As with any sport or martial art, each surfing skill has an underlying technique that once mastered, will lead to effortless repetition of that manoeuvre.
The technique used for each manoeuvre does not vary from surfer to surfer. Whether you are looking at a late-takeoff, a backhand cutback or a forehand air reverse, under slow-motion you will see the exact same body positions being used by pro surfer after pro surfer.
You only see different techniques being used when you start to look at surfers of a lower level, and that’s because they are using incorrect and inefficient surfing technique.
Now I’m not talking about style here.
Style comes on top of a foundation of good surfing technique. The attitude of the cutback, the way the hands are held, the flick of the head etc. Basically, the minor and subtle movements on top of the underlying technique that every good surfer uses for a specific manoeuvre.
If you want good style, sort your technique out first. It doesn’t really matter how groovy you get with your hands and body language – if your technique is off you are likely to bog rails, get caught behind your turns and generally lose your flow.
Good technique is a vital part of good style.
Identify perfect surfing technique for any move with Heat Analyser
In this day and age it’s incredibly easy to find examples of good technique, but the hard part can be finding examples of the skills you need to work on, if you’re not an elite level surfer.
Why? Because most videos you see online are full of air-reverses, insane lay back snaps, ridiculously late take-offs….just big moves in general.
That’s where WSL’s Heat Analyzer can be a great tool.
The main reason it’s better than watching general surf videos is that they show positioning in the lineup and they film the surfers as they get to their feet. Other videos don’t often do this.
Many intermediate surfers could brush up in these areas, especially once the waves get a bit more heavy, so it’s really useful to see how the pros approach things.
Things You can do with it:
- Analyse how pro surfers position themselves for a wave, how much they paddle, what angle they use, where they look as they take-off
- Find the underlying technique of any move, break it down into chunks then practice them yourself
- Watch each skill from multiple angles as there are usually replays of each wave and it’s great for clarifying your understanding of the body positions used
A step by step guide for improving a specific move:
First, think of some aspect of your surfing that needs improving. I’ll take you through an example.
I recently had a series of surfs in ledging, hollow waves on my backhand and I just couldn’t get any rhythm going – I was getting annihilated and frustrated. I knew something was up with my approach to heavy backhand drops.
Here’s the process I used with Heat Analyzer to figure out what I could improve on.
1. Choose an event with relevant waves
I went to the Heat Analyzer for the Tahiti pro because it’s a left, it ledges out and this year wasn’t too big so it was reasonably comparable.
2. Choose a surfer with good technique
Pretty much everyone on the world tour has good surfing technique for every move you can imagine, but some are next level in certain areas. I’d recommend checking out Felipe for anything progressive, Jordy for carving turns, and for my example, I went straight to John John Florence’s semifinal heat.
You need to choose someone with the same stance as you. It’s quite hard for me to watch a goofy footer and understand what they’re doing, and most people seem to find that too.
3. Click through wave by wave and learn
See the red underline in the photo above, you can click the blue/green circles for the live footage, the grey circles for replays of the same waves.
The live footage is often best for positioning because they zoom in from a wider angle, the replays often show multi angles including water footage. So find a relevant clip then check all angles.
Click the play/pause button rapidly to go frame by frame and see what they are doing.
Here’s a couple of screenshots with what I learned:
a) Need to look for a line across the wall of the wave rather than paddling too hard and with the same angle that the wave approaches on (red line). I was putting too much focus on getting in to the wave early. I needed to relax and use the same approach I take in smaller waves.
b) Don’t drop to the bottom of the wave. Stay connected to the wave face with an engaged rail.
Do this by pushing and extending the arms to keep the board moving down the wave and to avoid getting sucked into the lip, but pull the hips / butt back into the wave face and out towards the shoulder of the wave (angle of the blue line), to set and hold the rail on the right angle across the wave.
I noticed that I should feel a slight stretch under the armpits and on hamstrings when I get my body in the same position as John John is above.
4. Practice the movements you observe
Just mentally understanding the technique won’t help that much. Even if you just practice the movement on the floor it will be beneficial and often be quite a contrast to what you generally do when surfing.
I did a few practice take-offs while visualising the above scenario.
You want to sink the new surfing technique in to your muscle memory at home so that you are ready next time you hit the water.
Practice and improve on land, have fun in the waves.
Hope that’s useful, check out heat analyzer and start improving your surfing technique.