Tag Archives: Technique

The Contradiction of Surfing Fast

During your first year or three of surfing you’ve worked so hard just to master getting down the line that you often want to stay a safe distance out in front of the whitewater to guarantee a successful ride. Often what separates beginners from more advanced surfers is speed but it wasn’t always obvious to me that surfing fast didn’t mean getting down the line from point A to point B as fast as possible.

I thought that you did cutbacks because they looked cool not because they had any sort of function in letting the wave catch back up to you. I was baffled when I heard Rob Machado say his favorite thing to do was to go as fast as possible and not even worry about doing turns.

As different as Mick Fanning’s approach to a wave is from Machado’s it is interesting to note that they both recommend going as high as possible on the wave in regard to finding speed. In Surfline’s “Generating Speed” Trick Tips he goes on to emphasize going up and down, using the whole face of the wave, and not “wiggling” in the middle. Truly fast surfing is high amplitude surfing.

For me the contradiction in how to surf fast is most obvious when it comes to executing a proper bottom turn. Waiting for an extra second during your bottom turn allows the wave to stand up more so that you can enter into a steeper more powerful part of the wave (as emphasized by Tom Whitaker at the 2:10 mark in the video below). “Waiting” in order to surf “fast” is something I never fully grasped the importance of until recently.

After watching the above videos you might be tempted to think that these surfing fundamentals are more applicable to traditional rail surfing. However Matt Meola exhibits a full mastery of waiting to surf fast in his Spindle Flip video when he wipes off speed at the beginning of the wave near the 1:50 mark or during his drawn out bottom turn at the 5:50 mark that sets up the video’s big pay off manuever.

Once you are getting to your feet and surfing down the line you’re not quite ready to work on tricks until you’ve gotten comfortable doing high amplitude surfing in the pocket/power source of the wave.

Pillars and Plateaus

One week is the blink of an eye in the experience of anyone who takes a committed interest in surfing. At Surf Asylum we’re dedicated to the long term progress of any of our students that fall in love with the sport. It took me a whole summer of going to the beach with my grandmother and sister on a daily basis to make significant progress on my used 6′ 2” Eric Arakawa “Island Classic” the first year I tried surfing. My sister on the other hand caught on almost immediately first riding a narrow, pointy foam body board and then a 6′ 3” Quiet Flight. Progress in surfing isn’t a straight line. However, if you stay in the water, you can always be gradually improving.

I’ve hit several plateaus in my surfing. The first one came after I had mastered the most basic fundamentals of surfing: getting to my feet and riding down the line. As a first generation surfer (my dad, my sister, and myself all started surfing at the same time) no one ever told me how important it was to pay close attention to the wave. This might seem obvious but as I poured through the pages of surf magazines looking at the big fans of spray and airs, I thought that I just had to get good enough and I could do the same thing on any wave. I spent years ignoring the fact that certain maneuvers required the right section on the right wave. I was surfing hard in the wrong part of the wave having never heard the word “functional” in regard to surfing. During this time I made modest progress on trips to Costa Rica or heading to South Florida, Central Florida, or the Gulf when the forecast was right. However, even as late as college I wondered what separated the surfing I was seeing in videos and magazines from my own.

Myself surfing hard in the wrong part of the wave.

My most recent plateau was partially a result of considering surfing in Florida to be all the exercise I needed. I didn’t necessarily need to hit the weight room but semi-regular yoga practice and surf-specific core and leg exercises like Taylor Knox’s SurfFit have vastly improved my speed generation and overall control on the wave. Additional core and leg strength started helping me wait out the slow parts of the wave and hold speed through maneuvers without wasted movement that throws off your rhythm and causes you to grind to a halt in some of Florida’s weaker waves.

To help me break out of any future plateaus I’ve identified 3 pillars that contribute to solid surfing.

