Surfing can be a tricky sport, especially if you’ve never had lessons or been taught to surf by someone that knows the ropes.
However, if you’re new to surfing you are probably curious to know: How do you catch a green wave on a surfboard?
In this article, I will cover some key information about surfing, from how to catch a green wave to when to catch a wave.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
How to catch a green wave
For amateur surfers, catching a green wave can be the hardest transition to overcome. However, there is no quick fix to learning how to catch a green wave, and patience truly is key. The reality is there are many factors that go into catching a green wave, but the main thing to remember is that practice makes perfect.
It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to be riding green waves in no time. Unfortunately, nothing is more beneficial and can replace time in the water. If you’re going to catch a green wave, you need to dedicate the time to it – it’s as simple as that.
That being said, there are a few things that you should know about catching a green wave, and this mainly comes down to positioning, matching the wave speed, and controlling your board.
Positioning – When positioning your board, you need to be able to spot the swell early enough that you’re in a close position to where the swell begins to change shape into a bump or slope. Position yourself approximately 4 to 5 meters behind where you think the wave will turn into that small slope.
Match the wave speed – When you see a swell bump approaching that looks like it might turn into a good wave, it’s time to lay down on your surfboard. When the bump is moving towards you and is still a few meters behind you, start to paddle long smooth and deep strokes. You need to try to match the speed of the wave and use gravity to slide down the wave. This is the point where you have caught a green wave.
Control the surfboard – Once you have caught the wave, you need to maintain control. Use the cobra pose to keep control of the board. When you have full control of your surfboard, it’s time to pop up in the top third of the wave. You will need to bend your knees and not your waist for a low center of gravity and good balance.
When to catch a wave
Catching the wave is the point when the wave hits the tail of the surfboard and starts to push the surfer as they are paddling to catch the wave. In general, you won’t want to catch the wave right as it is breaking. This simply comes down to the fact that if you do this, you will most likely pearl or nosedive as a result of this and will have a wave crashing down on you.
When surfing, you will want to catch the wave before or after it has broken depending on your skill level. If you catch the wave before it breaks, you will drop down the face of the wave and should stand up as the wave is breaking. After the wave breaks, it turns into white wash which can be good for learning as a beginner as I go into below.
If you catch the wave after it has broken, the whitewash will push you straight towards the beach and these waves are actually good for practicing on as they can be much easier to catch.
When you’re first beginning to surf, it’s a good idea to practice catching waves without attempting to stand or pop up on your board. This will provide you with the feel of catching a wave and help with the timing that is required to pop up. The more that you do this, the easier it will become when you do eventually stand up on a wave.
By practicing in smaller swells, you will soon develop a feel of when a wave is coming and will pick you up. A lot of surfing is getting a feel for the swell that you’re in, and being able to spot the bumps that form into waves before it’s too late. You can also develop your timing and practice some paddling to get extra speed to catch the wave.
As I explore in this article, mis-timing your paddling is one of the main issues people face when they’re first beginning to surf, so it’s important to get the basics down first. After all, practice makes perfect!
How to position yourself to catch a wave
As I discussed above, positioning is crucial when you are trying to catch a wave.
To start off, you will need to look for the bump in the ocean, as this is the indication that a wave is coming. Next, you will need to sit about 4 to 5 meters away from where the majority of the waves are breaking.
This comes down to the fact that if you are any closer to where the waves are breaking, you will either be catching a white water wave that has already broken, or getting the wave breaking on top of you.
When you have a feel for the bumps, it’s time to pick a wave and begin paddling on your surfboard. Make sure that you give a minimum of 8 to 10 strong paddle strokes, as you need to make sure that you are matching the speed of the wave that you’re trying to catch.
The position on your surfboard is important. The correct position on the surfboard is when your chest is perfectly centred on the width of the surfboard, and when you are at the right height. Place your body high enough on the board so that the nose is approximately 3-6 centimetres out of the water, and keep your head up.
The technique you use to pop up will depend on the size of the board that you’re using, as longboard and shortboards are different. However, when it comes to standing up on a wave, make sure that you check your stance.
Before and after standing up, keep your feet positioning in mind. The distance between both your feet should be shoulder width apart and perfectly placed down the width of your board.
When you’re just beginning to surf, it’s important to look over your shoulder as you’re paddling to see if you need to be paddling more or less. Mist-timing your paddling is a common issue while you’re still getting used to the motion of paddling.
How to catch a wave on a shortboard
It’s important to start with the right board and then move on to smaller boards as you get better. Catching waves on a shortboard is significantly harder because a shortboard generally requires a lot of wave power and very accurate positioning and weight distribution from the surfer.
Paddling is also harder on a shortboard, and popping up is significantly more unstable when you’re using a shortboard. The only thing that may be easier to learn on a shortboard is duck diving since there’s less volume to push down under the wave. As a result, if you’re a beginner, you’re better off waiting until you’re a bit more advanced.
That being said, when you feel confident to do so, you can try using a shortboard. To catch a wave, the technique is different to that of a longboard, as your feet do not touch the tail of the surfboard when you are lying down on your chest and paddling into a wave.
