How it works
In order to ride the waves it's necessary to get a certain distance from the shore. This is achieved by paddling into the breaking waves and 'duck diving' both your board and body under them in order to reach the line up (where the wave begins to break). The more advanced surfers will be at the top of the line up and so effectively 'own' the wave. As the wave approaches the idea is to accelerate your paddling in the direction the wave is heading, if your timing is correct and the wave picks you up and propels you forward, you perform a nifty move known as the 'pop up'. However, this is best practised on dry land before entering the water and requires the body to manoeuvre itself from a lying position to a crouching position, planting the feet correctly on the board as swiftly and smoothly as possible. Once your feet are firmly on the board you’ll then be riding down the face of the wave. The idea is to stay just in front of the breaking part of the wave in an area referred to as the 'pocket' or 'curl', and it’s in this position where more talented surfers will display their prowess - turning or carving into the waves, 'tube-riding' (riding in the curl of the wave) and 'hanging ten' (all ten toes on the front edge of the board) amongst other jaw dropping, awe inspiring moves.
Once you’ve ascertained you have both the confidence and strength to hit the water, mastering surfing is then all about practice and timing. Timing is key when it comes to catching a wave and a sign of a good surfer is someone who’s able to catch a difficult wave that others can't.
Clearly a surf board is integral to the sport and a good size for most adults averages at around 8ft and is constructed from fibreglass. Attached to the board will be a leash which goes around the ankle and is designed to prevent the surfboard washing to shore during a 'wipeout' (being knocked off the board by a wave) and hitting other surfers. In order to prevent slipping, surfers apply wax to their boards prior to entering the water and unless you're feeling toasty warm already, wet suits are generally advised.
Is it for me?
As with all sports conducted in the open waters, you must be a competent swimmer. The nature of surfing requires a tumultuous ocean in order to ride bigger waves, so it’s essential that you’re confident in the water. Married with confidence must be a certain level of fitness. It’s demanding work paddling yourself and the board through the waves, out to the surf and then having the strength to push yourself up into the crouched standing position to enable you to ride the wave, so if your arms are less Mr Muscle, more micro muscle, you might want to do a few sessions in the gym beforehand.
By all accounts surfing isn’t easy but it can be enjoyed by men, women and children alike, and with a little patience, a great deal of practise and the right equipment, there’s no reason why you can't learn to ride the waves with confidence.
Good to Know
We all know traditional surfing requires a coast line and masses of salt water, however it seems 'river surfing' is also becoming a popular sport. Following the same principles as surfing in the sea, some larger rivers are now producing man-made waves so avid surfers can ride the waves all year round.