How to angle the take-off and common mistakes
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced surfer, there angling the take-off is something you need to master so you can figure out the best line you can take to set up the rest of the wave.
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The Full Guide
Angling the take-off, do you do this already or is this something you want to learn and be better at?
Or is this something you are guilty of messing up, either letting the wave race by without you or you end up so far out on the shoulder that you completely miss the wave and any good sections?
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced surfer, there is nuance and a need to figure out the best line you can take to set up the rest of the wave.
There are times when to do it and times when not to do it or more, when not to overthink it. It’s all about how to set up that first section and relies heavily on reading the wave and observing what the wave wants to do.
There’s no one solution or angle that fits all and your board will also play a big part in the lines you take as well.
The Basics of Angling The Takeoff
If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is just about what angle you take on your take off, that’s it, nothing complex but the difficulty comes with no two waves being the same and you have to keep changing to suit the waves and the board you are riding.
When angling the take-off well, you’ll be taking a good line of entry into the wave to set up your first turn, to go down the line, or to potentially tuck into a barrel. It’s not just something that learners do to simply trim down the line and go to safety.
But in each three of those examples, the angle you take is drastically different and is mostly based on the wave.
How to Angle The Take Off starts with positioning
It starts with simply paddling for the wave, forget your angles for now, and don’t overcomplicate it, you’ve got to catch the wave first.
Remember the most important thing with catching any wave is positioning, closer to the peak and it will always be easier to catch it. Let the wave help you rather than scratching in on the shoulder like made.
Taking a more relaxed paddle in is going to help with learning how to angle the take-off but more importantly give you the time to observe the wave and pick your line. If you are stress-paddling, you aren’t looking at the wave.
You want to position closer to the peak but you don’t want to be so deep that you only have the option of going straight or the wave runs off without you. The aim is to take off in or next to the pocket. You want to surf in the pocket so start there.
As you are paddling to position, always observe the wave, don’t paddle like you have a pair of horse blinkers on and can only see in one direction, paddle and look over your shoulder.
Observe the wave as you paddle, see how it is standing up and how that changes. Does that wave now want to run right or left? Which way looks better? Is it speeding up and you need to reposition or are you too wide? You can’t figure that out without looking at it and failing a few times to learn how to read it better.
As that wave reaches you, casually paddle into it, look up where you want to go, observe the wave and see the line you want to take. You don’t want to be looking down during the take-off, you need to look at where you want to fit in that first turn or whatever it is that you want to do.
Now it becomes all about the nuance in the wave and timing the take-off, as you glide into the wave, you will be in a cobra position, pushing your chin and chest up, observing the wave, reading it and confirming the line you want to take. Most of this is done subconsciously with experience, being able to read the wave doesn’t mean staring at everything, it just means to generally take it in and over time your body and experience will learn the signals.
Angling the Takeoff
To take that line and angle the take-off, you can initiate a slight lean with one hand, more weight and pressure in that hand and the board will respond. It will also subconsciously do this by looking down the line, your weight will shift and move the board to where your body is aiming.
You don’t want to be doing this so far in advance, it’s done as you glide in. Your paddle in should be done with nose to the beach, paddle towards the beach, allow the wave to push you and begin the angle and turn on the take-off.
Angling the take-off is not about picking a big angle and paddling in that direction prior to the take-off. Riding nose to the beach and paddling in this way means you ride down the wave and get speed, not slowly across it. Your bottom turn is what sets you up with speed and the line you want to take.
If you are looking where you want to go, got your chin and chest up during the take-off and don’t suddenly change where you are looking, your body position will be great. All of your body language will point to where you want to go. Trust your hands and feet will find where they want to be, don’t look down at the drop or the board.
You should now be taking the line you were observing and just need to follow through, initiate the first bottom turn and set up the wave.
How different surfboards will affect the line and angle you take
The rocker is the curve to the underside of your board which is designed to fit into the wave a certain way based on that board. A flatter rocker and surfboard will create more speed but it won’t like steep waves as board as the flat rocker won’t fit the curve of the wave well and can tend to nose dive when going straight down it.
The length will amplify that with a longer board requiring a more gentle slope to fit into the curve of the wave.
There are endless design possibilities out there and it’s not to say bigger boards are all flat and can’t fit but it’s to make you understand your board, how long it is and what shape it has so you can figure out how well it will fit into the curve of the waves you are surfing.
Adjusting the angle you take to suit your board
The angle you take is dependent on the line you want to take but if that line is steep and straight down the wave or closer to that, you may have to adjust your line to suit your board.
What this means is to take the angle or line that is closest to your ideal line that accounts for your surfboard's length and rocker.
A shortboard will allow you to take a steeper line into the wave but if you are taking off on the same wave but with a mid-length, you will have to angle towards the shoulder more to allow your board to fit into that wave and take the drop without nose-diving.
What that angle is, is up to the wave, the board and the line you are taking.
The key point is not to overshoot the angle and just aim straight to the shoulder, if you aim too wide, you can lose speed or you can just miss the wave entirely. You want to take the line closest to your ideal line.
Now you can control that take-off to not nose dive, but this means you will be wiping off speed, so again it comes back to your line and what you want. You’ll do that if you want to tuck into the tube or to stay in the pocket.
