Understanding how to generate speed on a wave is key to progressing from an intermediate to an advanced level of surfing. Utilizing the “power pocket” of a wave is a skill that is often overlooked and only really exploited by advanced surfers, as it can take years to perfect.
Good surfing is about maximizing the entire wave from top to bottom, driving with your front foot, transitioning your weight, generating drive, and accelerating forward. Traversing between the bottom and the top of the wave (see picture below) close to the power pocket is where you will generate the maximum speed, which will, in turn, allow you to make bigger turns and more critical sections.
Set your line halfway up the face and surf within the power pocket of the wave for the whole duration.
Some turns or sections will help you gain more speed. For example, a roundhouse cutback (hitting the foam or lip as you come back around) keeps you in the power pocket, maintaining speed the whole time.
Finding the speed pocket in the wave while compressing and extending your body will generate even more speed. As you move your weight up and down you, store that kinetic energy within your knees and your core, which can be released as you approach new sections or go for maneuvers. However, most beginners and intermediate surfers spend a lot of their time in the “flats” (which is at the bottom of the wave), or they turn too sharply and come off the shoulder. You want to avoid any rigid or sudden movements with your body as you’ll bog your rail or stall and subsequently lose your speed or fall off.
Keep your weight transition light and move your body with the rhythm of the wave (kind of like a dancer who moves to the rhythm of the music). If you are riding the right board for your weight and ability, you will be able to master this skill quicker and more effectively. You will also be able to read waves better, make those critical sections, and notice a significant improvement in the number of turns you’ll complete.
Note: You can find more surfing tips and tricks for beginners and intermediates here.