How can I work toward surfing bigger waves?

QUESTION: How can I work toward surfing bigger waves?

Hi Beth, I would like to be able to comfortably surf overhead to double overhead waves. I have been surfing on and off for a couple years now and sometimes feel hesitant paddling out when it’s big and hairy. Do you have any suggestions on improving one’s surfing mindset when the waves are large?

Thanks, Howard


Hey Howard,

Stoked you are coming to my clinic in March. I have been thinking a bit about your question and have a few things worth considering. Sounds like you live around the SF area and, as you know, larger waves around here are crushing compared to mellow point breaks. SO, fitness is a large part of riding bigger waves. IF you are not surfing 3-4 days/week during the winter months, I would suggest joining a gym and lifting and/or starting a swimming program. The more fit you are, the more you’re able to deal with the currents, the paddle, and the hellish shore break will seem. You also want to be strong enough to take care of yourself if you do get caught in a rip, if your leash or board breaks all the way outside, or if you get worked on the inside.

Next thing to consider before testing the waters in bigger surf is are you putting yourself or others in danger. Can you hold onto your board most of the time? Can you make most of your drops or pull out of a wave quickly so you don’t hit someone paddling out? Things to think of so you and others feel safe.

To get back to your question, for me the best way to get comfortable in bigger surf was to work my way up to it by challenging myself safely. Try to get a buddy who is a better surfer to go out with you and explain what is going on (and to keep an eye on you). I can’t emphasize enough that you need to have a positive experience when going beyond your comfort level so that you don’t scare the crap out of yourself. The next time you go and surf smaller waves, you will feel like a hero and be totally stoked that you are in mellower waves. Hopefully what will happen is that you will slowly work up to bigger waves rather than jumping in way over your head.

I look forward to meeting you at Aquaholics! Hope this helps.



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