Improve your surfing to an intermediate
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The 4 Quadrants of Surfing and where you want to be

A breakdown into how the four stages of improving your surfing, how to go through each stage and what you need to do to progress and get the most out of each one.

There is a full Surf Hacks Episode on this if you want to watch that before or after this guide.

Now we are not talking Robert Kiyosaki's 4 Quadrant Cashflow and this is similar to the below but put into terms of surfing and OMBE. Much better and more useable.

  1. Unconsciously unskilled
  2. Consciously unskilled
  3. Consciously skilled
  4. Unconsciously skilled


Unless you live in Clay's head this probably doesn't mean a lot. Let's break it down.

The red zone - where you don't want to be is just doing anything. Completely random, having fun but no clue. All the gear and no idea.

The two yellow zones are your observing and understanding. Can you see what is being done and can you break that down. Or do you just blindly watch surfing and have no clue how that is being done.

The final sections are simply feeling, you can understand and see the manoeuvres and it is just a case of gaining the right feeling. Surfing for fun. Think dancing like no one is watching you or Steph Gilmore. All Class.

Then you have the pro's who take feeling to the next level.

How this works in your surfing

For every surfing, regardless of skill level, at some point you have to go through these stages or you are learning a new manoeuvre.

At the first stage, you have no idea and are just trying things because why not it's fun.

To progress past that stage, you need one of these experiences:

  • ​Oh I see
  • Oh I understand now

Similar yet very different. Seeing and understanding are different.

Seeing Versus Understanding

If you see something, you are observing it, you are either watching someone do it or are watching your own surfing back. You see that you are not doing something right or you see the movement.

Understanding is when you can comprehend the movement, you understand the way you need to move or how the science of the movement works.

You can break it down into parts and go, oh to achieve this effect in the surfing, I need to do this and to do that I must do that with my body.

Two very different approaches and necessary to improve. You need both and that is the key.

Why you need both to improve

As we know, everything is based on the feeling in surfing. If you don't know what it feels like, how do you get there?

You must see what you are doing wrong and understand how to correct it. You can't improve without the other.

If you don't know the exact way to bottom turn but watch yourself, how do you fix that? You have to understand the movement.

If you understand the movement but can't see yourself doing it and can't figure out what you are actually doing right or wrong, how do you get into the area of feeling?

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching