Improve your take off and pop up in the surf
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Nose to the Beach | How to surf small waves, improve your take off, connect turns and maintain speed and flow

By making this one change to your surfing, you will improve your takeoff and bottom turn which will change the whole way you surf a wave.

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The Full Guide

Do you hate surfing small waves, weak, gutless waves that you feel you never get any power from? Does it feel like no matter what, you’re just stuck surfing flat and there’s never a section to hit or something to do on these waves?

There’s a small change you can implement into your surfing to massively change the way you surf small waves and every other type of wave.

And… it’s called nose to the beach.

No, I’m not saying to go stick your nose in the beach….I’m talking about the nose of your board.

This one small change will help with your take off massively, generating speed, specifically your bottom turn and finishing turns or connecting turns.

Now just remember, with every thing in surfing, there’s nuance, things are situational, so nothing is ever the gold standard of always do this. Everything is based on where you are on the wave, what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve.

Introduce this into your surfing, your take-offs and turns will improve, and you will find yourself with a far better bottom turn, more speed and more flow.

The kicker with this one is that it will massively show up as a weakness in your surfing if you aren’t doing it in small waves.

What is nose to the beach?

It simply means to ride down the wave face. That’s it, it’s so simple. It’s aiming the nose of your board to go down the wave face and towards the beach. Taking the steepest path to do that and gain the most speed.

The power in using a trigger word

Nose to the beach is a trigger word, it’s something we use here at OMBE to breakdown and simplify the thought process to create action. 

The idea is you train and repeat this word or phrase as you perform the action. The phrase overtime begins to encapsulate all of the necessary actions you need to take to perform it. So rather than have 10 steps to think through, it's one thought. 

That is powerful and free’s up your mind to observe the wave, make the micro-adjustments and actually execute the action without bringing in stress or tension to your surfing.

Where the average surfer goes wrong

If it’s so simple though, why don’t most surfers do it? The problem is that most surfers are surfing mid-faced, flat and not generating speed. They are looking down the line at the future sections forming and racing ahead of the wave. 

An easier way to frame the issue

Think of it in terms of skiing, everything is downhill and to gain more speed, you just have to point your skis downhill. If you want to go slower, you go sideways. But surfing isn’t all downhill, we have to go down and back up again, regardless of the style of surfing you are doing.

So if you are surfing mid-faced how are you going to ever build speed?

You need to go down the wave to build speed.

Watch this clip of John John Florence and observe his take off. He takes his time, slowly arching his back into cobra pose, his chin is up, the nose of his board is pointing towards the beach and his is looking down the line to see what the wave might do.

As he takes off, he drops all the way down the wave, not half way and across it, all the way down and bottom turns just before hitting the flats.

This is what sets him up to surf this wave, he can patiently watch what the wave does, giving him time to adjust his bottom turn to suit. This also gives him the space to fit in his bottom turn.

It also is what sets him up for each turn. After he finishes a turn, he does nose to the beach, rides down the wave and bottom turns again.

The problem with your bottom turn

This is heavily connected to your bottom turn, if you’re mid faced you have no space to fit in a bottom turn. 

The bottom turn is a drawn out manoeuvre and takes several seconds to complete. It’s not a sudden movement. The more you hold it, the more acceleration and vertical you get.

When to do your bottom turn

You MUST do your bottom turn before you get to the flats. 

If you get to the flats after doing nose to the beach, you’re losing speed and you are out of the bottom power zone. Read here more about the power zones in waves “the best kept secret in surfing”.

You must do your bottom turn as you are approaching the flats, as you’re coming down to the bottom power zone and tap into the water sucking up the face of the wave.

See your bottom turn isn’t just to change direction, it causes your board to accelerate. 

The water sucking up the wave face will push on your rail as you engage it and cause the board to accelerate. Regardless of the board or style of surfing you are doing.

If you surf mid-faced, you’re never tapping into the bottom power zone

That’s it, if you never get there, you can never tap into it. You are missing it, most likely surfing ahead of the wave, with the best part of the wave behind you. You aren’t surfing the pocket.

Better surfers, are waiting in the pocket to see when to bottom turn and what the wave is doing, or they are just behind the pocket and bottom turning around the foam ball.

How does this help your surfing

This is meant to be a pattern interrupter. Which means as you use the trigger word it is meant to break out of your bad habits and remind you to practice good habits.

Take off, go straight down the wave, do a bottom turn before you get to the flats.

Nose to the beach is all about set up work

It’s main goal is to get you building speed, observing the wave, giving you time to fit in the bottom turn.

The problem with mid-faced surfing and bottom turns

If you are surfing mid-faced, you’ve lost half the distance you have to bottom turn and gain acceleration. You need the space to fit your bottom turn into the wave. 

If you think about that in terms of high jump, you wouldn’t take a 2 step run up to jump something higher than a meter would you? No, you’d get an adequate run up to make sure you can perform the action properly.

This also gives you the time to watch the wave and make micro adjustments.

Who should introduce this into their surfing

Regardless of your surfing or board, this can be introduced into your surfing.

It works really well after turns to set up the next turn but if you are cruising and going along stylishly surfing the wave, then you can still do this to stay near the pocket, build speed and have more fun.

You’ll notice this in competitive surfing a lot

There’s this thing called “three to the beach” in competitive surfing, it implies three safety snaps in the lip, all the way to the beach and get your average score.

Now nose to the beach will be done here, it’s a set up manoeuvre before your bottom turn.

