Whether you're a novice, strong intermediate, or seasoned fixture at your local spot, there's one thing that you can do to significantly improve your surfing prowess.
CATCH. WAVES. EARLIER.
Imagine how much more confidence you would have if you were catching waves two strokes earlier, and getting to your feet before anyone else in the lineup.
I was listening to the Surf Splendor Podcast recently, and David Scales had Matt Warshaw and Jamie Brisick on to discuss their shared experience at the KS Wave Co's secret "media day" at the Surf Ranch back in November.
I was mildly surprised and somewhat relieved to hear that all three of those guys shared the same fear that I imagine I would have—"what if I miss my wave?"
The surf journalists weren't the only ones to feel the boiling room pressure of the moment, they rattled off several instances of pros missing their wave and their moment to shine.
What could be more intense than sitting in a pool, waiting for a "perfect" wave to come your way, while dozens of eyes are watching and waiting to see how you handle the opportunity. Not to mention, the five surfers waiting down the line from you, trying to will you to fall with their minds, hoping to pick up the table scraps of your glory moment.
It sounds a bit like being called in off the bench to make game-winning free-throws in overtime when you haven't played a single minute all season.
Being the furthest one outside when a perfect-looking set wave rolls in at your home break may not be as intense as sitting in the priority spot at the Surf Ranch, but there is still a pressure to perform and capitalize on the moment.
Your focus, in that moment, should be on getting to your spot, catching the wave with confidence, and getting to your feet as early as physics will allow. The surfing equivalent of knowing your jumpshot is going in right from the moment it leaves your fingers.
There are two things from an equipment standpoint to help you achieve your moment of glory, and two things you can do internally to help seize the opportunity.
1. A little more foam: don't be afraid of a little more foam. Nothing can entirely replace length as it pertains to wave-catching, but some craftily placed volume can do wonders for your paddling game. We're not afraid to put a little extra foam under your feet, and you shouldn't be afraid of a little more foam to get the job done. I can't tell you how many traditionally shorter-board surfers have come into the shop looking to get a Pleasant Pheasant or Joy because they are "tired of the longboarders getting all the waves". Few things can up your wave count like a few more liters of foam.
2. Rocker profile: I wrote an article on surfboard rocker a couple years ago, specifically explaining the thought we put into our rocker profiles and how that often-overlooked aspect of surfboard design has significant implications in your surfing. Low, continuous rocker allows a board to glide across the surface of the water more efficiently leading to faster surfboards and easier paddling.
1. Dig deeper: if you head into a surf with the specific goal of catching waves as early as you can, and getting to your feet sooner, you are consciously addressing the issue head-on. When I am surfing poorly, I typically try to shift my mindset towards "I gotta dig deeper and catch these waves earlier if I am going to turn this session around." You'd be amazed at how often that works.
2. Breathe Deeply: This was advice given to me by a friend recently. Short, shallow breathing is detrimental especially when we are exerting ourselves physically. Breathe deeply and be ready when your opportunity to turn and go arrives. Especially when you have just paddled back out and duck-dived a few waves in a row, it's easy to be short on oxygen.
We design our surfboards with these aims in mind. Whether you want to hang-5 all the way down the beach or do three top-turns and a floater, select equipment that will keep your wave count high.