Look Back to Get More Waves!

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
May 10, 2016

We were blessed to have incredible surf this morning!  The South Pac is lighting up, and the swell this morning coincided with light winds and a higher tide.  It was very consistent, making it difficult to get to the lineup, so for the journal I decided to focus on wave selection and looking out the back when catching waves.

To set the stage, the swell was 4ft at 15 seconds, from our best beach break direction of 220.  I’m guessing the storm was close, because there were a ton of sets with 3-12 waves per.  A couple lulls though the morning, but for the most part it was wave after wave.  Shortboarders were taking a while to get out and the lineup was down to about 30% of the normal traffic because of the effort required…  That said, the waves were pumping!

I had brought a shortboard to the beach along with my starboard but decided to give the starboard a go because of the shiftiness of sets.  Shortboarders were doing a lot of sitting due to their low vantage point from the water.  The difference between short boarding and surfing on the paddle board is the difference between being a gatherer or a hunter.  On a shortboard, you’re relegated to sitting and waiting for the most part…  On a paddle board you can roam.  I decided to roam today.

While stretching out, I saw two channels… I opted for the Northern.  I started paddling during a set.  This is something I do that I have no data to back up, but if your stretching and a long set is coming through, try to make my way out during the set.  I figure it will die out.  Some days it works, others, no.  Today it worked, after taking about 4 waves on the head, I got a break.  Normally, when I get a break I pop up right away, but there was so much water moving around after that set, I paddled prone to the lineup.

Now for the tip.  All that preamble was to show that today was a day you didn’t really want to get stuck inside.  My strategy for the day, was to be selective about the waves I was catching as follows:

  1.  To gauge sets and try to pick off the last or second last wave of the set.
  2.  To check, as paddling into he wave, what’s coming behind and
    1. If there was no wave behind, to ride the wave fully, and
    2. If there was a wave out the back gauge where the wave was breaking and try to a. run far enough to miss the whitewater, or b. to get in one turn if possible and kick out to get under the second wave.
    3. If I complete misjudged the wave and there were a ton of waves lined up, to ride all the way in and deal with smaller whitewater rather than the impact zone.

This worked fairly well.  Especially on the higher tide.  I started off the session with 6 waves in a row without having to take one on the head.  I went left on a few I wanted to go right on, but there were lines stacked up on the right side.  And I kicked out of a couple after one turn and paddled over the shoulder on the one out the back.

Everything went FUBAR when I got a lined up right, one wave out the back, but I thought I would get to the channel and after the second pump a guy decided to paddle in front of me instead of behind.  I had to straighten out a bit and lost the line… then took about 10 minutes of waves on the head until there was a lull.

I’m normally pretty selective, but what differed today is that when I was taking off, and with the higher tide, the take off wasn’t too critical, I was looking over the back of the wave to see what was behind.  It’s amazing how much you can see out the back when you’re at the top of the wave.  I’ve had the chance to surf with some incredible shortboarders over the past few years and always noticed that they do it, but never really picked it up…  After today the look back will be a bigger part of my surfing.

Progression Journal

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