Shouldn't you just surf more to get better or are there other ways to train?
When it comes to trying to improve your surfing, there will come a time, maybe before you even start, when you ask yourself shouldn’t I just surf more? The use of specific training can help.
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The Full Guide
When it comes to trying to improve your surfing, there will come a time, maybe before you even start, when you ask yourself shouldn’t I just surf more?
Or this comes from someone else shrugging it off, saying just go surf more and you’ll get better.
But if you don’t know how to improve, what good surfing should feel like and how to work through those movements, how do you expect to figure it out? Trial and error?
It ends up with many surfers feeling frustrated and stagnant in their surfing.
But this isn’t a guide about surfing more is wrong, it’s about when you need to put in the effort in the surf and when you need to figure things out & how time out of the surf can help shorten that learning curve.
However, when the waves are there, go surf. Surfing is surfing and there isn’t anything that can replicate that 100%.
The difficulty in surfing
Surfing is a unique sport, it’s one of the few sports we don’t have control or time over the environment we play in. We don’t get that time to relax, figure out what we want to do or psych ourselves up, and the environment doesn’t repeat itself. Each wave is slightly different and it’s not like a skate park just waiting for you to act and choose what to do.
This is where that frustration with trial and error can come in.
Land-based training like a surf skate is where you can then help yourself figure these things out in your own time and get more feedback quickly.
The first thing we do every time we coach someone face to face
The first thing we do, anytime we coach someone face to face is not meet them at the beach and watch them surf. That surfer may be struggling with multiple different areas of their surfing and if they don’t catch a wave or take a long time to get one, we minimise how much feedback we can give.
Instead, we will put that surfer on a surf skate and within five minutes we will know a lot about their surfing, how they move, how they handle stress and if they hold any tension in their body.
Just a quick, roll around here on the flats or in a skate park and you can see how someone moves. It’s then up to us as the coaches to figure out if it’s a lack of knowledge, experience, feeling or something else.
Usually, for the average surfer, the biggest and most common issue is they don’t know how to move their body properly. It’s awkward, uncoordinated and sending mixed signals to their board and where they want to go or what they want to do. But it’s not the surfer's fault, it’s just a process of now figuring that out and learning how to.
This is where the land-based training with some direction will drastically change the way you move and feel so that you can then figure that out, understand it and try to replicate it again in the surf. It cuts your learning curve down drastically.
When to do land-based training
Whenever you want to learn something! When you want to improve! When you’ve got the time or can’t get to the beach.
If you are wondering how long and how to get the most out of it, then there is a guide here and another about how to ensure you don’t train the wrong way.
The main thing before starting is knowing what, how and why. What are you going to train, how you will train it, how those movements will impact your board and the way you surf and why does doing it that way feels better or worse?
It comes back to always asking yourself, how did I move, how did it feel? Did it feel awkward? If it did, it probably looked awkward and wasn’t the correct technique.
You don’t need to know all the answers to those questions, but having an idea of a few of them is going to start you off in the right direction.
If you have a rough idea and start training on land, working through the movement, asking questions of how it felt, how did you move and how can I make this look and feel better, as well as using your phone to create a feedback loop, you’ll quickly turn the blind trial and error into positive time spent making yourself move better.
Once you start building muscle memory and the new movement patterns and understanding start to sink in, it will start to show in your surfing as well.
When to surf more and less training
There’s no right or wrong here, it’s a balance and what works for you, in terms of making progress.
The best way to improve your surfing is to focus on one thing at a time, as this will allow you to easily focus and see the changes it makes to your surfing. It won’t become muddled in five other things you are trying to implement.
What this means is you’ll go through cycles of what you work on and where. You will switch up your time based on how you are going and what you want out of it.
If we look at this across your journey though and when simply just surfing more will benefit you is when you understand the movement pattern or skill you are working on as a whole and begin tweaking it. Making those micro-adjustments to feel more, get more speed or improve technique.
If you understand the full movement and have consistency in it, making the tweaks becomes easier, there is less to think about and feeling that tweak on land takes minutes. Your body is familiar with the manoeuvre at this point, it doesn’t have to think about it much, this is where you are somewhere between consciously competent and unconsciously competent - read more about the stages of learning new skills here.
Applying the tweak in the surf and putting it into practice is where your time will be consumed and this is where you want to just surf your brains out.
If that becomes frustrating, break the cycle and head back to land-based training, recapture the feeling and movement and try again or get video footage of your surfing.
That footage of your surfing will give you clues and show the discrepancies in technique between land and water.
Surfing isn’t easy, if we wanted to go learn golf we can just go smack a ball and leave it at that, but if you want to improve and sink deeper, you’ll learn it’s heavily nuanced and just get a lesson.
It’s the same for surfing, lessons, training programs or someone external can point you in the right direction, cutting down your time to improve.
If you want to learn faster, cut out the frustration, start implementing land-based training and find a balance between training and implementing it in the surf.
The problem for the average surfer is typically that they don’t know how to move, so it becomes trial and error and this is where that bad style and mixed signals and movements come from.
Jump on a surf skate or try to replicate the movements with the aim of figuring out how to move better. Ask the questions, how did I move, how did it feel, how did my board respond and how can I move better?
When you start understanding and nailing a movement in your land-based training, take it to the surf and focus on replicating it. If it becomes frustrating, go back to land-based training and try to ask the right questions to figure out where the difference in technique or understanding is.
When you get to a point where the movement is coming easier, you are nearing a stage of focusing on how to tweak it and more advanced surfing. This is the time to spend a few minutes feeling how the tweak improves technique and spending more time in the surf.
Has this given you more to think about your training or are you keen to dive into more land-based training?
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 what I wish I knew when I was younger as a surfer!