If you’ve picked up the basics of surfing, you’re probably looking for the next important skill to work on! One of the key skills in surfing is how to gain speed and how to maintain it. Whilst the techniques slightly vary between shortboards and longboards, the general principles apply to both.
So let’s dive in – how do you gain speed surfing?
How To Generate Speed Surfing
The key to generating speed while surfing is understanding that the power of the wave will be your “engine”. You will need to utilise the higher parts of the wave to get the best possible speed outcome.
The highest point of the wave which is far more steep is often referred to by surfers as the curl or pocket. When you’ve got this far, it’s now crucial to get the surfing technique right to take full advantage.
This may sound simple, but it takes plenty of practice. When you’ve got to the curl – you’re gonna have to start “pumping”. In simpler terms, this is going on the wave face in an “up and down” method.
This way, you can recompose yourself and ensure you’re getting as close to the peak position (curl/pocket) as possible. The sheer power of the wave will boost you ahead!
There are some key things to remember here. First off, you need to use all of the wave’s face. Right from the top all the way down (but not to the bottom!)
Think of it like you’re at a skatepark – you use your surroundings to benefit from gravity! It is totally pointless to just stick to one area in the middle. If you stray too far down though, you’ll lose your speed and flatten up. You’ll be swimming in no time!
Compression – Why It’s Vital
It’s all well and good knowing you’ve got to get to the curl and start pumping but surely it’s not as straightforward as that? You’re right. You’ll need to know what to do when you’re there and, crucially, when to do it.
This is where the speed generation really comes into play. To keep your balance when surfing, you’ll need to adjust yourself on the wave.
Compression is where the surfer will increase their speed by bending their knees on the bottom turn. Decompression or extension is the opposite of this – straightening or extending your body to get to the wave’s face.
When you’ve mastered the technique – often done on land in surf schools – you’ll now need to know when it is best to do it.
If you’re going downwave, you’ll need to make yourself heavy – this is when compression is required. Your stance along with gravity will force you down at a better pace. When you’re reaching the bottom, it’s time to adjust – move into lighter mode and begin extension (or decompression.)
Now, you’ve got to get the bottom turn technique right. Some surf instructors say that this is the most crucial part of generating speed while surfing. There are two types of bottom turn technique which are forehand and backhand.
Forehand: The surfer’s chest is aiming at the wave during the turn
Backhand: The surfer’s back is aiming at the wave during the turn
There are also two levels to the turn which are major and minor.
Major: A tight turn where the surfer will go further down the wave and rapidly turn toward the top, sending the surfer vertical. This is aimed at more advanced surfers to attempt.
Minor: Far more common practise, this is where the surfer will go diagonal to the face of the wave.
Tips For Backside Surfing
- It is best to avoid the major bottom turn if you want to gain speed backside surfing. Just head straight to the line.
- Put more weight on your ankle when going down wave.
- Position your shoulders to the rails and have the arm you lead with aiming at the wave
- Keep your back foot really far back
Correct Form – Digging The Rails
Digging the rails is where your rails (edges of the board) are dug (put in further) deeper into the water. When doing a bottom turn, you should be digging the right hand side (or inside) rail into the water and keep the left hand (or outside rail) side out.
This will allow the water to start hitting the bottom of your surfboard with force. This water flow will help generate speed.
You’ll need to remember the correct form as it is essential. Moving your hips in the direction you want to go is a good tip and remember by throwing your arms in that direction too will help propel you.
You’ll also want to try and reduce drag. You can do this by moving from one rail to the other. If your board goes flat in the water, it will begin a reduction in speed.
To counteract this, move yourself onto the rails of the board. By doing so, your board is only somewhat in connection with the water, and not fully.
You’ll also want to ensure you’re not forcing yourself in sharp directions on the wave. This will undoubtedly create drag.
Technique is critical along with practice. There are different ways to generate speed and the techniques will invariably alter when you progress through your surfing life. It’s always best to try out new strategies and keep going until you master them.
It may benefit you to visit a surf school or speak with the pros to try and get that technique right, as someone can watch your form and give you some pointers. Watching videos online may also help! The most important thing is to have fun while riding the waves!
Just watch out for these:
- Not holding the initial line: this will ensure your speed is kept at its best. It’s totally okay not to get this right as a beginner. Once again, practise is essential.
- Wrong weight distribution: If you’re putting too much weight on the front foot when you’re about to bottom turn, you could sink the rail and enjoy a swim.
We hope you’ve picked up some pointers on how to gain speed surfing! Any questions – shout out in the comments!