As you do a re-entry the focus is on how you finish that turn to link into the next. It’s not a short, sharp angle, they want to go up vertical and then back down doing a 180 degree turn. By doing the 180 degree turn, its one more visually appealing and better surfing, but it also puts them back into a position of building speed

You wouldn’t do this in skating

Simply that, you wouldn’t go across the ramp to get up to the next ramp and link manoeuvres. You would go down the ramp to build speed so you can get up the next ramp and continue to flow. 

So why do it in surfing?

Everything in surfing is nuanced

There is nuance to this, and everything in surfing. As I said before, there are right and wrong times to do things and this can be very situational depending on the turn you are trying to do, where you want to be and what board you are riding. Please take that into consideration.

The confusion in the take off and nose to the beach

The take off is the first key part of any wave and doing nose to the beach is vital in setting you up to surf that wave well. Regardless if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced surfer.

Now you might be asking yourself, where the hell am I meant to look then?

Where to look

This is where the confusion comes in.

During your pop up and take off, you need to point the nose of your board to the beach.


You want to be looking across the wave to see what it is doing. This will improve your ocean awareness and ability to read the wave. It sets you up, it tells you what the wave wants you to do or will allow you to do.

This is exactly what John John Florence was doing.

But then we also say for the pop up you need to be looking up and where you want to go you can read more about that in our guide, “You don’t have a pop up problem, you have a looking problem”.

How to implement this on the take off

You can walk down the road and look to the side, you’re more than capable of that. 

This is very similar, as you pop up and arch your back to create space, you need to look up, chin up and create that space. If your chin is down, you are closing that space and will find bringing your legs through harder.

To add to that, watch to the side, down the line at what the wave is doing. Take off and ride down the wave.

You can learn to look to the side and control your stance to not send the signals to your board to move. You are capable of that, you just need to learn to control yourself and your movements.

As you take off and ride down, start the bottom turn as you approach the bottom.

How to adjust this for beginners

If that sounds like too much and you don’t have the stability to look to the side as you pop up, then for the instance you begin to pop up look up. Chin up and look ahead.

Where to exactly look

Pick a spot on the beach. Not the bottom of the wave, if you do that you will drop your chin, project your centre of mass downwards and most likely go straight down and fall off.

Look further up, past the shoreline and up the beach.

After you pop up, gather yourself, look down the line at what the wave is doing, ride down the wave and begin a bottom turn. 

A lot of beginners fail here

If you look down at the bottom of the wave because your watching the wave stand up, bottom out and this triggers your fight or flight response. Forget that and look up. Avoid the issue all together.

If you struggle with this do this

If you struggle with this and implementing it, we wrote a whole article about focusing on improving just one thing in your surfing. You can read it here “The easiest way to improve your surfing

It’s all about focusing on one thing at a time in the surf, focus on implementing one change and everything after that is a win. If your focus is on this, who cares if you missed the wave and just went straight.

You are learning to drop into the wave, get speed, improve your take off, feel the bottom power zone and work on your bottom turn. 

Anything else is background noise, who cares what you do after. Focus on that, measure it, compare it and ask questions each time you practice it.

You can expect to improve in 10 things at once, but you can feel a change in your surfing when you narrow it down to one thing each time.

Fail forwards

As always, fail forwards, try it, if you fall off, ask a question and learn from it.

Try to tap into the bottom power zone and feel it. If you fall off because all of a sudden you’ve felt more power in the bottom of the wave for the first time and didn’t expect it or know how to control that feeling. Amazing. Do it again and again. Learn to understand that new feeling. You are progressing as a surfer.

When to do this

For the average surfer, all the time, most waves. Obviously there is nuance and maybe times you need to race down the line but for the most part, the average surfer is surfing some pretty average and gutless beach break.

This will show up as a weakness in small waves

Riding small waves sucks. You’ve gotta work harder for speed and power.

But if you don’t do this and surf across the wave, this will be massively highlighted as a weakness in your surfing. You’ve got no room to do a bottom turn on a tiny wave if you are already surfing it mid-faced.

If you watched the video of How to surf small waves - linked above. Then you’ll see how different it is for Yani when compared to Ant. It’s just another skill to learn.

Good surf is a band aid for bad technique

When the surf is pumping, clean and good, you can find speed easier, you can bottom turn easier. Everything is easier, but that is just a bandaid when you have major weaknesses in your surfing.

If you make the excuse in bad waves or small waves, that “if only it was bigger I could have done something”. Go back and watch yani. Yes he has better technique and skill but he does nose to the beach flawlessly to give him space to build speed and fit in the turns.

That's the key difference.

This is the same in bad conditions and we wrote a whole guide about that here “You’re only as good as you surf bad conditions”.

Adjustments for different boards

This is really nuanced and we can’t say do exactly this every time for this board and that board.

This is all due to the rocker of your board, which gives the curvature of your board. The rocker allows your board to fit into the wave and a smaller board will fit into a bigger wave easier where as a longboard may nose dose.

You need to make this adjustment for bigger surfboards

So if your board is bigger or flatter, it’s all about how well it fits into the curvature of the wave and to make the adjustment to do this, you need to start angling the take off to allow your board to fit into that wave.

This is also based on the conditions and how well are the waves standing up. Are they fat and mushy with a gentle slope or are they hollowing out and drawing off the bottom quickly. 

A lesson for beginners in control

As a beginner you may be riding a big board. It will do you well to learn to control the board, your stance, the weight you put into each leg, how you shift that weight and your ability to go from stalling to accelerating to control the nose of your board and the speed to generate.

This can be a really exciting skill to learn when riding on a longboard.

Shift weight onto the back foot, raise the arms to stall and then as you control the nose, shift the weight to the front foot and accelerate again.

Is this something you will implement into your surfing, are you already doing it or does this explain how to properly practice it? I’d love to know.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching