Learn to read the waves better
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The best kept secret in surfing

The best-kept secret in surfing is power zones; being able to read the waves and tap into the energy. Most surfers are unaware of this and surf blind, running away from the power of the wave.

What you know about waves and how they work is (probably) wrong!

If I was to ask you what’s the most powerful part of the wave what would you say? The lip? The pocket? Think about this for a bit and where on the wave you are generating speed from and where exactly do you want to be.

When I first met Clayton, this lesson is the first lesson he always gives. A quick conversation about waves and he knew how good (read bad) a surfer I was at the time. What I want to introduce to you is the concept of power zones and I’m going to hand off the rest of the email to the master Clayton.

Power Zones

When I ask about the power zones of a wave, most people say the pocket which to some degree is true but to be accurate the pocket is simply where the power zones are at their strongest. This is where the wave is just about to break and has it’s most energy, where as the shoulder is where the power zones of the wave are at their weakest. So if not the pocket? Then what are we talking about here with power zones?

Power zones are the different areas of the wave that allow a surfer to tap into them to generate speed and drive. J-bay, the worlds fastest right hand pointbreak. If you don’t know how to utilise the power zones properly, how are you going to keep up with it, how are you going stay in the pocket or beat a close out? How can you ensure you are in the right position at the right time?

You utilise BOTH power zones to maintain momentum, speed and flow.

The Two Power Zones

If you think that there are two power zones on the wave, everyone can agree the first is the top of the wave but where is the second and what forces are at play here? The second is the bottom of the wave. Now which one is more powerful and how does the top and the bottom power zones work? The top is the most obvious and easiest to tap into, this is simply gravity as you drop down the face of the wave generating speed. The more vertical (nose to the beach) your drop, the more speed you will generate.

Now after that initial drop, you’re going across the wave and now you are starting to lose speed. From here do you hope that you have enough to get back to the top of the wave to reuse gravity again and again or do you tap into the other power zone? This is where the bottom power zone comes in. The bottom is the first point of the swell energy that connects with the sand bank or reef. The bottom of the ocean going from deep to shallow pushes the swell energy up. The swell is now fighting gravity to stand up.

This action is where the wave gets its speed and direction from.  Water draws off the bottom and is pulled up to the top. The faster the draw off the bottom the hollower the wave. It is also a good indicator to see how fast the wave is moving and how to match the wave’s speed to be able to surf in the pocket. By having an awareness of the bottom you will intrinsically understand so much more about the complexities of the wave you are surfing.

Improve you ocean awareness
The Waves Power Zones

The Secret

This is the huge secret that most surfers aren’t aware of, they may know how swell works but they don’t know that the bottom is the strongest and most important power zone on a wave. As the bottom draws up the wave, it is taking tremendous force to do so and as it reaches the top, this force is slowly losing to gravity and falls back down. So the further to the bottom or beginning of the drawing water is where the most power is.

How do you take advantage of it?

Using the rail properly. The rail of your surfboard is designed to roll and penetrate the surface of the water. The more you roll this rail into the bottom power zone, the more power and lift you can capture.
As you do your bottom turn and put the board on rail, the water drawing up the wave propels you and your board upwards and accelerates you.

However if you are flat footed and don’t lean to engage the bottom turn you will miss all this energy. This often results in jerky movements to try and manufacture speed and then the surfer is out of sync with the wave. If this is never fixed, the surfer ends up surfing a more horizontal line across the mid face of the wave. Never taking advantage of the bottom or top properly, never really gaining speed and missing opportunities on the wave. If we can understand exactly how these two zones behave and what forces we can tap into, we can drastically change the way we surf and surf with as much speed and flow as possible.

How do we fix this and stop surfing mid faced?

To fix this issue, its one part understanding the science of the wave and one part simulating the movements so that you can take that into the surf and do it every session. We will start covering the simulation side of this on the next email which you’ll get tomorrow!

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching