Maxim Pavlovsky, our surf coach in Sri Lanka, agreed to share his own tips and hints on how to catch a wave. Here are his recommendations and we hope they will help you to catch waves as smoothly and confidently as Maxim does it!
1. Learn how to choose the right wave
Simple it might seem, but choosing the right wave is one of the most difficult things in surfing. That is what you do: go to the lineup, sit and balance on the board, observe each passing wave carefully and evaluate it: what kind of wave is it? Is it spilling or plunging? Left or right? Closing out or surging? Analyze what the best starting position can be for every wave as quite often just a meter to the left or right can significantly influence the quality of your ride.
2. Know when to back down
This situation is quite typical – you’ve just got to the lineup and here it’s coming, your perfect wave! However, if you do not have enough strengths or time to catch the wave, backing it down will be the best decision. Otherwise, if you attempt to ride it not at your full capacity, you are more likely to fail, to lose your lineup position and just to be swept away by the oncoming waves. Saying no to your ambition to catch certain waves is an important psychological issue in surfing. Train yourself to do it.
3. Bend your back
Paddling in surfing is not only your arms. The more bended you are, the broader your paddling is. Start accelerating with your chest and shoulders high and your back springy. When you reach the wave crest and need to pump it just a little bit more, lower your shoulders and move your bodyweight to the board nose. I often kind of press my chin to the board and try to shift the maximum of my weight to the nose.
4. Use your legs
Remember – your legs never ever must be dangling at the sides of the board! It might seem that balancing the board is easier with your legs apart but in fact, from this position it is impossible to bend your back properly (see 3). If you are riding a short board and your legs are touching the water, then your legs movements will add up to your speed. In case of a long board, just imitate the paddling with your legs as it will make your paddling more efficient.
5. Evaluate the distance
Accelerating must be smooth and gradual. Do not try to immediately start paddling at your full strength. Your first strokes have to be slow and relaxed, increasing gradually and becoming more and more powerful. Learn how to evaluate the distance. For that, you must always look behind you when accelerating. This visual skill requires a lot of experience and might be rather tricky (see 1).
6. Make sure you’ve caught the wave
Some beginners believe that standing up onto the board is the most difficult in surfing, but actually it is catching a wave that is particularly challenging. Never stand up until you’ve caught the wave and started riding it. Wait till you feel the board sliding down. Teach yourself to be patient and wait for this particular moment.