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This part is probably the most interesting for many surfers since the internet and its vast opinions leave one with a clouded view on the best process. In addition, public expert opinions as well as expert books on the topic are rare and incomplete or not applicable and most of us don’t have access to professional surf coaches and their knowledge (yet).
The best process is all about efficiency, i.e., getting the most out of your time. Why is this a must have and not just another ad slogan?
Because learning anything but especially surfing does take a lot of time and it can be frustrating as well. The faster you see results the more motivated you stay and the higher the likelihood of you sticking with it. In addition, your time is precious and not everyone can surf all the time. Pupils need to attend school, students need to go to university and the rest of us has a job and maybe also a family to take care of.
To start with, it is crucial that we focus on the the right things. From a top level perspective this is already given (as described before) with the focus on paddling and riding the wave completely in the case of intermediate/advanced surfers. From there depending on the assessment it becomes more specific to the individual’s surfing skills.
For example, being an intermediate/advanced surfer it won’t help you to train airs if you haven’t mastered more fundamental moves, like the bottom turn. But also there won't be progress to focus on correct paddle technique if you own that skill already.
It is all about the so-called limiting factors or in other words: What is holding you back from performing a maneuver perfectly and consequently also hindering you performing more advanced maneuvers down the line?
Once the correct focus and the limiting factors are identified it is very important to make use of the most efficient training methods, i.e. applying “PERFECT practice makes perfect” (not: practices makes perfect). You don’t want to use training methods where you will get better but very slowly. Or doing things that don’t make a difference or even worse doing things that are actually contradictory and are slowing your progress down.
Since the focus for intermediate/advanced surfers is on learning the correct technique it is important to focus on respective training methods to overcome your limiting factors.
If you ask the internet for how to get better being an intermediate/advanced surfer, you will mostly find one of the following recommendations for getting better:
Quick disclaimer: Before you read any further, please be aware that the following evaluation of tools and ways to get better will only resonate if you are all about finding the truth. It requires to be absolutely honest. It is fine to feel different. But we are looking for the truth on a fact-based level and that means we need to be honest and critical with what is out there. We are challenging the status quo and what is thought to be true.
All of these recommendations above contribute to improving your surfing. But not all of them are necessarily the most efficient way to progression nor are guidelines provided with most of these tools how to put them to good use. And that is what we want. Not wasting your precious time but getting fast and motivating results.
For example, does it make you a better surfer to use one of the many surf specific fitness trainings or Yoga options? Yes, they provide you with a work out, more strength and stretching. Does more leg strength or flexibility make you a better surfer? It depends. A better physique will help your surfing. But only if you know how to use the leg strength or flexibility, it will help you also get better and allow you to perform more radical maneuvers. If you don’t know the technique, leg strength is not the limiting factor but technique.
Of course it is important to do specific training to treat or prevent injury. But that is often different to what surf specific training claims to do for you.
Another example, are electronic gadgets like Trace and surf watches. Will they help you? No, not per se. It only shows you data. That’s all. If you don’t know how to use the data to your advantage it might even provide you with a misleading vanity metric so you may force a maximum turn angle while using the wrong technique. The limiting factor in this case is not data but technique. And who wants to be on the top of a gadget leaderboard but with awful style...
A similar case applies to surfboards and fins. The common situation is another surfer or friend saying: “If you only get these fins, you will be so much faster.” or “With this surfboard you will be so much better.”
Let’s be honest. For most surfers surfboards and fins are a fascinating craft to master, an emotional experience, a piece of art, great engineering and manufacturing. And who doesn’t like the beauty of a surfboard?
However, when it comes to becoming a better surfer, the main thing that creates a big impact is the volume. The weaker, older, heavier and less experienced you are, the more volume you need to make up for less paddle power, more weight or positioning mistakes.
In recent years board volume gains more and more importance which is good. Still, the majority of surfboard discussions from an intermediate/advanced level surfer onwards are either about discussing volumes that are most likely to low for the own ability (“this is what the pros ride who weigh as much as me”) or about tech specs like concaves, outlines and rails or manufacturing gimmicks like carbon or parabolic stringers. Of course, there are differences. And it can be fun riding different boards and will help you in some ways to get better. But: Are all these tech specs the fast track to getting better? No. Once you are on a standard surfboard with the right volume your focus should be on technique.
Or think of it that way: If you don't know how to log trees of how much use is an ax made out of carbon fiber instead of wood? Ask yourself: Would Kelly Slater rip on my board? If yes, you got your answer that should stop further board discussions in regards to getting better.
Surf Skateboards have seen a spike in interest across the surfing world. And for a good reason:
They are fun to ride and can provide great training to develop technique.
BUT Surf Skateboards are only as helpful as the quality of the instruction is. If you learn the wrong technique on a Surf Skateboard in can actually be very harmful to your progress. However, they are definitely a fast track to getting better if you follow the right instruction and guidance.
Lastly, watching surf movies to extract technique and style or maybe even better watching specific technique training videos is instantly more helpful and targeted to the specific limiting factors. However, they only show the ideal technique but not so much how you can apply it to your everyday life and what training procedures to follow through. It is definitely a good start but doesn’t live up to a guided and effective process that would be required for most of us who either don't have the time or knowledge to wrap their head around.
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