Improve your pop up
Min Read Time

How to Angle the Takeoff

Pacing yourself perfectly with a wave, pulling off airs like an air reverse or rodeo clown, or having a smooth flow are all very important aspects of surfing. That’s why lots of people, be it mentors, pro-surfers, or mere spectators, might be overlooking the angling of takeoff as a trivial matter. However, that is not the case.

Think about it in terms of meeting a new person. Even during just the first minute of your acquaintance, there are many criteria at play: the way they smile at you while shaking your hand, whether they are genuinely happy to meet you or not, their tiny mimics and gestures, the way they talk to you and address you, and so on. Your impression concerning all these will later have an effect on your relationship with them whether you are aware of it or not. It’s not limited to their attitude towards you, either. The particular mental and emotional state you are in when you meet a new person also plays a part in the development of your relationships.

It’s the same when you make the acquaintance of the wave you are going to ride. It may not necessarily set the tone of your whole ride, but it certainly has an effect on your performance, and a tiny mistake might prevent you from having a smooth and stress-free flow afterwards. In addition to that, a good takeoff angle might determine your speed and reduce your efforts overall. Therefore, it should be taken seriously - especially by rookies.

Why Takeoffs Are Important

There are three main aspects of angling a perfect takeoff: 

  • angling the lip of the wave;
  • getting your positioning right both in terms of your body and proximity to the wave;
  • having the right board for the wave you are going to ride. 

If you are always surfing on familiar waters, you have probably figured out the first one and you don’t need to worry too much about the last one. But once you go to some other coast and encounter waves with different levels of aggression and tide radius, you might find yourself at a loss when it comes to takeoff. That is especially the case for big waves, and if you are considering taking part in competitive surfing at some point in your life, you have to master how to introduce yourself to a big wave that generally has only one great entry point that you don’t want to miss.

Now, let’s go into the details of how to improve takeoffs, so you don’t miss your chance when that perfect wave comes along.

The Angle

If you are new to it, the ocean might seem chaotic to you with the water moving in many directions at the same time, and you might have a hard time picking a wave or recognizing an opening for your takeoff. One thing I find helpful in situations like that is looking for a cross bump between the waves. The cross bumps generally result in minor irregularities in the flow of a wave and once you introduce yourself to the wave from such an entry point, you’ll immediately get a speed boost. The effortless speed of many great surfers is drawn from their experience and advanced judgment of such irregularities.

In addition to that, you have to enter the wave from its deepest and steepest point. Most great surfing attributes depend on letting the wave do the hard work. When you enter the wave with such a takeoff angle, you’ll be channeling the movement and energy of the wave to your surfboard. If you can’t take advantage of that, there is a good chance that the wave you picked somewhat meticulously will show you who the boss is by washing over you and you’ll return to the shore with your board under your arm.

The Proximity to the Wave: Paddling

Of course, entering a wave is not like trying to get on a bus from a bus station. You are not waiting motionlessly in a sheltered space before the wave comes to take you away. To catch a wave, especially to catch a wave that has real potential, you have to paddle towards it. So, mastering the art of paddling with enough speed and power is crucial for takeoff. Otherwise, the opportunity might be lost, or due to low confidence in your paddling abilities, you might start second-guessing yourself and miss the wave. If you efficiently paddle once you recognize the wave you want to ride, though, it might actually be like getting on a bus. You can put yourself in the correct position, pick your angle, and the wave will take you away.

The Right Board

In this part, I’ll get a bit more technical. For a good takeoff, you need a low center of gravity. By making yourself small, you’ll be optimizing your entry point to the wave. However, a low center of gravity doesn’t only pertain to your body. It also requires a surfboard that can accommodate your body for a perfect takeoff. Your board should have a low entry rocker and an outline curve up front to keep it, let’s say, low-key. That will really work wonders when you try entering a wave from its deepest point, and you’ll quickly reap its benefits with a speedy takeoff.

Grabbing the Opportunity

I have mentioned second-guessing above, and you might also be familiar with its close cousin: overthinking. The ocean is not kind to those who second-guess themselves or overthink their actions. It’s a place of constant movement where you should go along with your first instinct and where you should respect the flow. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and that’s okay. There is nothing stopping you from getting better with more practice. That is how the great names became what they are: by not fearing failure and by doing, not by overthinking.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching