Riding a barreling wave is a spiritual experience. Unfortunately, it is one of the most demanding surfing maneuvers to pull off and requires quite a bit of work and determination to do correctly. Even many advanced surfers have yet to enjoy the perfect tube ride experience, as many variables need to be exactly right for one to occur.
Of course, knowing how to read a wave and pop up quickly is essential, and whether you end up dropping straight into the wave, stalling into it, or flying through the backdoor, there are many ways you can approach barrels.
If you're ready to start your journey into barreling waves, come paddle out with us as we explore tips to catching them!
Choose The Right Surfboard
Want to know a little secret?
It's FAR easier to drop into barreling waves on a shortboard than it is on a longboard.
Getting barreled when you know how to choose a surfboard.
The average surfer will tell you that a regular shortboard with a rounded tail will provide a bit more drive. However, if you're dealing with waves taller than six feet, you can take your board size up a notch.
Practice On The Right Waves
People often think you need to surf overhead waves if you want to get barreled. However, if you're a shorter surfer, you can practice on waist- or chest-high rollers.
If you're finding perfectly small conditions, try and hit the waves with the steepest shoulders. Many surfers will tell you it's much easier to get into a barreling wave on the backhand, as they can lower their bodies and crouch through the tube.
Of course, it's crucial to practice your low stance in these conditions.
Get In Position
Regardless of wave size, it is crucial to fine-tune your peak position before heading into your first barrel.
Before you paddle out, analyze how the waves are breaking to determine the best spot to start. Then, look at WHERE the barrel opens so you can enter into that zone. Finally, visualize your take-off in your mind before you drop in.
Stall and Pump
Beyond finding the perfect line, getting more barrels requires learning how to stall and pump.
By learning how to stall in the tube, you can purposefully lose speed after your bottom turn and stay within the barrel. On the other hand, you must learn how to pump in the tube when you need to speed up to exit the barrel.
Start With Frontside Barrels
We always tell surfers to start barreling from the frontside, as they are generally safer. If you bail moving frontside, your surfboard will continue in its path.
However, when it comes to backside barrels, any bail means your surfboard can get sucked up by the waves behind you and hit your body or head. If you choose to go into a backside barrel, be VERY cautious, especially if you fall. Always remember to cover your head, so it doesn't get hit by your board.
Find The Right Line
When surfing head-high or overhead waves, you need to find the appropriate line if you want to get barreled. If you find yourself too high on the face of the wave, you will most likely else speed and fly over the falls.
On the other hand, if you're too low on the face of the wave, the barrel lip will spill over atop your head.
Just like Goldilocks, you want to find the perfect line directly in the middle.
Be Confident & Keep Your Eyes Open
One thing you MUST focus on is staying confident. Optimal waves don't always come around, so you need to dig deep and find the mental strength to take off on one when they present themselves.
We believe that the surfer's mindset is equally as important as the ride.
When you find yourself in the barrel, open your eyes.
We see so many surfers close their eyes when tube riding.
Not only does closing your eyes increase the probability of a wipeout, but you end up missing out on the beautiful blue tunnel around you when fully covered.
Final Thoughts - Surf Barreling Waves as Often as You Can
Barrel riding is the holy grail of surfing for any surfer. If you know where to look, you can find incredible barrels. One of the best ways to practice getting barreled is by pulling into closeout waves. But, of course, you can also go for reef breaks, river mouths, and any other spots where the depth of the ocean dramatically shifts from deep to shallow.
We also recommend looking for shores with great offshore winds.
Head out on a surf trip to find the perfect barrel with your buddies! One of our favorite places in the world to find pristine barrels is the Northwestern part of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Good luck on your tube riding journey! We hope you're able to cross it off your surfing bucket list!