All surfers aspire to catch more waves. Plain and simple…Why else would we spend hours bobbing around in the ocean, burning our skin, squinting our eyes, and putting ourselves at the raw risks of mother nature?
Surfing is an interesting sport. In a 2-hour session, you may only get 5 minutes of actual ride time. That’s not much practice when you compare surfing to other board sports like skateboarding or snowboarding. For this reason, maximizing wave count is crucially important if you want to make steady improvement to your surfing
As you progress, you will naturally learn the best strategies to navigate your way through the line-up and pick off maximum waves in your session. Many new surfers think catching waves is like playing Black Jack where the player is at the mercy of the cards. But just like an experienced Black Jack player, an experienced surfer knows a handful of useful techniques to give themselves a competitive advantage. It may be a metaphorical stretch, but an expert surfer is just as advantageous catching waves as an expert card counter.
If you’d like to upper hand next time you paddle out, consider the following positioning techniques.
Make a mental map of the bottom
Are you surfing a point break? A beach break? A reef break?! Where ever you’re surfing, you should always be conscious of what’s happening on the bottom. Watch as many passing waves as you can and try to imagine the underwater bathymetry and contours. Remember, waves bend and break towards shallow water. Line yourself up with the edge of the sandbar, don’t sit too far on the shoulder at a point break, look for any boils or ledges at a reefbreak. The best way to make this underwater map in your head is to simply observe as many passing waves as possible.
Bottom feeding is OK
If the waves are few and far between, don’t sit too far out endlessly waiting for the set of the day. Sometimes the “bottom feeding” strategy pays the highest dividends. Even if the waves are consistent medium – large, sitting a little further inside than everyone else can result in exciting double ups and last minute shoulder hopping as others wipe out. A few quick notes on this strategy: #1 You will get plenty of set waves on the head so be prepared to duck dive and #2 If you choose to bottom feed, do not expect to catch the set waves that the other surfers have been waiting for.
Think about the crowd
Is surfing the main peak with the agro locals always necessary? Many of the surf spots in Costa Rica are wide open beach breaks with multiple peaks so sitting within a main pack of 20+ wave-hungry surfers is not the smartest way to maximize your wave count. Sure, maybe the main peak has slightly better waves than down the beach, but if you’re in the game to catch maximum waves and improve your surfing, think twice before paddling out at the main wave. Plus, many times the “bomb sets” will over wash the main break and you’ll inevitably be sitting in the perfect position.
Triangulate position constantly
Before getting into the water, find a landmark on the beach that you can see from the water. It can be a bush, a sand dune, an umbrella, etc. One of the biggest mistakes made by new surfers is not knowing where they’re sitting in the line up. Look towards the beach just as much as you look towards the horizon. Triangulating your position is heavily related to mentally mapping the bottom of the surf zone. If there is a secret sandbar double-up in front of the red umbrella, keep circling back to that same take-off zone as long as the waves keep coming. Quick note, if there are multiple people sitting in front of the red umbrella, you need to take turns.
If you’re still not catching anything, change strategies.
My general rule is 15 minutes. If you haven’t caught anything in about 15 minutes, it’s time to change strategies. Maybe you should scoot towards the beach and bottom feed. Maybe paddle 100 yards to the north or south. Maybe paddle way out past everyone and wait for the bomb. Don’t get too obsessed with one position in the line up and allow your stubbornness to deflate your wave count.
What positioning strategies do you use and where? I’d love to hear how fellow surfers navigate Malibu or even Snapper Rocks (any Ozzy readers?).
We hope these quick tips help you pump up your wave count next time you go for a surf. If you’d like to use these positioning techniques in the warm water of Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to call us at 1-888-318-7873. Surfer agents on duty.
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