So you’ve been surfing for ten years and you still can’t complete a basic roundhouse cutback? Your lack of coordination and athletic predisposition can’t shoulder all the blame. You do have some control over your surfing performance. Here are seven common reasons your surf skills may be lacking.
You’re not in shape
You can’t improve your surfing if you’re not catching waves. You can’t catch waves if you’re out of shape. Maintaining good surfing shape will extend your sessions, help maximize your wave count, and give you the requisite stamina and stability to actually do something when you catch a wave.
You’re not spending enough time in the water
Yes, I know. You have a job. You have a mortgage. You have a lawn. There comes a time in every surfer’s life when he or she must succumb to the pressures of modern society and individual water time inevitably suffers. However, if you want to maintain or improve your surf skills, you need to actually surf. Even getting in the water a few times a month will stave off adulthood-induced surf atrophy.
You’re not falling
Wait, shouldn’t you fall less as you improve? Yes and no. A lot of intermediate surfers hit a certain level and plateau for years. You need to push yourself if you want to improve. More often than not, we get comfortable with our repertoire of moves and stick to a handful of spots and we just kind of coast. Excellent surfers continue to push themselves long after they’ve mastered basic competency. They surf bigger waves, they take off deeper, they pull into more barrels, they try new maneuvers, and they strive for harder and faster turns. Basically, if you’re not falling, you’re not trying. Fear of looking like a kook is one way to ensure that you stay a kook forever.
You’re not traveling
This is directly related to the above suggestion. Traveling will push you in every possible way –– as a surfer and as a human being. Surfing bigger and better waves will make you a better surfer, and will help you feel more comfortable and competent in good waves at home. Moreover, seeing the world is an important aspect of personal growth regardless of how it applies to our various first-world leisure pursuits.
You’re riding the wrong equipment
Unless you started as a wee grom, you may have learned to surf on a funboard. That’s okay. Funboards are, well, fun, and they are great learning tools. However, they are not conducive to progressive surfing. Once you can adequately turn and control your learner board, it might be time to step up to a shorter performance-oriented board or a classic longboard. Alternatively, if you’re riding a six-foot potato chip in knee high waves and don’t understand why you can’t catch waves, you might need more foam. You need to ride boards that match both the conditions and your ability level.
You have no idea what you look like
Honestly, sometimes it’s better not to know. Sometimes it’s better to maintain the illusion that all your turns have the style and power of a young Taylor Knox. Sometimes it’s better to be a legend in your own mind. But, if you actually want to improve, you have to know the truth, and the truth invariably hurts. Most people cringe the first time they see their sloppy weak turns and flailing style on film. This is a natural part of the process. Once you get over how bad you look you will be able to identify and adjust your flaws. Once you see your mistakes, you can focus on taking off deeper, crouching lower, and extending your turns further. Many great surfers are very self-aware and very critical. Just don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, surfing is about fun. Which leads me to the next point.
You stopped enjoying it
If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Duke Kahanamoku once famously said, “the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” If you’re not having fun in the water – if every session is not an expression of pure joy – you will have a hard time achieving communion with the ocean.