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Surf Maneuvers Series PART 1: Taking Off on a Shortboard

Surf Maneuvers Series by Hawaiian South Shore

 

A lot of what we see in the surf media relates to surfing that isn’t really relatable for the average wave rider.

The waves the pros ride and the maneuvers they do are often well beyond what the rest of us are capable of and comfortable with, so while it is fun to watch, it isn’t really relevant to our own personal surfing experiences. 

But just because we don’t surf like pros doesn’t mean we don’t want to improve our abilities and push ourselves to new levels of performance. While many of us may never land a 360 air, we can still aspire to do cleaner bottom turns, more aggressive top turns, and smoother, more efficient cutbacks.

This series of articles will be focusing on improving performance for the average surfer. It will cover a number of tips for different maneuvers and aspects of surfing that will help you the everyman (and woman!) wave rider surf better, with more style, functionality, and flow.

These tips are intended for use in normal-sized waves on a shortboard or mid-length. And while some of them may be too basic for a lot of surfers, we think that pretty much everyone will find something to help them improve their surfing.

 

Tip 1: Taking Off on a Shortboard

Unlike longboards, shortboards have relatively low volume (usually in the 20- to 40-liter range), which means that a wave has to be pretty steep and close to breaking before the board can be paddled fast enough to catch it.

For that reason, one of the first things that one needs to figure out when catching waves on a shortboard is where to sit. Longboarders are able to roll into waves long before they break, but shortboarders need to sit right in the breaking section (and sometimes even under the lip).

Surf Maneuvers Series PART 1: Taking Off on a Shortboard

Because the takeoff will be faster, later, and more critical than with a longboard, it is also more difficult to place oneself in the appropriate section and fade into position once the wave is caught.

For this reason, it is also important to position oneself in relation to the peak, depending on your goal for the wave. If you sit too wide, you will find that you miss the best section of the wave, resulting in a shorter ride and less opportunity for critical maneuvers.

On the other hand, sitting too deep usually means getting left behind by sections as they close out. Try to be honest with yourself about your ability and what you are capable of doing on a wave. If you are not able to make late, critical drops, consider surfing softer waves until you become more adept at taking off.

Likewise, if you don’t yet have the ability to generate your own speed by pumping, try not to sit too deep behind the peak. Not only will you end up blowing your waves when you get left behind by them, but you will also affect the experience of other people in the lineup.

Once you know your spot in the lineup, spend some time watching different waves break and analyzing how they hit the reef, sand bar, or point. Most waves break slightly differently, even if they are hitting the same reef or lineup.

This relates to the direction, speed, and period that they hit with, as well as any refraction that might be happening from other waves, not to mention the depth of the water (which changes with each wave that hits the lineup and draws water off the reef).

After spending some time learning a spot, you will begin to notice which waves break the way you want them to. For a beginner, this might mean the slower, softer wave at the beginning of a set, while more advanced surfers might be waiting for a wave that bowls on the reef or even a fast, semi-closed-out wave with an air or turn section.

When you identify the wave that you want (and assuming that you have waited your turn and you have priority in the lineup), paddle out toward the wave until you are perfectly positioned to catch it, then spin quickly on your board and begin to paddle into the wave.

Look over your inside shoulder (toward the deeper, breaking section), taking note of how fast the wave is breaking down the line and where the optimum section is to catch it.

You might also find it helpful to look over your outside shoulder (toward the channel) to see if you are too deep or too wide, and to adjust accordingly. As you feel your board start to pick up momentum, take an extra paddle and then push down on the nose as you takeoff on the wave, using your momentum to spring quickly but smoothly to your feet.

Ideally, your board will be entering the wave at an angle toward the shoulder (although more critical drops may require you to drop straight down the face). As you drop in, pay attention to your inside rail and try to feel when you have control coming off the bottom. If you have good rail control early in the drop, you may be able to angle sharply (“knifing”) across the face, which will give you more speed and prepare you for a maneuver more quickly. On the other hand, if you have to air drop or take any sort of critical drop, you may have to come off the bottom and then perform a bottom turn before redirecting your board toward the shoulder.

Depending what type of maneuver you want to do, you will also need to regulate your speed as you take off. If you are deep behind the peak and need to accelerate to make the section, use the momentum of your takeoff to drive into your first pump either through or around the section. On the other hand, if you want to slow down (for instance, to stall for a barrel or prepare for a turn in a more critical section), consider dragging your arm in the face, leaning back on the tail of the board, or drawing your bottom turn out a bit longer.

Once you have established yourself where you want to be in the section of the wave, it is time to start reacting to what is coming ahead of you. From there, you have all sorts of options for different maneuvers—many of which will be the focus of future performance tip blogs!

Let the waves and skills progression continue! Click here to browse our selection of high-performance shortboards now.