How to Get Barreled (On Any Surfboard)
We asked you guys what surfing goals you had for 2023, and naturally "get barreled" was among the most frequent answers.
So, if you are one of the barrel-seekers among us, we're going to help you get your first cover-up this year.
For starters, I need you to push out of your mind any mental images of surfers dropping in late, pulling into a gaping barrel and getting spit out in a blast of spray. My first barrel was nothing like that, and yours won't be either.
The key to success at surfing—by any definition—is the ability to effectively stay in the pocket of a peeling wave.
The "pocket" is the sweet spot, where the energy of the wave is most readily harnessed, right in front of the breaking lip, but not so far out that you get to the "shoulder".
When you are surfing, the primary aim is to spend as much time in the "pocket" as possible.
- If you want to get barreled, get comfortable in the pocket.
- If you want to noseride, get comfortable in the pocket.
- If you want to do better turns, get comfortable in the pocket.
- If you want to extend your rides all the way down the beach, get comfortable in the pocket.
Now, if the goal is a cover-up (a Barrel) here is the recipe:
- First, the conditions have to be right, ideally shoulder-high waves with clean conditions (plus offshore winds, if you could conjure up the perfect combination).
- Second, you want to be on a board that you are confident in. Confident in your ability to get into waves nice and early, and confident in the boards' ability to harness enough of the waves energy to really pick up speed.
- When the right wave comes to you, paddle like the dickens and catch it early, ideally angling slightly down the line (in the direction you intend to go).
- Upon take-off, get to your feet and immediately do a delicate stall—by putting more of your weight on your back foot. Your board should be pointed down the line, and you should have just a touch of extra weight directed toward your back foot (too much and the wave will out-run you).
- You should notice the wall of the wave getting steeper and closer as you bury yourself deep in the pocket (eyes and surfboard still pointed down the line where you wish to travel).
- Give the board a little extra stall (you can assist the slowing down by dragging your hand in the face of the wave.)
- At this point, you should be traveling just slightly slower than the wave is, firmly planted in the pocket, with the lip starting to catch up to your position.
- Before you are completely overtaken by the wave, you want to start preparing for your exit. If you wait to get completely covered before you begin accelerating, it will likely be too late.
- As you feel the barrel starting to break over your head, shift your weight to your front foot, leaning ever-so-slightly into the steep wall of the pocket to allow the board to accelerate. As you shift your weight forward, your board should pick up speed and begin to out-pace the breaking section of the wave.
As you can see in the photo above, Jake has much of his body weight on his front (right) foot, which causes his 9'6 Lumberjack to pick up speed and beat the section.
He will speed up and safely make it back out in front of the pocket, continuing his ride.
When the steps above are executed correctly, you should be able to repeat this process any time the wave conditions allow it.
The barrel is one of (if not the most) prized moments in surfing. But as with any reward, you have to put the foundational work in. In this case—as is the case with nearly every good thing in surfing—the foundational work is getting extremely comfortable surfing the pocket of a wave.
Trying to noseride or get barreled without first putting in the work to get comfortable in the pocket is like shooting deep three-pointers in basketball without first practicing from the free throw line. You won't be successful, and you'll look ridiculous in the process.
Master the basics and don't get distracted by those fleeting moments of surfing glory. Enjoy the process and get in the water as often as possible.