Recent Blog Posts

30 August, 2014

Directional Arms

At the recent Billabong Pro Tahiti, on a finals day when nines were practically throwaways, John John Florence went ballistic in the Quarterfinals, hitting a 9.80 out of the gates.

Take a look at his arms in the photo below.

We love to watch him ride stand-up, tubes hands free. But even JJ here shows that activating the arms to help guide him toward his direction of choice, is useful. Especially when under time pressure like he is in this shot.

Same in the second picture below it of Nathan Hedge. This time the surfer is front-side. With a massive looming section threatening, it’s clear his leading arm is activated. It’s pointing to where he needs to get in a hurry. It will give him lift, speed and direction.

Even if you are a total beginner, try to lift and activate your arms. Don’t let them hang like a useless sack of potatoes.  Make them directional.


– ASP / Kirstin Scholtz


24 August, 2014

Single, Twin or Thruster?

The Four Seasons Surfing Champions Trophy recently went down in perfect-peeling, overhead rights at Sultans Reef, Maldives. The six, invited, former world champs (a mix of ASP, ISA, Longboard and Junior world champs) competed on separate days riding single fins, twin fins and then the modern day thruster.

With a consistent wave shape for every day of the event, spectators were granted a unique opportunity to observe the differences in board performance as the same surfers rode the varied fin configurations. The fact that all surfers  were front-side made the comparisons even more striking.

If you haven’t seen the videos, they’re worth a look. Single, twin and thruster highlights can all be viewed on the same page:

For less experienced surfers, the differences in fin set-ups can be a little confusing. So after quizzing the pros, here’s my most succinct summary:-

Single Fins – Faster due to less drag. Back foot power. Longer, more draw-out turns. More flow.

Twin Fins – Fast and loose.

Thrusters – An excellent combination of precision and power.

Despite not having ridden a thruster in years, Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovich managed to prove his mastery of all three craft to take out the event. His surfing was sublime – show-casing an ability to go critical whilst still maintaining a relaxed composure and flair.

We can’t all surf like Rasta but we can be inspired by his passion for diversity. So take the opportunity to experiment with different fin set-ups. Single, twin, thruster are just the start. Hawaiian back-foot, powerhouse Sunny Garcia loves his single fin. Whereas Brazilian legend Fabio Gouveia told me his all-time favorite set-up is a quad with a tiny FCS Knubster trailing at the back. It’s fun trying different fins. Just don’t expect them to all feel the same.

That’s the whole point of the exercise right?


The legend himself, Dave Rastovich making it look easy on his Joel Fitzgerald single fin.

1 August, 2014

To Kick or Not to Kick?

I just returned from a surf holiday with my mate Stu. Some mighty fine waves were enjoyed (see image below) and it was nice to get offline away from connectivity.

The wave we surfed packed some punch. The take-offs were fast, sucky and powerful. I found myself lacking many times – dropping in too steep and too late, often behind the game and not making the miniscule opportunity granted to tuck under the menacing lip.

It took me a while to realize how half-hearted I was about my paddle-ins. Being a scrawny little fella, and naturally lack a strong paddle. Genetically, maybe I am behind the eight ball already? (My excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

In the end, what I found helped me the most was to add a strong and powerful freestyle kick to boost my paddle power.

For years, I had taught paddlers lacking in power to kick in order to increase their speed and get into the wave earlier. However many people told me that they don’t like it for varying reasons. It puts them off balance. It spoils their glide. They’d rather just do a double-arm paddle should they need speed.

Well for my liking, I am going back to recommending the kick. A good hard, freestyle kick combined with a serious intention to catch that damned wave – early and definitively. In the end it did wonders for me in steep, sucky waves and I still think it will do wonders for you.


Looks easy right?

13 July, 2014


Watching some of the early action at the ASP Jeffreys Bay (including  Jordy Smith’s perfect ten point ride) event earlier this week got me thinking about how long that wave is and how should one predict what a wave is going to do so far in advance?

I coach a lot of intermediate level surfers and without fail, mostly they fail to look sufficiently around them when paddling in.

Almost all surfers could improve their wave selection and positioning. So much wave sense comes through vision – which allows you to inherently get a perception and feeling for what the wave has already done and what it’s probably about to do.

At the critical moment of take off, it’s easy to get trapped in a tunnel-vision form of narrow focus. You may not even be aware of it but as a coach I see that happening all the time. Heavily concentrating on the immediate area and not spatially aware.

Check yourself. Where are you looking? Is it just down and/or straight ahead?

Ideally you should look at all 4 points of the compass – North, South, East. West. Or 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Or left, right, behind, in front.

You should look ahead for paddlers or rocks.

Look behind to see how close the approaching wave is so you can anticipate the timing of your get-up. A quick gauge on distance to your feet is an amazing way to improve your timing.

Look inside towards the breaking part of the approaching wave to see how close it is from you. Observe how steep that face is and how quickly it is growing upwards. These shape and speed changes give you a way to anticipate what patterns it might keep demonstrating by the time it reaches you.

Look down the line for height, steepness and undulations across the top of the wave face to try and predict if the wave will peel or section too fast. Maybe you don’t want it after all? Or maybe you need to turn early and take a higher line because it’s so long and steep?

I commonly see intermediate surfers who either don’t look down the line at all. Or they don’t look far enough and then wonder why they did not make the wave. At J-Bay, you might be looking waaay down the line for 200 metres – aiming to detect any inconsistencies in the wave height and steepness.

Look around you and all of a sudden timing and positioning get easier.


(not Jordy Smith … just a nice pic from my last trip to J Bay. Yes .. that place is as good as they say.)

9 June, 2014

open the book

 Tropicsurf’s senior sensei The Adman came up with this coaching gem.


Beginner to intermediate surfers commonly struggle with backside surfing. Particularly in getting the initial turn around in a direction that they struggle to see clearly. In these instances, the problem is commonly caused by what I call a blocking shoulder.

You will recall the very important point I’ve made before – that where you look is where you go. So technically, you should look to where you want to travel, twist your upper body and then the board will follow in the direction. A little rotation in the correct sequence equals an easy yet magnified effect through the board. Little effort – maximum turn.

One tip to help initiate this rotation process is to ‘open the book’.

Imagine that you are reading and you grab the top corner of the page, rotate your wrist and turn to the next page of the book. This rotation action through the wrist can actually trigger the desired sequence to turn the board.

–       open the book (rotate the wrist)

–       open the leading shoulder

–       open the chest

–       twist through the trunk, torso and hips

–       finish with the trailing arm wrapping around

This sequence will steer the board very effectively with little effort.

Check out the image of Kelly Slater doing just that. With the pressure of a falling Pipe lip, he instinctively rolled the wrist to initiate a rapid rotation to steer him quickly up onto the face before the lip came crashing down on top of him.


Photo: ASP/Cestari – from

I reckon if it works for Kelly it could work for us.

Thanks Adman.



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