Successful wave-riding is very much about being in the right place at the right time. Sure, you might get lucky and have a wave come directly to you, but most of the time its important to be on the move, finding the sweet spot. The ability to read and understand the Ocean is vital. How to acquire said understanding? Time and experience. Time in the impact zone, time taking sets on the head and getting pitched and going over the falls and feeling the Ocean’s energy.
Every wave has a sweet spot. A goldilocks zone, where you’re neither too deep nor too wide. A spot that will allow for maximum control and supreme pleasure. Watch Matty Larson at Big Wedge or Mark Cunningham at Pipeline or Mike Stewart in the Ocean…wave after wave, they are swimming themselves to the perfect spot and taking off with minimal effort. They don’t fight their way into waves, they glide.
Waveriding is hard. Innumerable variables rapidly converge in often unpredictable ways. People learning to surf are frequently frustrated by the dynamic nature of breaking waves. Paddling hard for a bump that isn’t going to break only to be cleaned up by a set out the back. We promote beginner and intermediate surfers taking swim fins into the impact zone to better understand the forces working to shoal and break a wave.
As bodysurfers, our position and perspective submerged in the water allows us to feel the Ocean with a high-level of proficiency. Our view of the horizon is hampered by 2-3ft. compared to people sitting on a board but we can make up for that with hyper-awareness. We can pay attention to the surfers in the pack: are they scrambling for the horizon or shifting for a swinging peak? We navigate very crowded lineups and most of the time we ride many more waves than the board-surfers.
We feel the tide flooding: getting deeper and pushing waves inside. We feel the tide ebbing: getting shallower and ledging off the sand. We sense the wind switching. We’re aware of how many waves are in a set and how frequent the sets arrive. We can see that a set is funneling onto the peak down the beach. We sprint swim to the spot, glide into the pocket and breathlessly enjoy the ride.
Backdooring sections, taking the high-line, dropping in then snapping into the curl. We know whether to be deeper for extra speed or wider on a bending a shoulder. A bodysurfer can be capable of every possible trick, but without first knowing where to take off, the tricks are meaningless. With heightened senses and vigilant awareness we maximize our chances of finding THE spot on each wave. We increase our time gliding in the pocket and most importantly our time in the barrel.