4 Common Mistakes All Beginner Surfers Make
Learning to surf is hard, it's more than hard, it's really hard and on top of that you can't just go out and practise when you want. So really hard and frustrating!
The good news is when you do get to go out, surfing is the best thing ever, and with each session you improve your surf skills and surf knowledge - even if it doesn't feel like it.
A huge benefit for those learning to surf today is all the helpful information you can pick up during your down time.
Through delivering daily surf lessons in Newquay we often come across common errors and bad habits in how people learn to surf. Spotting these trends during our surf lessons is how we help you solve problems and develop as a surfer.
In this post we cover 3 of the worst mistakes we see nearly all beginner surfers making during their first few years of surfing.
1) Too much weight on the tail of the surfboard
Each section of the surfboard has different reactions to the weight or pressure placed upon it. A common error with many new and developing surfers is to hold too much weight over the back third or tail of their surfboard, causing their board to slow down unnecessarily.
Here are two areas that we see this happening the most.
Paddling - Keeping your weight evenly distributed across your board when paddling is fundamental to surfing and is an easy fix. Many surfers simply have their stomach too far back on the board, especially if they have been pearling and are scared of it happening again.
Ensuring you are trimming your surfboard correctly, that the most amount of surface area is in contact with the water allowing the board to plane efficiently simply takes some small adjustments each time you jump on your surfboard.
Make a visual reference of where the sweet spot is to help you quickly discern your positioning on the board.
Popping up - standing to tall once you have popped up forces weight over the tail, causing your board to stall and slow down just when you need the speed.
To help combat this keep your arms and hands low to the rails of your surfboard during take off. This helps to keep your body position low and legs bent.
Long boards or short boards, surfing is about moving your weight up and down the board in reaction to the wave shape and the manoeuvre. One question all beginner surfers should be constantly asking themselves is ‘hows my positioning on the board?’
2) Surfing with your knees apart - The Pooh Stance
The pooh stance doesn't sound great and looks even worse. The term pooh stance comes from a surfer assuming a stance somewhat resembling a person in a squatting position.
In many other sports a strong stance requires legs bent and knees apart for stability. In surfing this position on a surfboard hinders your ability to trim your surfboard and keep balance.
If there is one thing all beginners kneed to get right quickly it is to “bend your knees inwards”
Every surfer remembers the feeling of catching a wave, only to have the nose of the surfboard dig into the water at a crucial moment, sending gallons of salty sea water up your nose and in your mouth.
Being lunged forwards because the wave is too steep or your reactions are delayed is not fun and possibly the worst type of wipe out there is in surfing.
To combat pearling the surfer needs to paddle and catch the wave earlier, keep a keen eye of how the wave is forming whilst they paddle, or to begin to angle your take offs.
Angling the surfboard towards the direction of travel will engage the rail of the surfboard into the wave face, thus propelling the surfer in the direction the wave is breaking (trimming).
Often a good reaction to a steep wave about to break or cause a surfer pearl can be to radically adjust weight towards the tail of the board, levelling the surfboard out. (Popping up)
The trick to beating the pearl is to pay attention to two important indicators:
- Always keep one eye on the wave behind you. Like anything you want to catch you never take your eye off it. Keeping your eye on the wave allows you to adjust your paddle speed and recognise how steep a wave is when you start to catch it.
- The second indication is to feel or look for when the nose of your surfboard starts to dip down the wave face. This is the indication that you have matched the pace of the wave and gravity is now pulling you and your board down the the wave.
4) Reading the ocean
One of the toughest yet most overlooked skills in surfing is understanding how to read the ocean and the game of surfing. So many new or developing surfers become caught up in the physical motions of surfing without knowing barely anything about surf science or oceanography.
Taking the time to learn about tides, wind conditions or even what manoeuvres are suited to certain sections of a wave is the key to becoming a well rounded surfer. Understanding how waves are formed, spotting patterns in their movements and being knowledgeable in areas of the sport is the key to unlocking your success in surfing.
Read and get book smart on as much you can about the subject of surf science. There are great resources out there such as Surfline's Surfology, or books on surf science such as An Introduction to Waves for Surfing by Tony Butt.
Watch and analyse what good surfing is. Whether at your local surfing beach or on online through web clips such as Hurley's Surf Club.
Developing as a surfer is as much about learning the physical aspects of the sport as it is understanding the how and why's that make up the sport. Reading, asking and learning in all formats on all topics is the key to becoming a great surfer.