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San Diego Surfing Home > Surfing School > Surfing - First Outside Waves
Surf Lessons

Surfing School - Surfing - First Outside Waves

Once riding the soup has been mastered, you are ready to try a breaking wave. Here again a small uncrowded beach break will be best. Paddle to just outside of where the waves start to break. This is called the surfline or lineup. If the wave breaks in front of you, you can get through the soup in several ways. For waves that aren't large, perform the push-up move used in the shorebreak, or a so called "duck dive" to get you through. As the wave reaches you, lean well forward and push the nose down. Keep your head against the board as well.

This procedure works best on shorter boards, but will likely still move you towards shore. Another approach when the waves are larger is to roll over when the wave hits, wrapping your arms tightly around the board. I believe this is called a "turtle". It works effectively with most size boards. Another way of getting through is to simply turn the board towards shore and remain sitting while the wave hits.

This last method works with longboards in smaller surf. Basically, stand up with a parallel stance slightly forward as the wave hits. The wave will roll over the board and through your legs. In all situations, aim for the oncoming wave before the curl while paddling out if possible.

In the early days before leashes, it was a common practice to bail off the board just before the lip broke if you couldn't make a larger wave. The board was heavy enough that you could push the board hard and its momentum would carry it over the wave's crest. The surfer would then swim under the wave and to his board before the next wave hit. This maneuver is not practical with leashes and light modern boards.

The next issue to understand is that of wave courtesy. In general, the surfer farthest back in the breaking part of the wave has ownership. Don't take off on the shoulder in front of someone. Paddling out in front and across a standing or paddling surfer is also poor manners and you could get your ass kicked. However, two or more individuals paddling for the same wave is acceptable with the first up usually the one who gets the wave. This can sometimes cause a problem when a longboarder paddles from outside and everyone else is waiting inside for the wave to get steep.

You're now ready to catch an outside wave. When a wave approaches, paddle to the side of the peak you wish to ride. At first, try frontside rides only. Turn your back towards the wave while looking over your shoulder and start paddling. This time angle the board slightly away from the peak and not directly towards shore. Time yourself so the wave doesn't get too steep or break before it reaches you.

Paddle hard and lean forward as the wave reaches you. When you feel your momentum start to accelerate as the board catches the wave, stand up and lean into the wave's shoulder slightly. This action will began your initial turn. If the turn is executed too soon, this wave will be missed completely. Practice will help you determine the correct moment to initially stand and turn.

After standing and your initial turn, try to keep low on the wave's shoulder at first. Turn back (cutback) by leaning on your rear foot and turning the board slightly towards the breaking wave or aim towards shore if the wave breaks or is so slow that you keep outrunning it. Don't try any major maneuvers or try to catch a larger wave until you can make a few turns without falling off on smaller waves.

Surfing on larger waves follows basically the same procedure when dropping in, except that hollowness and size will determine how soon to turn. More speed is gained by waiting until the wave reaches its crest before turning. Very large hollow waves, like at the Pipeline in Hawaii, require the surfer to drop well down the face of the wave without loosing any speed in order to prevent going "over the falls" for a bad wipeout. Over the falls occurs when both the board and surfer are carried over the wave when it breaks.

Taking off backside isn't much different than frontside except that now your weight is centered low towards the inner edge on the middle of the board. A slightly wider stance will help. Don't point the board nose high on the wave as you will have a hard time staying on the wave face if you do.

The basics of paddling into a wave, standing up, turning, and staying with the wave must be mastered before giving any attention to the more radical maneuvers possible on a surfboard. The majority of these maneuvers require the use of centripetal force to hold both surfer and board in the correct place on the wave. Learning such positioning and use of momentum takes several years of work.


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