After a rigorous squeeze into my wetsuit, I figured I better try to get out on something with a little more surface area. If you've got a SUP in the boathouse, give it a try for something a little different. It's too much fun! I could see there is all sorts room to expand on the footwork, doubles or wherever your imagination takes you. It's a different dance.
So you’ve become savvy with staying with the wake and “milking the sweet spot”. Next up, the elusive 360; most gravitate towards attempting this trick right away but often with the same result of slowly sinking into the water as the boat rolls on. The rotation is quite simple and often natural once it’s initiated on the wave. However, the 360 is elusive because the difficulty is not in the rotation, it is the ability to stay within the wave and continue surfing once you have completed the spin. Here are a few things you should consider to accelerate your learning curve and avoid getting caught up in the turbulence of bad practice.
Break down the trick:
Practice the rotation outside of the wave so that the spin feels natural. You may want to eliminate a couple of fins if you have a surf style board or multiple large fins. You can also try a smaller fin to help with this flat water activity.
A common mistake is to over rotate this trick which will take you off balance and off of your finishing edge. This will slide you away from the wave and out of the sweet spot. Concentrate on initiating this spin slowly and think about only doing a 180. The spin will naturally happen once it’s initiated.
Eyes on the Prize:
Start with your eyes on the boat as you approach and finish with your eyes forward and on the boat. Ultimately this is what you are trying to follow. You’ll find if you look at the water you will often end up in it.
It may help you to set your edge and stay within the wake by planting your trailing or back hand into the wave to help you stop the rotation and set your edge again on the wave.
Watch it all come together below.
If you’re a beginner and would like to get out of the water, or if you’re having company over that’s never surfed before, then this tutorial is for you.
The video below demonstrates the trick broken up, as well as an on land session to prepare you for what to expect in the water.
It’s best to practice the motions with the individual off the back of the swim platform first, this way it takes away any fears they may have.
Once they’re comfortable, they’re ready to surf!
Watch the video below.
How to Drive and Ride Into a Switching Wake
There are two parts to any successful switch trick: the rider and the driver have to work together to achieve results.
Rider Trick Tip: Get proficient riding heelside. Practice hanging on to the rope and moving around on the wave. You’ll need to have a strong advance on the boat to build enough momentum to cross the wash back into the toeside wave.
You’re going to want to do some preliminary practice before going the full wake-to-wake on this. Click the video below to see Neil explain how to do a backside 180 step-by-step.
Safe and Easy Boating Maneuvers
It’s sometimes difficult to know why one surf session was better or worse than the last. Most people don’t think it, but a smooth, organized driver is usually what makes or breaks your time out on the water. Smart drivers not only save time, but also promote progression (AKA FUN) for their riders. Here’s my Top Five Surf Driving Tips:
Surf in 20′ of water or more
For novice riders: center your rider behind the boat, turn to their surf side as you accelerate to speed
Drive with the wind and shore behind you
Use your driving path to shape your wake
Slow down your pick up line
Water Depth: As a rule, shallow water equals a shallow wave, so always drive in areas 20′ or deeper. The wave gets inconstant at 15′ or shallower; 40’+ is ideal.
The Easy Way Up:
Because your surf rope is short, the direction in which you pull the rider out of the water can make the start very easy or extremely hard. Most new surfers try to paddle to the side that they surf on when getting up, but if the rider is at an angle to the side of the boat, they’ll be pulled in the wrong direction back towards the center. You are far better to start your rider directly behind the boat. Once they have started to stand up and before you reach the set surfing speed, an aggressive turn into or towards the side the surfer is on will help them naturally ride into the sweet spot without getting caught in the white water or froth of the boat’s turbulence.
The Pick-up Line: We all know the pick-up line can make or break the moment, and we want our pick-up line to be short, concise and clean. The best way to pick up a rider is with an ‘in gear key hole turn’. For example: if a right foot forward surfer falls, make a slight turn to the left while you throttle back . Then make your turn in gear without additional throttle to the right, and head back towards the surfer on your original path (vice-versa for a left foot forward rider). The most common driving faux-pas is committed when a rider falls and their driver continues on a long wide turn at surf speed to return to them. Not only does this create rollers for your future path; this pick-up line is the fastest nose dive and cell phone killer out there. Keep your pick-up line slow to stop jostling your passengers and stay on your path.
Trick Tip: Remember to always pick up on the driver’s side so that you do not lose sight of the person in the water.
Drive Your Wave into Shape: Create a shorter but wider ‘pushing’ wave by turning slightly towards your surfer; it’s like being hugged by the sweet spot here, much easier for beginners to catch.
Create a longer and, often, steeper shape by turning slightly away from your rider. Here, the sweet spot is harder to catch, forcing your surfer to work harder and therefore helping them progress.
Trick Tip: If a surfer looks like they are about to lose the wave, the driver can make a quick turn towards the surfing side to help them catch up with the boat and land in the wide sweet spot.
