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25 November, 2011

You Need a Small Wave Quiver

For a long time I didn’t surf.

I lost interest because the waves were often too small, fat and nothing to get excited about.

But I changed that by expanding my quiver.

I really love Joel Tudor’s philosophy to surfing… “choose the right board for the right conditions.”

I don’t buy into this whole shortboard/longboard division. The waves are always different and choosing the right board for the right conditions will not only give you more enjoyment, but also help you learn about board design, surf in new and fresh ways, allow you to explore different facets of the sport and improve your surfing.

One of the most exciting shortboarders on the WCT today started his career as a longboarder. Julian Wilson spent most of his youth honing a beautiful style on the point breaks of Noosa. Learning to ride a longboard in small waves is a great way of smoothing out your style. Try to surf with a ‘less is more’ focus. Buy that I mean minimum body movement, and simply maneuvering your board using heels and toes from the tail rail. If you can later apply these skills to a shorter board, you’ll be ripping with increased grace and style. Longboards teach us to turn from the tail with patience. Shortboarders who never try this tend to break from the waist without an ability to hold an arc or draw out a turn. Consequently a classic 9’2 nose rider is definitely in my quiver. Surfing is all about style and there’s no better place to learn this.

Also in my quiver is a Tom Wegener wooden, finless alaia. The thing is so damn hard to ride that I can go out on a 2 foot day and be totally challenged. Just the simple art of catching and riding a wave requires a lot of skill. Given that I like to be challenged, therefore I leave these sessions feeling stoked just to have caught a couple of waves. If you like to be challenged too (and I know you do), don’t always try to make surfing easy for yourself.

I love my 5’6 Channel Islands fishcuit too. This little thing skates across dead sections with incredible speed. It’s super short and wide so it forces me to surf in a different way – more off the front foot, less vertical, and I have to really concentrate on tipping the wide board onto the back rail with a lot of back heel pressure and ankle roll in order to cutback effectively. For me … front foot horizontal is a new way of surfing so it feels fresh and I get excited about surfing again. Even if the waves are 1 foot. If you want to get excited by exploring surfing from a fresh, new angle, try a board that’s radically different to what you normally ride.

Lots of people bag Stand Up Paddling. But I love it. Always have. Firstly I love the fitness. I have a theory that a lot of surfers who like SUP are also people who like to keep fit through a variety of training. I find SUP balances out my surfing muscles and is a great form of training. I also love the fact that I can go ride a 6-inch wave for 100 metres in a relaxed, perfect glide and trim – which is the pure essence of surfing. Nothing worse than seeing a shortboarder frantically bouncing up and down on a one foot wave. It looks so ugly. If you’re doing that, it’s time to follow Joel’s advice. SUP also teaches you to turn from the tail rail… which is like the secret to turning any board. If you hate it, it’s probably because you’ve never actually tried it.

So … these are just a few of the ways I get excited about small waves. There are tons of boards you can try. Single fins. Twinnies. Finless. Old logs. I really like the look of the new 3’6 Bing Speed Square. How cool is that thing?

At the end of the day, if it’s 6 foot and barreling, I’m always going to go grab my favourite 6’0’. But the message here is don’t be afraid of trying new boards… even if you have not mastered your own board yet, this is a way to improve your skill and knowledge base. Don’t discriminate. Do broaden your horizons and capabilities. Do choose the RIGHT BOARD FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS!

I’ve had numerous students who’ve tried a new board while doing a surfing lesson with me and then wondered out loud what the heck they’d been doing for the last ten years.


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