Last time we talked about the one of the most common wave catching issues: Why do I keep on nose-diving while surfing? But what if you are not catching any waves at all? You just don’t seem to get onto the waves. Now I’m not talking about that one session where you just didn’t catch many waves. Happens to everyone. I actually went out yesterday and caught only a couple of waves. I went to the Pass and it was the first time after weeks of average conditions where the waves were running properly which meant it was crowded and there was a hustly energy in the water and I just didn’t feel like joining the hustle so I sat wide and was waiting for the odd bigger set coming through instead…What I’m talking about though is when you go out and you generally struggle to catch waves in every session.
Here are the some of the most common reasons we see amongst our gidgets:
You are sitting way too far out
You are out the back and made it past the whitewash. Yay. But maybe you took out the back a bit too literally and you are just a bit too far out the back. So try to edge further in a bit more. Try a little bit a time until you find the sweet spot. Also, watch other surfers…where are they sitting? Maybe don’t sit where the dude on the big fat 9’6 mal sits. He’s likely to be further out as he would catch the waves when they are really fat still. Or don’t sit where the gidget ripping on a toothpick of a truster is sitting. If you are on a mini mal your spot is probably somewhere in between those too.
I know sometimes it feels a bit safer to sit further out because you won’t get any of the bigger waves on your head. That’s why it’s super important to get comfortable with your turtle rolls (or even duck-dive if you are on a smallish board). If you are confident that you can dodge the odd bigger waves, you’ll be able to sit a bit further in and pick up most of the average size waves.
You are sitting in a rip
Another classic positioning error is sitting in a rip without noticing… I only know because I’ve been there. I still remember sitting there and someone saying to me ‘Darl…you won’t catch any waves there…you are sitting in a rip’…oopsie daisies…little did I know. Glad someone told the Austrian in the line-up…Anyway, if there haven’t been any waves breaking for aaaaages where you sit, have a look around. Where are the waves really breaking? Where is everyone catching waves? Hm maybe there is a reason why the spot you’ve picked is deserted. Just edge a bit closer to the other surfers.
Your board might be too small
I hate to break it to you but if you really struggle and you are pretty sure you are in the right spot, it might not be you, it might be your board. Your board might be just a tad small for you. As a rule of thumb…the bigger the board, the easier to catch waves. Which is a bit of a trade off because I always liked smaller boards for the ease of carrying them around and I also felt it was easier to maneuver in the surf (i.e. get out of the way of other people in a crowded break like Bondi). I guess you don’t have to go for the massive mal but please don’t make the same mistake I made and get on a short board way too early. I broke my mini mal after a couple of months of surfing and decided I’m ready for a short board, which I was not. So instead of catching lots of waves, I would spend hours in the water to only catch a couple of waves and when I got up I would only stay up for a few seconds because it was super wobbly. I did get the hang of it eventually but I wish I would have been a bit less ambitious with my short board plans and stuck to a mini mal to start with.
If you have a feeling your board might be too small, maybe go and rent a bigger one to see if it really makes the difference before you put down your hard earned dollars to get a new one.
Not enough paddling
If you watch surfers who are ripping, it looks super easy, some of them only do a couple of paddle strokes and off they go. When you are a newish greenwave gidget, this is probably not quite enough for you. In fact, start paddling a bit earlier than you think you should to get some speed up and make up for the lack in paddle power…and don’t worry you’ll be building up those surf muscles soon enough and your paddling will be super strong and efficient but for now the starting a bit earlier trick might help you get onto waves easier. Also, I see lots of gidgets stopping too early with the paddling and getting up when they are not quite on the wave yet. Put those extra couple of strokes in at the end too to make doubly and triply sure you really got that wave. In short, start paddling a bit earlier and keep paddling a bit longer than you think.
Ultimately, it’s all in the timing and positioning
Timing is much more important now that you are catching unbroken waves than when you get pushed on by the whitewash where it really doesn’t quite matter when you catch the wave as long as it’s mushy white wash.
The right timing and right positioning simply comes with experience and water time. The more time you spend in the water, the better your feel for the right timing and positioning will get. And some of you will get the hang of it easier than others. For example, I’m sure it took me heaps longer to get the timing right than most ladies who grew up near the ocean. As I’m from a land locked country, I haven’t had much experience with waves at all prior to surfing…no bodysurfing, no ocean swimming…no nothing…just playing in the flat Mediterranean Sea once a year. But it’s doable by spending as much time in the water as possible.
Nothing replaces just practicing and water time …oh and of course good old patience :-)
And don’t forget Gidgets, if you are really stuck, you can always get a top up surf lession. Sometimes it helps just to get a session in with a surf coach to find out what’s going on!
Happy Surfing ~