The Path of Least Resistance: Stay out of the waves, both of your boat and of the wind. Choosing a direction that keeps you somewhat with the wind eliminates hull spray blowing into the boat and creates a smoother ride. For the most part, you want to be driving in a straight line; angle away from the shoreline and stay far off to prevent your waves bouncing back at you. Not only will your rider and passengers thank you, so will your neighbors!
Trick Tip: When idling back to pick up a fallen surfer, plan to hook them on your way by and continue forward so that you don’t double back on your own rollers.
Your personal riding style is usually the determining factor in what board will work best for you. There are two main styles of inland surf boards: skim or surf. Do you like to hang ten or pop shoves; do you like to spin and re-enter the wave; do you like to start on your belly like you’ve just dropped in? It’s not about your level, but rather your individual riding style. There’s no need to classify yourself as one or the other, so you can switch between both styles freely depending on the wave you build that day; the styles are different but equally fun, so change it up!
Identifying a skim-style board from a surf-style board is pretty straightforward: surf-style boards tend to be bigger than skims, running 5’2″ or longer. They have multiple, deep (2.5″ or more) fins that provide increased traction and stability. The fins give better tracking in washed out waves, but make the board a little less reactive to aggressive cuts. As a more pronounced directional style of board, surf-styles have more buoyancy and a larger tail. This allows you to use more of the wave and recover from beyond the pocket at the back of the wave. Surf-style riders tend to like the steep, tall, powerful wave that comes out of a stern weighted boat.
At the other end of the spectrum, skim-style riders usually want a bow-weighted boat with a longer, less steep wave at the front and a trick-saving pocket at the back. Skim boards usually have a single, much shallower fin and sometimes have a twin fin set up for both tip and tail. With more of a skate style, they are easier to spin, shove or flip. The boards’ flat rocker makes them react faster. These boards have less of a tendency to ‘pearl’ (nose-diving the board) than a surf-style, however they can be more skittish or less stable.
As a general rule, skim-style boards are compression molded and built like wakeboards, making them slightly heavier but more durable with a thinner profile. Surf-style boards are composite, with a foam core and fiberglass construction. They are lighter but thicker, more buoyant but also more susceptible to dings. However, there are a number of hybrid boards on the market now, fusing skim and surf by using carbon graphite to lighten skim-style boards or applying more durable exterior shells to surf-style boards.
The tail shape of the board can really affect the feel of your ride. There are two main tail shapes: rounded or squashed. In terms of performance, the squashed tail’s increased surface area will catch a boat’s wave better for more push and recovery. A rounded, or narrower tail allows for easier turning and better traction. The hybrid swallow tail’s dual points mesh the traction of a rounded tail with some of the push of a squashed tail. Any time there is contour added to the shape of the tail, it helps to add traction like a fin would.
Can’t decide between styles? Not to worry. Many hybrids today have interchangeable fins and combined constructions to help you customize your ride. Removing or changing the placement of your fins can give a surf-style board a skim-style feel, while adding fins to your skim board can give you surf-style stability. I enjoy bouncing between different styles to change it up depending on my mood or the wave that day. Really, everyone needs to have 2 or 3 boards in their tickle trunk. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions on the right board for you.
Trick Tip: when it comes to beginners, bigger is better
Choose a larger board with greater surface area if you’re teaching your friends or just starting out yourself. It will be way easier to catch the wave and get the surfing sensation with the increased stability and flotation of a bigger board.
Please Hold the Line
Many of the trick tips through the season have focused on body position, as this is the main cause of ‘losing’ the wave while surfing. If your weight is back on the board, you will be unable to maintain your toe side edge and stop travelling with the boat. The best way to become more comfortable with your body position and edge control on a surf board is to spend time riding it in varied ways. Hold the line please! There are two ways you can practice your surf board edging and stance: Surf-length Line and Long Line.
Your Surf Line is about 10′- 20′ behind the boat. In this position, practice moving back and forth in the sweet spot while you are hanging on to the rope. Try to get as far back on the wave as you can, while still holding the slacked line so that you are not relying on the boat’s pull. This way, if you loose the wave, you are still able to use the rope to get right back in. It also saves the boat from having to come back to get you! You will also be able to practice your edge control by edging up and slashing the wave for some aggressive carves; not only is it fun, it’s also a great way to warm up at the start of each surf set and get comfortable on the board.
Switch it up by riding Long Line; it’s one of the best silent coaches for your stance on the surf board. Use a 75′ wakeboard line, and increase your speed to between 12 and 16 MPH depending on the weight of the rider. You will want to go as slow as you can so that your board still planes and rides level. It’s a great activity when the lake is rough, as you will stay sheltered inside of the wide wakes at that speed. Practice edging back and forth, and transitioning from your heel to your toe edge.
Riding long line is also a great place to learn how to rotate the spin for the coveted surf wave 360. The slower speeds will allow your fin to release and you to rotate the board easily. Start with surface 180’s in both directions, working your way up to the 360. Remember that if you have too much weight on your back foot or away from the boat, the board will slide out as soon as you release the fin or initiate your spin.
