Strategies for Dealing with Whitewater and Breaking Waves

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
April 29, 2016

From time to time I’ll have a session where I’m focused on coaching instead of personal improvement.  This will also apply when we’re running a camp.  Today it was private coaching.  I’ll use these days as a way to focus on more beginner/intermediate skills as that’s what we’re normally working on…

Notes from today:

*** Thanks to John for pointing out the obvious on Facebook…  Always make sure there isn’t anyone around you when you ditch you’re board.  It’s your responsibility to make sure your board doesn’t injure anyone in the lineup.

Dealing with your board when a large wave is breaking right in front of you.  If you’re going to surf beach breaks, you’re going to find yourself in some bad situations…  one of those is paddling back out and having a wave peaking and breaking right in front of you.  Maybe it even looks for a minute like you’ll be able to make it over, but then, one or two strokes short, you realize you’re not going to make it…  What’s next.  There are few methods I’ll cover.  Some I use, but wouldn’t recommend a beginner and some safe bets.

The priority is to be away from your board.  We can all deal with a few seconds underwater, maybe even a swim if the leash breaks, but taking the board to your body is 100% what you’re trying to avoid.  You should also try to avoid breaking your board.  Ok… some tactics.

The easiest thing to do when a wave breaks right in front of you and you’re standing, paddling back out, is to jump off the side of the board in the direction of the wave.  If you’re at a deep beach break you can dive in, if your at a reef, probably not a good idea.  Lately I’ve been doing pencil dives, feet first as this gives me a bit more control over the pull of the board in bigger surf and let’s me save some swims/leashes.  If you pencil in you can then quickly orient your feet towards the beach and let the wave pull you backwards through the water.  When you pencil in, you can also control your depth with your paddle.

To avoid breaking your board it’s good to orient your board parallel to the breaking wave.  This way the force of the wave as less board to act on.  If you leave your board perpendicular to the wave and the lip lands on it, you’ll likely break one sooner or later.

Never, and I’ve seen this go badly a few times, never, try to jump over the barely breaking wave off the front of your board.  What happens here is that the board can get thrown up by the wave and slam into you, usually in the thigh or foot.  It can end badly.

What I like to do, and this only works for medium size waves and whitewater, is to shoot the board over the back of the wave.  Make sure you’re very stable paddling if you’re going to try this maneuver.  What you do is as the wave approaches, you move back to surf stance while paddling hard for your last 2 or 3 strokes.  Right as the wave approaches, you set your blade like a normal stroke, but transition your weight back and shoot the board with your back foot over the wave.  If you don’t do it right, the board will be coming back at you pretty quick, so make sure you’re falling back into the water as the board is going over.  If done correctly you’ll shoot the board over the wave, you’ll go under and you pop up, board pointed at the lineup right in front of you.  Just remember to come up with a hand in front of  your face as sometimes the board will be right on top of you.

If you like this post let me know in the comments below…  Erik

Progression Journal

One Comment

  • Simon Ulrich Runschke

    Very Good!

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