Where your angling the takeoff needs to get to, to master it
You ideally want to ride down the wave with as minimal angle to it as possible. You want to ride down the wave, generate speed from the take-off and flow from your paddle into angling the take-off to drop into your first bottom turn as one flowing movement. They are all connected together.
But that can be a more advanced manoeuvre to master that takes quite a bit of practice and failure for most surfers.
Work through that in pieces and the hidden nuance is your bottom turn starts early, as you are taking off it is beginning, not take off, ride to the bottom, get stuck in the flats and struggle to do a decent bottom turn.
Nor is it a race out to the shoulder
Paddling in on an Angle and away from the wave
For most beginners, they think it's about just picking an angle and paddling madly in that direction. This isn’t it. It’s all about set-up work.
You don’t want to paddle in on a 45-degree angle to the wave, that’s just wiping off speed and you will paddle away from the wave.
This makes you paddle towards the shoulder and away from the power source. Remember it’s all about positioning and closer to the peak will have more energy, it’s where you want to surf and will make your paddle in easier.
Don’t paddle away from it.
This is the same with turning too early on angling the takeoff. You want to wait to glide in, let the wave push you and do some of the hard work. This is when to start angling the take-off.
Picking the wrong line & racing down the line
By paddling at an angle to the wave a lot of beginners paddle in, and take off on a line that just throws them out to the shoulder. Then most of these surfers end up racing down the line, chasing speed, pumping the whole way, looking for a section and never finding it.
They’ve set up the whole wave wrong and left the pocket behind them.
These surfers are then also guilty of usually surfing mid-faced and never using the whole wave. The line of entry is across the middle of the wave to safety, then they are stuck there, and don’t know how to take better lines and reset.
You want your line to set up what you want, not race to safety. If safety is what you want and just to trim, cruise and ride the unbroken face of the wave, that’s fine.
Don’t paddle in on a massive angle, just enough for your board to make the drop and set you up.
Not transitioning to the bottom turn on the take-off
As you progress and get better at this, you need to fit that first bottom turn in earlier. Most surfers who struggle with this will angle too much and end up mid-faced and have no space to fit a bottom turn in or do a weak bottom turn.
Or they end up going straight down the wave, getting heaps of speed but doing the bottom turn too late, ending up going straight to the beach and being left behind by the wave.
Beginners are also guilty of this when they are learning to find balance and control in your pop-up. They look down, lose control, forget where they are going and try to just get up.
By the time they get up, they see the wave has left them behind.
In both cases the solution is just practice, observing the wave and learning to fail. Through failure, you’ll learn how to adapt and fit the bottom turn in or pick a better line to suit your level.
Not looking where you are going
If you can’t see where you want to go, you won’t get there. Simple. By looking your body will move and subtly initiate part of the lean to start angling the take-off. Continue this through the pop-up and everything else you do.
Otherwise, if you look down, wobble, get the windmill arms out and are staring at your board or the bottom of the wave, that’s where you are heading and the wave will carry on without you.
If you are stress-paddling into the wave, you aren’t paying attention to the wave. Just relax, breathe out, remember it’s all about positioning and give yourself that space and time to casually take off, pick your line and set up the whole wave.
Not madly try with 120% effort to catch the wave and then get to your feet and go, ok what now and watch the wave close out in front of you.
The more time you spend flailing around paddling, the less time you have to relax and do what you need to do.
Positioning is a lesson and a lesson learned the hard way. As usual, not too wide and away from the peak of the wave and miss the whole wave altogether and not too deep that all the wave does is close out in front of you.
Paddle to the best position, watch the wave the whole time, observe it and see how it is standing up and adjust your positioning to suit.
Angling the take-off isn’t about picking an angle and paddling into a wave, it’s about how you set up that wave to do what you want to do.
Observe the wave and paddle at first to put yourself in the optimum position to catch that wave. Then once, in position, keep an eye on it and you should be paddling towards the beach.
As the wave approaches you and you feel that lift and the wave pushes you, this is your moment to glide in, push up to cobra pose, chin and chest up, looking to what the wave is doing to pick your line. This is when you start angling the takeoff.
Relax, don’t stress paddle, pick the line that will set up the wave for what you want to do, and adjust that line if it needs to suit a bigger and/or flatter board.
The only way to know what is the right line and not too wide of a line is to try, to fail, to fall and figure it out.
Don’t aim for safety, aim for the line you want and how to get the most speed out of the drop and set up into that first bottom turn.
Remember the very first bottom turn needs to come from angling the takeoff and flow from there, through your take-off and into a bottom turn before you hit the flats.
Don’t second guess it, don’t overthink it, don’t complicate it, just commit, do it 100%, pick your line and go. Don’t let the little voices in your head bring any fear, tension, stress or anxiety.
It’s going to take time to master, you need to be able to read the wave, have a good take-off, and bottom turn. These are all skills that people often practice separately. Fail forwards and learn by mistakes and remember the conditions will change which means so too does your take off.
Has this demystified how to angle the takeoff?
Or has it made you realise there is quite a bit to it and you didn’t know the bottom turn was part of it?
Did you think it was all about just picking an angle and going for it, cruising down the line?
Are you going to fail forwards and just embrace the suck, enjoy the falls and figure it out?
I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, message me in the app or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.
Next week I am going to dive into the concept of “if I want to improve my surfing, shouldn’t I just surf more?”