Firstly choose a wave to catch, and paddle until you have caught the wave. It is important to know that your shortboard will move more slowly and with less stability than the longboards that you used to ride. Bearing this in mind, you need a proper paddling technique.
Once you catch the wave, place your hands flat on the surfboard, besides your pectorals. You will need to push your upper body up, while your hips and legs lay on the surfboard.
Next, it’s time to bring your back foot on the tail pad by sliding and bending your back knee out the side of your board’s rail.
You now need to push up using your back foot and hands, creating space between your body and the surfboard for bringing your front foot forward.
Place your front foot forward on the surfboard. Once you feel stable, stand up and make sure that you keep your knees bent.
Keep in mind that catching waves on a shortboard is much, much more difficult than a longboard. So, don’t be surprised if you don’t get the hang of it right away.
How to catch a wave on a longboard
Surfing on a longboard is generally much easier for beginners surfing on a shortboard since the board is bigger and will provide you with a much more stable platform to balance yourself on.
Find your “sweet spot,” or the position that makes it easiest to paddle by adjusting yourself forward and backward along the center of the board
Next, it’s time to look for the bumps in the swell and pick a wave you’d like to catch. Paddle hard with long, deliberate strokes. Keep paddling until you feel a slight lift of a wave at the back of your board, then give a couple more strong paddles. While you’re paddling, make sure that you keep your body toward the back of the board so that the nose stays out of the water.
Arch your shoulders and press your abs to the board as you paddle, and don’t stop paddling until you glide with the wave.
Next, it’s time to do a push up. Tuck your toes on the surfboard’s tail, creating space between your body and the board. Then slide the back foot forward on the board. Your back foot should be brought at the position of your opposite knee, which is about 40-50 centimetres forward on your board.
Then slide your front foot forward, it should go in between your two hands. Your hands should always be stabilizing the board. Once you feel stable, stand up, keeping your knees bent and making sure that you are watching where you are going.
Keep practicing and don’t get discouraged if you can’t get the hang of standing up right away. It will come with time, you just have to keep sticking with it!
How to catch a wave on a SUP
SUPs are great for paddle boarding, but you can also use them to catch some super fun waves! If you’re comfortable paddling around on your SUP on flatwater and even choppier waters, then you’ll likely already have a knack for surfing on an SUP. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be a pro straight away!
When catching waves on your SUP, you will first need to find out where the waves are breaking.
Sit around 10 to 50 feet on the outside of where the waves are breaking, as this will allow you enough time to generate enough speed to catch the wave.
Watch the waves approaching, and choose one to catch. When you begin to paddle for the wave, make sure that you are standing on your board in a staggered stance to help keep you balanced and are paddling perpendicular to the wave.
Always make sure that you keep your knees bent with your weight towards the front of the board, as this will allow you to glide onto the wave.
Next, you will need to shift your feet from a staggered stance into a surf stance, making sure that your feet are hip distance apart. Keep your knees bent to ensure that you keep your balance on the board.
Notes on catching waves with your SUP
- For SUP surfing, make sure that you opt for a size smaller than you would for paddleboarding. If you’re used to paddleboarding on a 9-10 foot SUP, you should get an 8 to 9′ SUP for surfing waves.
- As an SUP is a fairly bulky piece of equipment, you will need to invest in a longer and thicker leash to ensure your board stays attached to your foot when you fall off. A regular surfboard leash will likely snap quickly as your SUP keeps getting swept away by a wave, so you need the right equipment for the job.
- For SUP surfing, make sure that you have a lightweight paddle, as this will make a huge difference to how easy you find it to paddle through the swell. Paddles made out of carbon are great for this.
How to catch a wave body surfing
The great thing about body surfing is that you don’t need anything to do it other than good technique. There’s a little more to it than just jumping at the first wave that comes your way and letting the ocean take you.
Your safety is essential when you’re learning to body surf. When ready to ride your wave in a body surfing session, you should always be on the lookout for ones that break cleanly down themselves from the top at a manageable angle.
Your first waves shouldn’t be any bigger than about four feet in height, especially when you’re first starting out body surfing. When choosing waves at this height, you should still be able to touch the sand. This will not only give you confidence, but will also allow you to launch yourself into an incoming wave.
When you catch a wave, you want to turn your back to it and push off the sand, launching yourself into front crawl. Following this, you will need to swim as fast as possible, ensuring that you’re making big scooping movements in the water in order to help you build up speed.
When the wave begins to lift you, stop kicking, thrust one or both arms in the direction you want to and take a deep breath. Place your head down in line with your leading arm, and streamline your body.
Next, it’s time to push all of your weight onto the leading arm to create forward/downward momentum. In order to bodysurf sufficiently, you’re going to need around half of your body to be out of the water when you’re catching the wave.
It is not until you feel comfortable catching these smaller waves that you can then move on to bigger sized waves.
Practice, practice, practice! This can’t be said enough. The more time that you spend in the water and practice catching waves, the easier it will become over time. Learning to surf, like many other hobbies, takes a lot of time and dedication. There aren’t any loopholes, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you struggle to catch a wave in the very beginning of your journey.