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PSCo. Tutorials: Catching a Wave

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Welcome to another PSCo tutorial, a blog segment where we look at fundamental surfing techniques and break them down for you only like a surf instructor knows how to.

In this episode, we will look at the entry. This is the most critical moment of any wave and a skill often overlooked. Going back and working on this aspect of your surfing can benefit all levels, from first-day beginner to advanced rider. 

The entry is how you set up your ride, and can be broken down into two parts: 1. catching a wave which should flow into 2: the pop-up or take-off. 

(Photo: AJ Roulstone) 

1. Catching the wave

This is the essence of wave-riding and transcends all types of watercraft: Boogie board, Surfboard, SUP, foil, canoe, it doesn't matter. Catching the wave on any of these craft offers a comparable rush and requires the same two things:

// Picking a wave

Like catching a Leprechaun, speed and cunning are required when catching a wave. First, you’ll want to target your wave and keep your eyes on it as you paddle into position. Assess the wave for crucial information such as the size, distance from you, and any indicators of where it might start to break. 

When catching the coveted green wave, we’ll want to estimate where the peak will form and paddle right underneath it, right before it breaks. 

When going for whitewash waves, we’ll want to line ourselves up pointed straight toward shore, paddling to match the speed of the wave as it hits us. The rule stays the same no matter what kind of wave: keep your eyes on it as it approaches to assess what it's doing.

//… and paddling!

It is often said that you are only as good of a surfer as you are a paddler. This is why swimmers often have a significant advantage when they begin surfing: they can paddle lots; therefore, they can catch lots of waves!

The ability to paddle at a sustained rate and then engage a powerful sprint paddle in the final moments to pick up the wave will be an asset. I always recommend pool training for those who live away from the surf or don't surf frequently as a great way to train for the next surf session.

(Photo: Kait Rogers)


Avoid popping up too early here. Learn to paddle and stay in the prone position until you feel you have undoubtedly caught the wave and are beginning to drop into it. 

It’s a feeling of weightlessness as the energy of the wave picks you up; if you have positioned yourself correctly and are paddling well, you will match the speed of the wave and begin to glide with it. It’s a hard feeling to describe.

2. The “pop-up” or “take-off”

Luckily for you, we have a tutorial on this, too! You’ll want to begin a smooth and confident pop-up when you know you have caught the wave.

If it's smooth and well-timed, in sync with the wave, the rest of your ride will flow nicely, and things will feel effortless. Likewise, if you are rushed and frantic and not feeling quite secure, it's harder to catch up with the rest of the wave.

(Photo: Cristina Gareau) 

Practice your pop-up on a smooth wooden floor. Wear tracksuits and socks so your feet and legs can slide over the floor as they would over your surfboard. Use masking tape to mark out your board for a good visual reference.

Finally, do not be afraid to fall! Dropping into a wave is that heart-in-your-throat moment that we live for. And it is only so great because the risk of falling is, too. Check out our tutorial on how to wipeout safely here so that you can go into battle with a game plan for when the inevitable happens and you mistime that wave, ending up going over the falls and into the spin cycle. 

Blog Written by Adam Tory

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