The Key To Good Surfing - How To Generate Speed

Steph Gilmore - Queen of speed and style. Photo - Glaser

Speed in surfing is simply essential. Like riding a bike, without speed you will come to a halt and fall off, every time. The faster you are going, the easier it will be to balance, to turn, and to keep your momentum. Below are a few common scenarios where surfers may begin to loose their speed.

- The surfer rides into the flatter section of the wave, and essentially out runs it.

- The surfer fails to use the force from the wave, they remain at the bottom where the wave provides little speed.

- The surfer has hauled the brakes on, they are putting too much pressure on their back foot.

- The surfer tries to turn, but digs their rail into the wave, causing them to drag and come to a halt.

If we do not have enough speed we cannot complete turns, and if we cannot complete turns, we cannot move ourselves back into the source of power, giving us speed again. This is a cycle that once you know how to utilise, will become your best friend.

Let’s look at the diagram below to understand which part of the wave holds the most speed.

From looking at this diagram we can see here that there are 3 parts of the wave.

- The top half – holds the most speed and power. - The bottom half – holds less speed and power. The flat section (the circle) holds very little speed and power.

If we want to generate speed (and keep it) we need to be including these 6 techniques…

Use both the top and bottom parts of the wave.

If we catch the wave and ride only along the bottom, we will go too slow and get taken over by the whitewash, like an avalanche following us.

If we use only the top, we will run the risk of out running the wave, loosing speed and power eventually. The trick is to “trim” along, turning above the middle line and below the middle line, to get a “flow” going. We want to create a kind of “S” movement using the force of the wave to our advantage.

Compress and extend.

By using our own mass we can move our surfboard up and down the wave. Trying to create speed with straight legs will be a huge challenge. Compress and extend your whole body to build momentum, thinking of your body as a coil, ready to unravel with energy.

Apply weight to your front foot.

As this will create a leaning forward kind of movement. Since leaning back and putting the brakes on reduces speed, it makes sense to use your body weight to get your board going.

Take off on an angle...

If you want to gather speed straight off the bat as this is more likely to place you closer to the top half of the wave instantly (the part with the most speed.) Although a good solid bottom turn will set you up nicely, sometimes it is good to get some speed up before dropping down deep into the lower parts of the wave.

Surf from rail to rail rather than flapping or bouncing along.

In basic terms, this means keeping your board moving from side to side rather than stomping on it to create speed. Although flapping along can sometimes help to get over certain parts of the wave, it is not very aesthetically pleasing and is not a good habit to get into.

Nikki Van Dijk Flying. Ripcurl Womens

Use the flatter parts of the wave to turn back into the power source...

As this will allow you to gain back all of the speed you just burnt off, and keep you doing the same thing over and over again. When you get to the flatter part of the wave and start slowing down (the circle area) now is the time you want to wrap right around and back into the steep part of the wave.

If you want to really gather speed again, trying turning right into the whitewash, then heading back to the peeling section of the wave.

Overall, understanding and using the waves natural force is the most effective way to create and maintain speed. Utilising our mass by compressing and extending allows us to create a flow movement which will also assist us to create extra speed to make different sections of the wave. By knowing what manoeuvres to do at what part of the wave, we become flexible and are able to adapt our personal style to the wave.

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