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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.)

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