The surf breaks in and around my beach town are filled with a lot of beginners, especially in the warmer months. In July and August the waves are small and gutless. The surf schools push kids into shin-slappers on soft tops, and soccer dads claim the knee-deep shore break with their longboards and GoPro's attached. But now winter is approaching and the vacationers are packing it in for the season. At this point in late November, it's really only the dedicated surfers left in the water.
So I wanted to write this blog and pass down some knowledge for all the beginners out there who visit the local beaches to learn how to surf. I know it's probably not easy to learn to surf in New England, and I'm quite certain you aren't welcomed with open arms by the local shredders. So let me help you out... It's not that the locals don't want you surfing their breaks necessarily. We just want you to SURF BETTER. We need you to understand that etiquette is important, so that you're not impacting the lineup in a negative way. Now I'm not saying that I'm in favor of bullying, and I'll never be that asshole in the water policing the pack, but sometimes I feel a few of you newbies could use a good dose of localism to remind you that we're all out here sharing... and your need to learn doesn't take precedence over the people who have spent their lives surfing a particular spot. Here's a decent breakdown of the rules: The Rules of surfing EXPLAINED
While I've been in the Northeast for nearly a decade, I grew up surfing crowded surf spots in Florida. It sucks. As a grom, I got yelled at by more than a few crusty old guys while surfing crowded beach breaks like Ft. Pierce's North Jetty and Melbourne Beach's Sebastian Inlet. As a teenager, I got into actual altercations with more than a couple of insane locals that were hell-bent on preventing me from surfing their break. I traveled plenty throughout my 20's and 30's, and managed more than a few waves at ultra-crowded places in California, Hawaii, and Portugal to name a few. Catching a wave and performing at a spot like Lower Trestles, Ala Moana Bowls, or Supertubos takes a fair amount of experience. And while I'd never trade-in those past surf experiences just to have avoided the uncomfortable encounters with locals, that scene just isn't my speed anymore... I'd rather surf MORE waves of lesser quality, than LESS waves of more quality. So in my late 40's I've come to realize that the hustle to surf the popular crowded spot isn't worth the payout, and I'm mostly content surfing at the end of my street.
BUT if you're a beginner, and you want to surf a spot that has more than a dozen people out, let me lay some knowledge on you to save you some embarrassment and help you assimilate into the lineup a little better. Think of me as your surf coach. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, I'm trying to help you grow. So I'm going to dedicate a few blogs over the next year to doing just that. To start off, here are two things you can begin doing right now that will help you surf better.
1. Go surfing, a lot. It's that simple. Do you want to learn how to surf better? Well, you need the time in the water. You need to paddle out when it's terrible, you need to go when it's cold, raining, windy, choppy, 1ft, or 6ft. Go surfing. There's no skipping the kook phase. It's what you are until you gain the experience to not be one anymore. It's ok to be a kook. Most experienced surfers have a kook moment from time to time whether we admit it or not, but your goal is to stop LIVING in kook land. The ONLY way to do this is to get more water time. If you surf more, you will have a better chance at picking up on the subtle techniques that are difficult to learn. And you certainly won't learn how to navigate a busy lineup, or get yourself in position to catch a wave until you learn where NOT TO BE. Developing these paddling skills, and simply not being in the way, or in danger when the waves are good, is a huge skill for a beginner. Plus, if locals see you there all the time they will start to recognize you... and they may even be nice to you if you're making an effort to surf the right way.
2. Ride the right shortboard. Foam is your friend, so it's better to have a high-volume shortboard that gives you paddle power and flotation. Don't try to ride what the local ripper is riding, even if he/she is your same size and weight. Listen to the surfboard maker or shop owner, they will generally get you on something that works for you based on your ability and surfing style. Even for experienced surfers, everyone should ride thicker, wider, fuller boards. They just work better in the average conditions you're probably surfing everyday. Honestly, I'm not ashamed to admit that I ride 39 liters on my small wave grovelers and I push that up to 44 liters in the winter (I'm 6'2 195 lbs). If it's summer and waves are firing in Costa Rica, I would probably ride my 34 liter high performance shortboard. So that's a huge range there for boards 6'3 and under. Bottom line, when the surf conditions are pretty average (like on most days) you want extra foam for catching more waves, and riding them farther. I consistently get longer rides, according to my apple watch, when I ride my higher volumed boards. It's just a fact. And longer rides give you an opportunity to maximize your learning for that session. Your goal is to catch it early and ride it to the shore, then paddle back out and repeat. Having the right board under your feet HELPS, instead of having the wrong board that HINDERS.
OK, hopefully these two tips will get you thinking about your surfing experience a little bit more. I may be available to take you surfing in Hull, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to check my schedule. I've got more than a few high-volumed surfboards that you're welcome to try out, just don't break them! AND If you're interested in some more in-depth coaching services, I may be available for a few surf sessions on weekends and holidays. Each session comes with a video breakdown and prescription for improvement. In the market for a new surfboard? I can meet you at a surf shop to help you choose the right board, counsel you about an online purchase, or assist you with a custom order from a local shaper like Shawn Vecchione. I'll also coach you at a crowded surf break within the New England area... show you where to park, guide you through the paddle-out, and help you avoid potential trouble with locals. Shoot me a message to see my availability. I'm also open to donating my services to the right person or cause. I am a full-time public school teacher, and I run a fairly large non-profit organization. Despite these things taking up a large amount of my time, I catch nearly 500 waves a year... and so can you!
Be well and Go Surfing
COMING SOON: The Surf Coach - Part 2 "Where NOT To Be"
Super pumped for the new Queers release on November 30th, pre-order yours!