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Understanding the basics or how to handle a surf board so it doesn't smack you in the face

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Understanding the basics or how to handle a surf board so it doesn't smack you in the face

One of the things that I really appreciated about the coaching at Surf Simply was the way the coaches were able to break everything down into simple and manageable steps and to build on those steps at each lessons so that it didn't seem overwhelming. They didn't just tell you to "feel the wave" and didn't speak in technical surf talk but used very specific, concrete language that you could understand and relate to. Plus. delivering feedback on my miserable surfing in a British accent always seemed to make the situation seem slightly brighter.

We spent the first two days in the whitewater, learning the mechanics of our board and how to control it before even thinking about venturing out the back to catch unbroken waves. We learned how to accelerate the board (by shifting your weight forward) and how to decelerate (by shifting your weight back). We practiced this over and over again, sliding our bodies up and down the board while lying down. Those rash guards really earned their name during those first few days. Once we practiced that, we moved on to learning to turn our board left and right and the difference between trimming turns and carving turns. Back in our room after our lessons, I frantically tried to take notes and scribble drawings so that I could remember all the things I was learning.

But, by the end of those first couple of days, we had the tools we needed to feel comfortable and confident in the theory. While I rationally understood what I was supposed to do, it was a different story trying to get my body to do what my brain was telling it to do. I felt like a stumbling fool most of the time. There was just so much to think about and remember. It's hard not to rush it when the urgency starts to rise as you feel the wave begin to pick up the back of your board. Instead of thinking about bringing my hands back and looking up so that I can stand up on my board, I'm just thinking, "Crap Crap Crap!!" And trailing behind me are the cheery sounds of my British coach saying, "Right. Nice one. Just climb back on your board and give it another go." Sure.

Yet, it is an amazing feeling to catch a wave, even in the whitewater and feeling all of that power behind you. And that's what hooks me and sends me on this quest to experience that feeling again and again.

Photo: Oriana Fowler/Surf Simply

OK, here are some of the basics (more for my own benefit than anything).

Trimming turns are gently banking turns that allow you to ride across the face of the wave. For me, as a natural foot stance (meaning when I stand on the board, my left foot is forward), I shift my weight to my toes, keeping most of my weight on my left toes, to trim to the right and shift my weight to my heels, keeping most of my weight on my left heel, to trim to the left (backside). Obviously, it's the opposite if you stand with your right foot forward or goofy foot.

Carving turns are sharper turns that allow you to quickly change direction. To do this, you need to shift your weight back in order to lift the nose of the board up in the air so that the board basically pivots around - the pivot point being the tail of the board. However, by bringing your weight back to turn the board, you've also in effect stepped on the brakes and slowed down the board. So, once the board comes around, it's critical to shift your weight back forward to accelerate again.

OK, sounds great in theory, but how does this actually work? How do I actually make this happen out in the water and shift my weight back and forth and left and right? Well, apparently, it's all about the stance. Our coach also hammered into our head a "stance mantra" that would help us get up into the most stable position each and every time.

Feet: Slightly wider than shoulder-width, feet perpendicular to the length of the board
Hips: Squared off and weight forward
Hands: Hands are out to either side of the body i.e. one hand in front and one hand out by your bottom
Head: Look up and where you want to go!

For me, the one thing that I need to remember is to make sure my knees point inwards - kind of like you are knob-kneed - rather than pointing outwards like they do when you are doing a plie squat, especially my left knee (my leading knee). When I consciously remember this, I find that I'm more stable on the board and I'm less likely to dig the front of my board into the water or fall off the back of my board.

Surf Simply has created a set of podcasts that go through all the fundamentals which you can find here.  I have found them to be great, straightforward refreshers on the various lessons we learned.

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At December 1, 2011 at 2:32 PM , Anonymous Oriana F said...

Love how you are writing this stuff out, I bet it helps the learning process!


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