Author Topic: Surfing 101: Catching Better Waves, by Martin Dunn via  (Read 518 times)

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Offline SeaCliff

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In case you don't know who Martin Dunn is, check this:  Uh, yeah - those are some pretty solid credentials.  ;)

The latest in a continuing "Surfing 101" series here on is an article by Martin Dunn from I'd encourage all interested to visit and Martin Dunn's site for a lot more great info for beginners and experienced surfers alike!


Catching better waves starts on the beach. For a surfer  to excel in surfing they must catch and ride the best waves. I believe  that to do this on a consistent basis surfers should learn to prepare  well before entering the ocean, by performing a thorough beach  observation, and to use the knowledge gained from this beach observation  whilst in the line-up.

It should be the responsibility of the developing surfer to learn to  do this beach observation by themselves, so that whilst in the line-up  they are able to make good decisions concerning positioning and wave  selection by themselves, thus taking control of their heats and control  of their destiny.

By not learning the key elements of what to look for while performing  your beach observation, surfers are setting themselves up to be too  reliant on the luck factor in their competitive heats. The developing  competition surfer should be trying to “minimise the luck factor” by  preparing well for their heats, and making good decisions whilst in the  water. The key element to this minimisation of the luck factor is a  quality beach observation.

The sooner the developing surfer is able to perform their beach  observation by themselves, the sooner they will make good, consistent  decisions in the line-up. Significant others – such as parents, coaches,  teachers, can still be useful as a 2nd opinion or a sounding board for  the surfers intentions. But it must be remembered that the surfer is the  one making the decisions in the water, so they must be the ones with  the thorough knowledge of what is happening and likely to happen in the  water during their competitive heats.

The final benefit of a thorough beach observation is that it gives  the surfer the knowledge to devise a simple plan that they can try to  enact, enhancing the likelihood of a successful performance in the  forthcoming heat.

So what should the surfer be looking for?
  • Best peak. Where you are able to perform the  highest number and best manoeuvres.
  • Back-up peak. If it stops breaking on the best  peak, where can you go to catch good waves
  • Pick landmarks on the beach that you are able to  position yourself off.
  • How far out are these peaks breaking? Are they  close to shore or out the back?
  • Time the sets. How often are they coming through,  and how many waves are in each set?
  • Best access point to the break? Do you paddle back  out or run around on the beach?
  • Decide how many manoeuvres you would be able to  perform on the waves observed. The waves with the optimum manoeuvre  potential are the ones you want to catch while in the line-up.

Using the knowledge gained, once in the water:

  • Check you are sitting in the correct spot in relation to the  landmarks already selected at the start of your heat.
  • Only paddle for and catch waves with the optimum manoeuvre potential
  • Paddle back to the peak using the fastest access point, which has  already been determined
  • After each wave, once back in the line-up, check your positioning by  observing where you are sitting in relation to your selected landmarks.
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