surfing style
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What is Style in Surfing and how to surf with more style

Surfing with more style is on more people’s wishlists than high-performance surfing or big waves. So why is this pursuit of style or trying to surf with more style so hard to figure out?

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The Full Guide

What the hell is style? 

We all want to look more stylish when we surf, even if we don’t admit it.

Surfing with more style is on more people’s wishlists than high-performance surfing or big waves.

Style is seen as having fun, being creative, individuality and expression on the blank canvas of a wave.

So why is this pursuit of style or trying to surf with more style so hard to figure out?

Well, there’s the problem in itself, most surfers, know good style when they see it.

It looks good, it makes you feel something, often in us saying “phwoar! look at that!”

But when it comes to trying to surf with more style, the average surfer looks more like a headless chicken flapping their limbs wildly or they are in serious pain than anything that looks good.

Who’s surfing do you want to mimic?

Right, firstly, who’s the first surfer you think of when you think stylish surfing?

What does their surfing look like and how would you describe it? Obviously other than stylish!

Most descriptions will come back like:

  • Chill
  • Relaxed
  • Effortless
  • Graceful
  • Fluid or flowing

Or anything else along those lines, but that is only one piece of the puzzle and too many people focus on the effortless or graceful part and wind up looking like they have no clue what’s going on.

If there is one surfer I want to replicate, it’s Stephanie Gilmore, hands down, no contest and you can easily describe her surfing as all of the above.

But that doesn’t do it any justice to actually explain what stylish surfing is and what the surfer is actually doing.

The common traps average surfers fall into

Too often the average surfer will want to mimic someone else style. Usually that feeling or look of effortlessness.

Something like “oh they look like they aren’t even trying and I want to look like that”, or “they look like they don’t care and it looks cool”.

This right here is where most people make a big mistake. 

They want to look like they aren’t trying, they want that style but have no clue what to do or how to do it, so they almost do nothing, expecting it to look good.

Then wonder why they are feeling nothing in their surfing, create bad habits or just can’t seem to figure it out.

What actually makes good stylish surfing

So how does the average surfer actually surf with more style and fix this?

Let’s break down style and what is actually going on, rather than describing it.

If you want to surf with style, you need to know how to move. If you have no idea how to move, good luck trying to surf with style.

What I mean by this is, you need to know the fundamentals of that movement and how it works, what you need to do, how you need to move your body, how to stay balanced, how much force to use etc.

Yeah… that’s a bit and sounds complex, but it’s not.

Once you know how to move, it’s all about playing around with the movement to figure the rest out. We learn by playing and this will give you the feedback to keep adjusting it until you find the feeling.

But the pursuit of style is applying that movement, with only the bare minimum of effort and movement.

Don’t interpret that as not trying. That’s where we fall into the traps.

It is all about the efficiency of movement

Efficiency of Movement

This means to only do as much as is needed to do and no more.

There are no unnecessary movements, wobbles or other actions that distract or fight with that movement.

Break it out of surfing, think about doing a box jump and how you can make that movement more stylish. No I don’t mean to jazz it up, adding spirit fingers, just apply efficiency of movement.

How can you complete a box jump for the desired output with the bare minimum of input? Think about that.

Using the no-hands approach won’t work here. We don’t want to jump or surf with our hands in our pockets. 

The wild swinging arms won’t look good and isn’t efficient here. It’s a combination of primarily the legs and knees working with the eyes and upper body guiding the movement to create space and extra momentum to create the lift needed.

It’s synergy and no wasted effort.

Bringing this back into surfing, if you watch a stylish surfer, all of their body language is saying I am doing this one thing and nothing else, whilst doing it efficiently.

This efficiency gives the impression of, I don’t care or effortlessness. 

So how do we bring efficiency of movement into your surfing

You need to know the full movement, how it connects with your board and how it will make your board respond.

The full movement, is everything, where you are looking, how much effort, how to keep balance and where your centre of gravity is, etc.

Because if you don’t know most of that, how do you expect to tweak that movement?

To start working on your style and making it effortless, you need all the pieces of the puzzle.

You don’t need everything but the majority and an understanding of how the movement works is your starting point.

Because then playing with it and tweaking it can help bring in the last pieces of the puzzle.

Once you have the full idea of the movement and some competency in doing it, you can start working on doing less.

Cutting out those extra movements or inefficiencies that don’t support the desired goal. Think flailing arms, or doing movements in stages.

It becomes a pursuit of how can I do this with less input for the same effort and then as always, asking yourself, how did that feel to try and understand it.

Example: Turns

Take the example of doing a turn, just a basic wrap in surfing.

Some people will pursue that stylish turn where it looks like they don’t care and turn is effortless. The surfer's arms are barely moving.

If you try to replicate that from the get-go, it will never really work.

The problem an average surfer will face is they see this stylish surfer doing a turn without moving their arms much and think “oh I just copy that and use my legs more and it’ll be steezy”, but in what they end up doing is far from the proper movement. 

There’s no efficiency in the movement, it’s more disjointed now.

craig anderson surfing style
Craig Anderson applying efficiency of movement

The nuance most surfers miss is, yes the big signals and obvious movements are diluted and less obvious but all the subtle movements stay the same and go unnoticed.

The shoulders are still opening up, rotating through the movement with the hips and keeping the body in line with the board and creating the drive and torque to turn the board, whilst keeping it on rail.

The body is still leaning with the board to keep it on rail and isn’t dead flat like the average surfer.

There is endless nuance but the key is they are still doing all the fundamentals of the movement, they just know how to do the movement with less energy while still effectively doing the movement properly.

It’s almost as if they have no arms and the rest of the movement is being done entirely the same.

That’s style and it comes across as effortless because most surfers have yet to understand all the small nuances that go into the movement to actually make it work.

The key to that is if you take your arms out of the equation and skate or surf like you have dead hands, hands in your pockets or any variation of that, you need to understand how to use your body properly or it’ll look more like you have no clue.

You’ll make your style look far worse or your surfing will be flat instead of trying to make it look better.


Surfing with style is all about efficiency of movement. 

To apply efficiency of movement you need to understand how the movement works, how to move your body, where to look, how much effort to apply and how your board will respond for the desired output.

If you have a rough understanding of that you can then play with it to start putting less input for the same output.

Play is your friend here, play with it, explore options, try to feel something new or the same as before but with that less effort.

Any movement that doesn’t contribute to the desired output or movement is on the chopping block. 

Stylish surfing is graceful because it's not stop-start movement or disjointed movement. Every part of the body is in sync and working towards the same goal.

Next Week

Has this explained style? 

Do you feel like you have had a lightbulb moment and are going to try apply this to something in your surfing?

I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, message me in the app or send an email to anytime.

Next week I am going to follow this up with a bit more about style and how you can apply a quick tip to your surfing to surf with a bit more style.

Written by
Luke Hardacre
surf coaching