27% and human growth hormone (HGH) by 87%. Human growth hormone is believed to increase sporting performance (which is why Lance Armstrong injected it). But you don’t need Lance’s evil syringe, you just need to chuckle more when someone wipes out!

6. INCREASE YOUR AMPLITUDE

Surfing is essentially a side to side pursuit for the first few years. Then, one day, places that seemed inaccessible suddenly become first probed, then thoroughly explored. Remember that first time you got up in the lip at speed and then back down? Did it seem a bit… groundbreaking? Suddenly, after- wards, it seemed like there was much more wave to be surfed, right? The up-and-down element to your surfing is essentially a result of how you think about the wave. There is no special physical, technical ap- proach to it, it’s a mental thing. At the extreme end you’ll have the kind of amplitude shown by pros like Tristan Guilbaud (pictured), and then there’s you. Between those two points is a line of progression, and moving up results from thinking differently about where surfing can take you. You could stay in a polite mid-face trim for the rest of your surfing life, and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with that either. But there are also whole new realms of places to go, all you have to do is open your mind to them.

7. DEATH TO ‘FUNCTIONAL MANOEUVRES’… DO FRUITY SHIT!

You don’t want to be one of those surfers that only looks OK-ish from behind the wave, when one is not actually able to see the horrid contortions. That vein-popping strained fight stance between every turn, which themselves look a bit like a blindfolded drunk trying to judo a grizzly bear. Please, not that. The thing with manoeuvres (in the traditional sense) is that they are best done by people who can actually do them, if you catch the drift. Thus trying to angrily emulate what you just saw Slater do will be unpalatable at best and at worst, actually unfair on those members of the surfing tribe unfortunate enough to witness it. Yeah, we said it, surfing ugly is selfish. Thus, a slight change of approach from functional moves might pay golden dividends. Bring back non-functional manoeuvres, bring back (oh shit I’m gonna say it) self-expression. Take the soul arch. It’s fruity. It’s frivolous, self-indulgent, it scores no points on ASP criteria… it’s GREAT.

8. SHAPE YOUR OWN RIDE IT

Ahhh you knew it wouldn’t be long before the steed got mentioned. Shaping your own steed is the new black. It’s like growing your own veg/baking your own bread, only more toxic. Nobody’s sewing their own wetsuits and booties are they? But they’re all shaping!

There’s no practical advantage whatsoever of course, other than possibly deriving more pleasure from an average ride. But you’ll get surf self-satisfaction in one of the more (only) savoury forms, and while it has strong hipster undertones, it’s certainly less ‘this year’s jeans’ than making your own handplaner.

Why are we recommending it as a way to improving your surfing then? Perhaps it’ll make you a marginally better person, perhaps not. Perhaps it’ll make you love your own shaper more, appreciate his craftsmanship. A bit like that first time your mum went away and dad did your packed lunches. Come back mum, all is forgiven! Perhaps, after having gone through the trials and tribulations, next time you order from your actual shaper, you’ll also take him to lunch and part ways with a long (let go at least 3 seconds after him) warm hug. More shaping, more hugging, then.



9. LAST TURN

The last turn. The inter- mediate’s ultimate hobby horse. That tricky second album. The bane of so many otherwise good rides, the source of so so much disappointment. First turns can lie, mid-speed run hits can flatter to de- ceive, but you can tell exactly how good or bad a surfer is by his/her finishing turn. It never, ever lies.

Getting it wrong:
- I speak from personal experience here. That awful too harsh too late/not steep enough layback gouge bog sink thingy. Awful though it is, even though you know they suck you think ‘If I can just do this one…’
- The air attempt where everything goes in the air except your arse.
- The too-late-to-the-lip too-backfoot too-never-really-expecting-to-ride- out-of-it re-entry.

Getting it right:
Nobody at the SE office had ever done a decent last turn, despite several decade’s collective efforts. So we asked around:
“- Anticpate”
“- Get your timing right”
“- Believe”
Yeah, about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Oh well, keep trying… you should have ‘em nailed by 2020.

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