How To Catch A Wave
You’ve finally made it to your first surfing lesson! You have your board, your wax, your wetsuit, and your wave conquering attitude.
When it comes to catching waves, it is important to know that there are many different approaches one can take. Before you even get in the water, we highly recommend lying your board down on the sand and practicing your pop up.
For those of you who are completely new to surf terminology, the term ‘pop up’ is used to refer the moment when a surfer goes from the paddling position to the standing position.
While it is important to understand the mechanics of the pop up before you get in the water, we’re going to assume that you already understand how to pop up for the sake of this article, as we want to explore how to catch a wave once in the water instead!
Catch The Right Waves
On your first couple of times out in the water, you’ll want to catch the small, white water waves that are breaking near shore. Your primary focus should be finding mushy, breaking waves that you can easily paddle out to. The last thing you want is to get your ego battered by some head high waves.
Don’t make the beginner mistake of holding your board horizontally in front of you, as you’ll get toppled by oncoming waves. Rather, hold your board toward the breaking waves in front of you at arm’s length. Keep your hands on the rails of your board so that you can jump over oncoming white water waves as you walk your board out from shore.
Prepping For Your First Wave
Once you get out to where the waves are breaking, it’s time to hop on your board, paddle, and catch your first wave!
Turn and face the beach with your board at your side. Get on your board and get into paddling position:
Make sure to keep your eyes on the waves coming from behind you. Pick one wave that looks like it could take you along for the ride.
Note that reading waves is a skill that takes time to develop. Pro surfers have experience thousands of unique waves and will continue to experience thousands of more waves over their lifetimes. Every wave is unique. For now, just try and pick the waves that have a solid amount of energy underneath them. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but we promise you’ll know once you are out in the water.
If you are riding a beginner board, such as a longboard or foamboard, the wave can be fairly small and you may not need to paddle very hard to catch it. If you have a smaller board, on the other hand, such as a shortboard, the paddling process will take much more effort to keep up with the speed of the wave.
Catch the Wave
Time to catch a wave.
As the right wave begins to approach you from behind, start paddling towards the beach. Paddle quickly. The idea here is to paddle in time with the wave so that you can come into it with your own energy as well.
Once the wave starts to pick you up, you’ll feel a rise in the water below you and your speed greatly increase. It's time to pop up. Once you pop up from paddling position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to the rails. Make sure to keep your knees slightly bent as well to provide you with a better core balance.
If you’re one of the fortunate ones, you may catch a wave.
Things To Watch Out For
Pearling is when a surfer gets pitched forward off the face of a wave. If you find yourself pearling again and again, here are a few things you may want to consider:
Waves Passing By
If you keep missing breaking waves, there are one of more things
Mastering The Waves
We recommend starting out by paddling through waves the first couple of times without popping up at all. This will provide you with a good feel for the water. Once you feel comfortable on your board and you have a feel for the particular waves, you can follow the methods above to catch your first wave!
Try practicing in small, white water waves, as you’ll develop better timing and speed. Be prepared to wipe out a few times too, though don’t let it destroy your confidence. It happens all the time.
Good luck and get out in the water!