surf skate bowl
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How to improve your surf skating in a bowl

If you've been trying to skate a bowl or you've been doing it for a while and want to learn how to get better, this guide will break it down with an easy drill to practice.

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The Full Guide

Do you see a bowl and think, nope, not for me, no way, I like my bones connected?

Or

Does it seem like a really fun goal to work towards but you can't seem to figure it out or how to get higher and faster?

I'm going to break down what you should be focusing on when getting started in the bowl and how to carve around the bowl with more skill, style and flow.

There are five main aspects to focus on with surf skating in a bowl:

  1. Relaxing
  2. Keeping it grounded in surfing
  3. Learning to feel the ramp and how it wants to be skated
  4. Not forcing manoeuvres
  5. Learning to move and co-ordinate your body properly 

Relaxing & staying calm when surf skating

The most important thing, before you've hit any ramps or done anything, is to relax.

By being anxious, stressed, tense or worrying about hurting yourself, you invite that event to happen. You are more focused on being injured than relaxing and moving properly to ensure you don't get hurt.

Doesn't matter where you are, how good you are, or what you can do. If you look down at the ramp, stress about falling off, sooner or later you will.

You need to relax and not think about getting hurt. Yes, this seems backwards, but by being calm and relaxed, moving freely, you ensure you keep proper technique and don't put yourself in awkward positions on the ramp or move in a way that will cause you to fall off.

How to stay relaxed

Before you skate and between runs

Breathe out. Keep breathing out, long exhales, and soften the body to relax. Let go of where you are holding tension and do it until you feel relaxed.

I can't stress how important this is to your technique, style and staying injury free.

While on the ramp

Breathe out. Puff your cheeks out with air and blow like you are blowing through a straw. This causes a long exhale and makes you let go of tension.

Staying grounded in surfing

This is not so obvious for most people. You pick up a surf skate, you've probably seen the marketing videos for surf skating and all you want to do is do big manoeuvres

As a coach, I am not a fan of this and I really dislike a lot of the surf skating videos as a lot of them show people doing ridiculous manoeuvres and it sets such an odd expectation or reality.

Most of those manoeuvres have no connection or grounding in surfing. They aren't connected or they are done so differently from how it would happen in the surf. 

If you get on a surf skate, mimic the surfing you want to do, not jump on a surfboard and mimic your surf skating.

Wiggling and bad habits that don't cross over

People are so quick to wiggle and build speed because it feels fun. I strongly suggest you don't. It has no connection to your surfing and trains bad movement. You don't wiggle on a surfboard, so don't do it on a skateboard.

If you need speed, learn to push, always start with a push or a run. It is so important for a skater to push and to know how to push properly. 

If you want to do something else, learn to tic-tac. This can build speed and mentally it is so far removed from surfing you won't transfer it across.

Mimicking your surfing

The point of the surf skate is to mimic the style of surfing you want. Too many people want to do sudden snaps and moves that look and feel amazing. It can be fun, but you need to understand, what is training for surfing and what is fooling around.

The point is, most of your turns are drawn out manoeuvres, your cut back is not a 1-2 second turn. There aren't many surfers going around flinging their boards around the same way some surf skates allow you.

Understand what is training, what's having fun and what the limitations of your surf skateboard are.

Learning to feel the ramp

The most underrated part of skating. Too many surfers want to go in and just practise big cutbacks or snaps, but....

They haven't actually learnt how to skate the bowl properly.

You can see when someone hasn't quite figured it out. The way they move and their timing is awkward.

When you get to the bowl or ramp, learn to feel it out, how it wants to be skated and how to move properly within it before you start trying to add complexity to it

How to learn this

Learn to use your bodies momentum and generate speed up and down the ramp

Drill: Getting higher on a ramp

Phase 1:

If you are just starting out, learn to go down a simple ramp first. Ignore the bowl for now. Find a ramp and roll down it from the top of it, learning how to go down and how to use your body to create more speed than just gravity.

Then add going up a ramp once you get the hang of that and try to use your momentum and body to get higher up the ramp.

Don't worry about turning on the ramps at first, focus on going down and getting as much speed as possible out of it and then going up the ramp and getting as high as possible. You'll be going slow and can jump off.

Phase 2: 

If you can go down and up a basic ramp, then start turning around on the ramps, combining going up and down a ramp. You'll need to angle the approach first and get the hang of gentle turns until you can do more sharp turns.

Phase 3:

Find a quarter pipe, half pipe, set of two ramps near each other, just two sections you can use that are close to each other.

The idea is from a complete stop, push to start, go up one ramp, then down it and into the other. Keep doing this, aiming to get higher as you keep going.

The point of this is it will teach you to use the ramps, how to move, use your body and momentum and build speed, along with coordination.

This simple drill gives you instant feedback on how you are going. 

If you are doing ok, you will build speed and get higher. 

If you are doing great, you will build that speed really quickly.

If you stuff up, you'll feel it and notice you've lost speed and height up the ramp.

If you can't get it, you aren't going higher up the ramp and need to change the way you move to make that happen.

This is such a fundamental and should be a key focus

Phase 4:

Learning to carve the bowl. No tricks, no manoeuvres, just go around a bowl section learning how to maintain speed, build speed, coordinate relax.

Depending on your confidence and skill will determine how high up you go or how big of a bowl you want to skate.

Learn to go around and use the bowl, hit each different section, pick different lines and mix it up. 

That is more important than practising a cutback 50 times and not knowing how to use the ramp.

Implementing this into your surf skating

Now that you know how to skate a ramp better, what the sections feel like and how to skate more relaxed. When you go to practice a manoeuvre, you know how to use the ramp, the manoeuvre suddenly becomes so much easier rather than forcing it and not knowing why it feels awkward.

Everything in the bowl now is easier, the next goal is to work on manoeuvres but to still work on getting around the bowl faster, higher and more relaxed.

Not forcing it in the skate park

This one is quick and short. Don't overthink it, or try too hard. 

Don't push too hard trying to do something, learn to move the body with a sense of flow and the manoeuvre and line will come easier.

Start from a more neutral output or effort and then learn to move more efficiently, it's not about pushing hard.

Yes, you can learn to pump and carve a bowl harder and use your weight more, but that is really just moving more efficiently with the goal of building speed. It is not suddenly pushing too hard on the board with just one foot. 

Pushing too hard or suddenly pushing hard on the back foot to slide a board out will usually end up in a stack. The whole body is used in those movements, to do them better, move better, not just increase back foot pressure.

Learning coordination and timing

Coordination and timing will hold back most surfers. Most beginners will move their arms and legs to different tunes or beats. If this is you, film it and you will see one part moving before the other.

If you think of this outside of skating and surfing, but instead of just jumping. To jump up to a box, you instinctively coordinate arms and legs to compress and extend to create lift and momentum to jump higher.

Most skaters don't do this, with arms and legs at different times and going in odd directions. 

Film yourself and look at the movement and how they are connected. This is really easy to spot with learning to get higher up a ramp and watching how you move.

Remember slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

The better your coordination and timing are, the better you will move around the bowl, the better your manoeuvres will be and the better it will feel.