Swell Express

C. J. and Damien Hobgood's speedy plan to get you surfing like a star

May 1, 2006
Outside Magazine
Expert Advice

Waxing helps with traction. Hold your wax on its edge—don't lay it flat—and rub it back and forth diagonally across the top of your board, making an X pattern and working a one-to-two-foot section at a time. If you forget to bring your wax to the beach, rough up your board's existing wax with some wet sand. (hot, dry sand will sink into the wax and stay there.)" —Frederick Charles Herzog III—a.k.a. Mr. Zog—founder of Mr. Zog's Sex Wax

1. Scout from Shore
Surfing fundamentals start on land. If you can't read the waves, you risk burning out in poor conditions. Know what to look for (see "Anatomy of a Break," next page), then pick your moments. "For every foot of wave height," says C. J., "watch the ocean for five minutes." Look for patterns: If surfers are drifting, be ready to battle a current. If bigger sets are rolling through, time your entry to avoid a thrashing.


2. Paddle Out
Make your journey to the lineup as easy as possible so you save your mojo for catching waves. If you've scouted well, you'll know if there's a channel that avoids the brunt of incoming sets. "Always watch the locals," says Damien. "They know the tricks." When there's a lull in the waves, sprint—you can rest when you're outside the impact zone. Don't fight through larger crashing waves; instead, "turn turtle" by grabbing the rails of your longboard and rolling onto your back while the whitewater passes over. If you're on a smaller board, "duck-dive" the swell by plunging the nose under the surface, then popping out the back side.


3. Catch a Wave
In theory, this is simple: Move faster down the face than the water rolling up it. In reality, it takes lots of practice. "Even on a longboard, you still have only a few seconds before the wave passes," says C. J. Start in the whitewater of waves that have already broken, as they're moving slower and more of the wave's energy is already on the surface. Begin paddling hard well before the wave reaches you; kicking helps, too. Ride the first few waves you catch on your belly so you get used to the sensation.

4. Stand Up
"There isn't some golden trick," says C. J. "A lot of it is just doing what feels natural." Practice popping up on your board on the beach. Grip the rails and jump up on both feet. Once standing, you want a relatively wide stance, with your feet centered and your back foot about eight inches forward of the tail. Bend your knees and extend your arms for balance. "It might look ugly, but you'll get better over time," says C. J. "I used to be called Wounded Seagull."

5. Wipe Out
"Three things beat you up when you fall," says Damien. "The bottom, your board, and the lip of the wave." Fall actively and you can minimize the abuse. When you feel yourself starting to bail, try to jump into the smooth water on the wave face so you avoid the lip and your board. Put your arms over your head and face to protect against dangerous injuries. As for equipment, make sure your leash is at least as long as your board; this will make it less likely to snap back and batter you.

6. Learn to Turn
Once you're standing up consistently, it's time to extend your rides by surfing parallel to the shore rather than right at it. While you're popping up, stare down the line of the breaking wave, in the direction you want to go. "Then lean forward and put pressure on your front foot," says C. J., "like a skater dropping into a halfpipe." When you hit the trough, shift your weight to your back foot to carve toward the lip. Hoot with gusto—now you're really surfing.

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