When learning to surf you will stay in shallow water and stand up on your surfboard, when an already broken wave is letting you catch speed. After having mastered the technique of standing up and being safe doing it, you will get to paddle out to the line-up in the ocean with an instructor and surf a green wave.
This is a wave that has not broken/ crumbled yet. It is a super exciting experience and gives you that incomparable feeling you were dreaming about. You have an instructor with you giving you guidance and helping you identify which wave to pick and when to start paddling for the wave resulting in the perfect timing to perform your take off.
But what about surfing by yourself? You may have already had your surf lessons and tried it. You have had a lot of fun out there. But you might find yourself wondering what exactly you need to do when to get the timing of each step right. Some of us are lucky and just get the timing right immediately.
But let’s be honest: most of us have to work hard to get better. We will fall a million times, nosedive and end up falling off our board. But when we train hard to find our way and master the timing for our takeoff, we will make it.
Lapoint is here for you and provides you with the theory and physics behind the breaking of a wave and explains the mechanism and steps. We will try and help you understand how it builds up, how it breaks and when is the best time for you to surf it.
For everyone starting out or struggling with the right timing: You are a great surfer. You are doing good. Being in the right location AND getting up on time at the same time is one of the trickiest things to master. It will take time to learn, but you WILL have that moment where the little switch in your head switches. You will start to know to feel you have to be. You will start to see at what speed waves break.
When you arrive at a new spot or even one you already know, we recommend sitting and watching the incoming waves for a while before entering the water. It is not only important for planning where to sit and to see where the RIP currents, rocks or other obstacles are located, but also to check the speed of the waves and the direction they break. (If this sounded like a foreign language to you, don’t worry. You will learn about all this in your surf lessons.)
This could be getting risky
This is the power release, the breaking/ crumbling of a wave. While it is a moment of glory for some, it could end up as a round in the washing machine, headfirst and board flying up in the air, for others. Waves travel for kilometres before hitting the shore. The travel distance increases the amount of power building up.
The moment it breaks is the moment it is released. If you are not already standing on your board at this stage, the released power will more or less come down on top of you. That is the risk to take but also the moment of adrenaline making us come back for more every time.
Perfect and fun waves for beginners trying to practice their stands before going to the line-up
After the wave has broken, whitewash will make its way to shore. This is the part of a wave you will or have already learned to surf. It has much less power than an unbroken (green) wave, and you can stand up at any time, making it the easiest place possible to learn the technique. Waves in an already broken stage are a great way out of the water if you want the fast way in from the lineup! You can just paddle into a wave and stay in a lying position on your board! It is super fun and way faster than paddling back to the beach.
We hope this guide has helped you identify the different stages of an incoming wave.
Try and stay calm when in the water. Wait long enough before paddling when you see an incoming wave. Avoid ending up too close to shore and getting hit by the wave when it is at stage C. Remember to take a few powerful strokes and test if you are gliding with the wave before trying to take off.
In the end, nothing will beat practice. The speed and shape of each wave, as well as the way it breaks depend on the spot you are surfing and the conditions of the ocean. It will take time to learn to adjust to each of these conditions.