The Game of S*U*R*F
Make it interesting and help to push your level. The game of SURF is simple: challenge a friend or family member to ride doubles at long line. The concept is the same as HORSE in basketball; you do a trick, and your opponent has to do the same trick. The first person to fall gets a letter “S” and ultimately the loser ends up with the Word “SURF”. Here are few that you may want to work on:
Be creative with it and try to invent new tricks. There are really no boundaries to the tricks you can do; once you start to master them, they can be linked for combinations. The more you experiment with this, the more comfortable you will become on your board, garnering you a much faster progression on the surf wave.
Milking the Sweet Spot
There are a couple steps between getting up on a surfboard and riding the wave. Before you can ditch the rope and get started on the tricks, you need to think about your body position, the board’s direction, and how to manage the sweet spot. The wave and the boat do not travel in the same direction. While the boat moves forward, the wave is continually curling away. In order for you to stay with the boat, you must point your board and your front hip in the direction of the boat. If you ski or snowboard; think of it as a constant traverse on edge across the hill. Watch the video above to see Neil demonstrate.
Get Familiar With the Sweet Spot
You can manage the sweet spot by simply adjusting your weight while on edge. Remember to keep your hips/shoulders aimed into the wave in order to maintain your edge. If they are not positioned correctly, you will be unable to keep the edge, and the board will slip out sideways down the wave.
Remember, front foot gas, back foot brake. In order to move yourself closer to the boat, shift your weight to your front foot; in order to move backwards, put weight on your back foot.
Trick Tip: The board’s response to a weight shift is delayed by a few seconds. You must anticipate the board’s movement and redistribute your weight before reaching the spot you’re aiming for.
Advancing and Pumping the Wave
By extending your surfing area outside of the sweet spot, you can learn how to advance on the boat by ‘pumping’. There are two reasons to get better at advancing: one is to save yourself from loosing the wave, and the other is to practice gaining speed to do tricks. Just like when you are on the ski hill, if you aim the tip of your board or skis down the hill you will increase your speed. You ‘pump’ forward on the wake by using a downward section of the wave to generate speed, allowing you to turn in and back up the wake to advance.
It’s important to remember that once you have initiated this momentum, you must turn the board back into the wave to keep yourself with the boat. Like in skiing or snowboarding, your speed runs out at the bottom of the hill; the wave is nowhere near as long as the hill, so you must aim the board back at the boat quickly to avoid reaching the bottom. Pointing your board downwards and then turning upwards in quick succession creates the pumping motion that will generate speed.
Trick Tip: Use the full length of your surf rope to practice moving as far back on the wave as you can. This will help to familiarize you with the feeling of catching up without having to stop the boat to turn around and pick you back up.
Silent Coach: Managing the sweet spot and surfing behind the boat (without using the rope) forces you to practice the correct body position for wake-boarding and wake skating. It will help you to rely less on your bindings and more on how to properly manage your edge control. The more you surf, the less you will have those hard wakeboard falls. And don’t worry, you won’t get close the prop; it’s virtually impossible on an inboard boat.
How to Make the Most of Your Wake
The wake jump is the foundation of every wake trick, no matter what you’re riding behind the boat. Looking at the bio-mechanics allows you to become cognizant of why at times you can boost off the wake easily, and at others you can barely get off the water. Often, it also explains why you take the same falls over and over.
There are three components that are all easy to manage on their own, but you must be able to combine these components in the short space from the bottom of the wake to the release at the top of the wake. The concept of going ‘up’ using the wake is a simple one; it is the ability to manage the timing of these three components that will boost you to more air time and make all your tricks look better. Watch the video above to see Neil demonstrate.
Component #1: Body Position
Your body position should always be the first thing on your mind. You will need to have your weight evenly distributed with your center of gravity directly over top of your board. Uneven weight prevents you from properly edging your board towards the wake; when your body position is centered, you will be able to extend both legs into your jump.
Component #2: Edging and Rope Control
The rope can either work with you or against you, but it’s pointless to try to fight with the boat for it. If you tie a handle to a tree and try to jump up while leaning away, you will find it’s difficult to get off the ground; the more you lean away, the harder it is to get height from your jump. If you continue to lean away as you land, the landing will be harder; not only on your knees and back, but also on your ego. This same principle applies behind the boat. Use the rope to manage your body position instead of fighting with the boat; otherwise, you pull yourself right out of the proper body position.
Trick Tip: Bring your elbows to your hips as you go up the wake; this helps you get over the board and in a position to extend upwards.
Component #3: Edging and Speed
The harder you edge at the wake, the more speed you will have. While good for getting more air, the speed makes it difficult to manage your body position going up the wake. Too much speed can cause you to ‘brace yourself’ for the wake, creating further problems with your body position. Think about edging the board under you as you go from the bottom of the wake to the top. This allows your legs to extend up from the wake as opposed to away from the boat.
Trick Tip: Lengthen your rope as you begin to play with these concepts. A longer rope and a softer approach will land you in the middle of the wake as opposed to the top of the opposite wake in a dangerous position. Once you are comfortable with a consistent take off you can shorten the rope drastically so that you are able to cross both wakes in a much smaller distance.