Professional Surfer

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The Inertia

Editor’s Note: Check out Ace Buchan’s Guide to Precision Surfing and more courses designed by the best in surf and outdoors on Inspire CoursesThe Inertia readers can enter code WELCOME10 to save 10 percent.

Let’s talk about lineup dynamics and competing for waves. The most critical aspect of improving is simple: catch more waves. And when I think of some of the best contemporary surfers — I’m talking about guys like Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira — the one thing that really stands out when you see them is how much they’re moving around, and how many waves they’re riding (a lot). Through that repetition, they’re getting to practice skills much more often than your regular, everyday surfer. That’s exactly how you see rapid growth.

There are a number of skills you can develop to help you catch more waves: being an efficient paddler, having really good positioning or positional awareness in the lineup, and understanding the dynamics of the lineup you’re about to paddle into. Each of these skills can be developed over time, but only the last one — understanding the dynamics of the lineup — can be improved through simple observation. It’s something any surfer, regardless of their skill level, can apply and catch more waves (and improve) as a result.

One pre-surf ritual that I found useful before a heat or at a brand-new break started with sitting on the beach. Observing the lineup and taking note of the conditions before a session is no major secret. But while I was sitting on the beach I would draw a map of the lineup in the sand. I’d mark two or three different peaks or the point break, and then I’d drop pebbles into the spots where I saw good waves. If I was thinking to myself, “Gee, I’m not sure I should go over here or if I should even surf that peak,” I’d start to methodically drop pebbles on my map. “Okay, I saw a good wave there. Okay, I saw another one. Here’s one.”

Over the course of 15 to 20 minutes, it became really clear to me where the best waves were because I had built a map for myself. And it wasn’t just something in my head drawn from fuzzy memories. My pebbles became a useful picture of the lineup. Whether paddling out for a freesurf or for a heat, it became really important that I was crystal clear on my game plan entering the water and where I wanted to be in that lineup.

So, give it a try and see how this really simple surf check technique helps you catch more waves.

Editor’s Note: Ace offers more in-depth advice on understanding lineup dynamics, including other strategies he uses for getting acquainted with intimidating lineups like Pipe, Teahupo’o, and more in his Guide to Precision Surfing on Inspire CoursesThe Inertia readers can enter code WELCOME10 to save 10 percent.


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