Surfing 102: Getting more advanced
Cape Town has a wonderful surfing culture. That’s to be expected with so many beaches and favourable surfing conditions!
As you progress from a beginner to an intermediate surfer, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you want to improve your skill and avoid hurting yourself or worse, drowning.
1. Choosing the right surfboard for the right wave
When you move past the beginner stage of surfing, you can start experimenting with differently sized surfboards. One of the main culprits in slowing down your progression can be surfing on the wrong board in the wrong conditions.
Choosing the right surfboard always has an element of compromise. If you go for a bigger surfboard, you gain glide and stability on the one hand but on the other hand, you lose maneuverability.
So rather than trying to find the “perfect board for me”, try to focus on your objective. Do you want to be able to surf all year round in small to medium-sized waves? Go for an 8 to 12-foot longboard. Simply want to have fun and practice and improve your maneuvering on the wave? Opt for a 6.58.5 funboard or a fish, which is a board with a big, wide nose, and a wide shape that gradually gets narrower towards its swallowtail.
2. Positioning on the board and wave
As you improve and get more comfortable with different parts of the wave, you will quickly realise that the right positioning on the board and on the wave is the difference between having a ball of a time and getting frustrated by not catching any waves, or seeming to nosedive every time. Ensure that you aren’t lying too far forward or too far back on your board. Aim for good balance and ask an instructor to advise you if you aren’t sure of your positioning.
A wave can be divided into seven parts, which helps to identify as you learn to surf better:
– Impact Zone
Nothing really happens far out on the flat shoulder of the wave. It’s a good place to be if you are trying to paddle out or get out of someone’s way. But when it comes to catching a wave, stay close to the pocket so that you can catch the wave at the peak and generate your own speed.
That sounds weird… don’t you just ride the wave?
Do you have to generate your own speed? Well, you can just paddle a bit and hope to catch a wave and it could be fine. But, as Livemore Magazine aptly puts it, “one of the biggest differences between intermediate-advanced surfers, and beginner-intermediate surfers is their ability to create their own speed by throwing their arms forward, decompressing and compressing up and down the face of the wave, and using their rails properly.”
Also keep in mind that everything starts with your head. Your head is your steering wheel. Wherever you fix your eyes, that’s where you will go. Your upper body, hips, feet, and board will always follow your head.
3. Learning to read the conditions
- Generally, the winter months of June, July and August offer the best surf conditions in the Cape. Even so, surf’s up most days of the year in Cape Town providing you know where and when to go. Oftentimes if the temperamental Cape wind decides to blow onshore, surfing is out.
- Staying on top of local surf conditions in Cape Town by checking surf reports frequently will help you to start learning when and where the best spots are for catching waves. It’ll also ensure you don’t waste time or money heading off in the wrong direction.
- Muizenberg is generally great in a northwesterly wind, Milnerton in a southeasterly wind, Big Bay in a south or southeasterly wind, Long Beach (with some bigger, consistent waves) in a southwesterly wind.
- A good rule of thumb is that the infamous south easterly wind brings onshore conditions to False Bay and offshore conditions to the Atlantic Coast, while the converse is true with the north westerly wind.
- Some websites that offer great surf reports include Magic Seaweed and Surf Forecast. You can even check the waves via various webcams before heading out!
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