I’ve seen good surfers that have just two of these but most great surfers have a decent mastery of all three. The Mental Pillar consists of wave awareness: how you position yourself to catch waves, how you interact with and anticipate different sections of the wave you’re riding, and it overlaps with technique when it comes to things like timing. The Physical Pillar represents your personal fitness. Good surfing requires you to build strength while maintaining agility and flexibility. The Technical Pillar includes things like how you follow through with your shoulders, getting really low at the right point in your speed generation, and overlaps with the mental aspect of surfing with things like watching the lip line (the part of the wave that is about to break) approximately 7′ in front of you.

Whenever I feel stuck from now on I’ll identify which pillar needs the most work and form a plan. Once I’ve settled on a fitness regime that keeps me where I want to be I’ll probably focus on the Technical Pillar when the waves are average and focus on the Mental Pillar when the waves get good. This all depends on the season and often all three need work, but focusing on one aspect of your surfing allows you to accomplish specific goals that you can look back on to give you the confidence it takes to surf your best.

ESA Southeast Regional Surfing Championships

Last weekend Surf Asylum had the privilege of traveling down to Melbourne, FL to see the current level of amateur competitive surfing in Florida. We wanted a benchmark, something to aspire to as we teach a new generation of surfers. Friday we got to see an in form Freida Zamba riding a quad and executing precision backhand snaps, carves, and foam climbs in somewhat weak choppy surf. She was coaching Rachel Presti, one of the event’s standout performers, on wave reading and selection. The surf picked up for Saturday and Sunday with Pete Mendia and Shea Lopez joining the line-up with the kids who will soon be following in their footsteps. Below are images from the weekend and video of the final two days of competition:

Rod Logan’s power surfing distanced him from competitors half his age and younger in his first Open Shortboard heat.

Kaleb Kirshenbaum surfed with remarkable precision in the Menehune division.

Competitors in the Girls and Junior Womens divisions had a great read on the somewhat mushy waves.

Several  Menehune (11 & under) competitors exhibited polished, mature style.

Kaleb Kirshenbaum showing commitment.

Kelton Beardall was spending a lot of time in the water in the lead up to the event and it showed. (We didn’t get his 9 point air reverse off of a wave that looked like a giant close out on film).

It took a couple tries in his heats but Charlie Current nailed this one and rode out clean.

Nick Groshell was getting a lot of extension out of his turns while managing stay over his board and complete his waves.

Freida Zamba’s protege Rachel Presti linking turns like a pro.

Autumn Cockrill showing solid, traditional rail work.

Lily Whatley spending plenty of time on the nose in the Junior Womens Longboard Final.

Ryan Conklin pulling off one of the steeper noserides in competiton.

Video of Saturday and Sunday:

Relatable Round 2 at Snapper

Round 2 of the Snapper Rocks WSL event in Queensland, Australia ran in dismal surf by “Dream Tour” standards but I’d venture to say it was halfway decent surf by Florida standards. Especially during those times of the year when we’re craving anything remotely rideable. If you’ve followed Snapper throughout the years they often have to resort to running on days with buoy readings comparable to some of our own here in Florida, like 3 ft. at 8 seconds. However, this year takes the cake for the most relatable conditions I’ve ever seen the top 34 have to contend with.

The competitors had to really want to win and channel every bit of imagination they had to see scores in some of the waves they were paddling for. You could tell that Ace Buchan wasn’t really feeling it. The surfers that felt the most at home in the conditions were the Brazilians. Owen Wright showed up for the bigger surfers on tour as well as Mick and Taj for the usual suspects. Filipe Toledo levitated over sections, showing us why everyone on tour is afraid to draw him when it’s small. The slugfest that was Round 2 Heat 7 between Kolohe Andino and Jeremy Flores was a clinic in applying power and rail work to mediocre waves.

I was captivated. Take a 2 turn combination (since we still don’t realistically see that length of ride here in Florida) from any 5 point ride or better from Round 2 of the 2015 Snapper Rocks contest and study it. It’s a perfect example of where to wait on the wave, when to compress, how to lead with your shoulders, etc.. for applying the next time our surf is waist to stomach high. Hopefully this Saturday (2/14) or Sunday (2/15).

Heat Analyzer for the 2015 WSL Snapper Rocks Pro