How do I learn to surf bigger waves?

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ISA coach and 3x National Surfing Champion Johnny Fryer shares some pointers to help you build confident as you venture out of your comfort zone into bigger surf.

  1. Buddy up. Surf with a friend or instructor.
  2. Shortboarders. Step-up your board size slightly.
  3. Paddle out beyond the line-up, chill out and assess the conditions.
  4. Be carefull not to go for the smaller waves, you’ll find yourself spending more time in the impact zone.
  5. Caught inside? Try to find a moment of calm between each wave you have to tackle. Be confident, take some deep breaths and if you get rumbled just relax.
  6. Try to enjoy the fear and turn any nervousness into positive energy.
  7. Landlocked surfers. You need to get in the swimming pool regularly and practice breath holds.

How do I learn to surf bigger waves?

First you will need to be confident with your paddling out techniques so that you can punch through oncoming waves. You’ll need a quick pop-up. Before paddling out you need to ask yourself if you can deal with the worst-case scenario on that day and not panic. Watch the conditions so that you can identify where the channels are and the frequency of the bigger groups of waves. Watch other surfers paddle out and observe how they get on. Walk out to chest depth water and wait for a lull. Then paddle as fast as you can, paddle hard to get to the horizion as quickly as possible while there is a ‘lull’.

One of the most challenging phases in a novice surfer’s development is building confidence in bigger surf, especially in the overhead range. Here’s a few pointers to help you build confidence in more challenging conditions.

Follow these tips to improve your big wave surfing.

  1. Buddy up. Surf with a trusted mate or a qualified instructor. Just knowing someone is there looking out for you will give you the confidence to go for it.
  2. Shortboarders might want to step up their board size slightly. You can paddle quicker, and catch waves earlier. This will help take the edge of steep take-offs. The extra speed and drive of a bigger board will also help you escape gnarly sections. Remember; you still need to be able to duck-dive, so don’t go too big!
  3. On your first paddle out, sit out beyond the line-up for a few minutes and chill out. Wait for the bigger set waves to come so you know how big it is out there. Once you’re ready, make your way into the line-up and have a go.
  4. Small waves? Being tempted into catching smaller waves is not always a good idea. If you paddle and miss you’ll find yourself in the impact zone. If a big set of waves comes you’ll then have to deal with it.
  5. So you’ve caught wave in, you’re paddling out and a big set of waves breaks in front of you. Stay calm, take a couple of deep breaths and be confident as you try to battle through them. If you get rumbled, try to relax under water, when you come up take a few seconds to regain your composure, look at the next wave and get ready for it.
  6. Nervous? Every surfer on the planet gets nervous in some conditions, whether it 2ft or 20ft surf. Try to enjoy the fear and turn it into positive energy. Not easy but its something you will learn to do over time. The adrenaline is part of what makes surfing so addictive.
  7. Landlocked? If you can’t get to beach often then you must get in pool regularly and also practice breath holds as you swim.

If you’d like to improve further, join us for a surf coaching weekend or one of our surf coaching holidays.

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