How to surf a crowded beach
Min Read Time

How to catch more waves in a crowded line-up

If you want to read waves and catch more waves, here's a quick guide to increasing your wave count, without getting frustrated or dropping in on anyone

Crowded line-ups. Do they make you avoid surfing all together or do you find yourself getting frustrated? Do you wish you could catch more waves and improve your wave reading ability?

I'm going to give you some surf coaching, a few tips and break down how you can navigate the crowds and always put yourself in position regardless of the crowd and without resulting in dropping in.

You can easily do any of this regardless of how experienced you are in a line-up.

Increasing your wave count - finding the peak

No matter where you surf, if it's beach breaks, reef breaks, points or the wave pool, this is the same principle.

To catch more waves, you want to identify where the peak is first. The peak is where the wave breaks first. Reading waves and the conditions will drastically help in finding the peak. As the waves approach, they change shape, stand up, and the lip threatens to break.

Bad habits most surfers have

Most surfers get to the beach and just paddle out where the crowd gathered. They never take the time to stop and assess the conditions. Advanced surfers can do this pretty quickly and it comes with experience but if that's not you, I suggest taking a few minutes each surf to observe the conditions so you can get more waves.

A crowded surf beach
Finding the bus stop in a crowded line up

Look at this image of a crowded break. The majority of the crowd is all sitting on the shoulder. From a glance, I could say most of them aren't even catching waves and I'm going to explain to you how you can tell that just from a photo.

Minimizing the crowd

When a wave breaks, it follows the sandbank and continues to break along it. The previous image shows the whitewater left behind after the waves break. This is what we call in OMBE the Treasure Map.

This whitewash pattern shows the path the wave took to break and is where the pocket/peak of the wave is. As your paddling, you can use that to find the peak and that is what we call finding the Bus Stop.

So looking at the whitewash map, the crowds of surfers aren't anywhere near the peak.

Taking this into your next session

When you next go for a surf, observe the crowd before you get in. Usually, most of the surfers aren't even on the peak / bus stop and are paddling for the shoulder.

Before you get in, find the bus stop. Are any surfers actually sitting there? Are they getting any waves or just bobbing around in the surf? Who's getting more waves than the others and how or what are they doing to get more waves?

Then look for the treasure map left behind the waves. The whitewash left behind all waves that show how the wave broke and where the bank is.

You've now identified where to sit and how much competition you have in the water. It's now a case of navigating the crowd.

Your goal next surf in a crowded line up

When in a crowded line-up, your goal is simply to out position the rest of the crowd. That's it.

If the other surfers aren't going to sit at the peak or the bus stop, that's their issue and not yours. Don't result to paddling for the shoulder because a bunch of other surfers are sitting there. You won't catch many waves on the shoulder, just get a good workout paddling.

Etiquette in the crowd

The obvious question is then, how do we do this without being "that surfer" in the lineup. Don't drop in on another surfer, always look to your inside and check first before you get to your feet. If someone is there, you can paddle for the wave, waiting to see if the person on your inside will get it or not. If they don't, go for it. If they get it, pull out without crumbling the wave.

Positioning in the crowd

Don't paddle around someone. What this means is, if you're paddling out and there is someone sitting right where you want to be, don't paddle around them, sitting just on their inside. Basically next to them. If they are not at the bus stop, go paddle to the bus stop.

If they are sitting at the bus stop, sit on their outside, let them get a wave and then paddle to where they were and sit at the bus stop.

Be friendly, smile and say hello. Nothing worse than that grumpy local getting all the waves. If you're friendly, people won't be mad you're getting all the waves.

Before you get frustrated, do this

If you are struggling to catch waves and paddling for the shoulder, see if there is a surfer who is getting all the waves. If there is, go sit with them, learn from them, use their positioning. You are doing nothing wrong by sitting with them, you may get fewer waves, you may get more, but you will learn from them and understand where to sit better.

Handing "That surfer"

If you see a surfer in the lineup, getting every single wave, it's a slow day and it's becoming frustrating, paddle over to them and start a friendly conversation. This is the easiest way to disarm that one person getting every wave.

It works on me every time. I will suddenly be less focused on every wave coming in and will also let the person chatting to me, take waves.