Travel

How To Become A Better Surfer Without Surfing

                                                                          Photo: Surfing Nosara, Surfer: Joe Szymanski

A few times over the the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Joe Szymanski.  Although Joe spends the majority of the year landlocked and usually only takes one surf trip per year, he’s always stoked on surfing.  In the following blog, Joe shares some of his advice on how to make the most of limited time in the surf if you don’t have access to the ocean. 

How To Become A Better Surfer Without Surfing

Written by Joe H Szymanski

Yes, it sounds kind of funny, but I think I became a better surfer this year without surfing.  I’m one of those late-comers who got exposed and hooked on the sport (and broader lifestyle); but unfortunately, like many of us, I don’t have access to any nearby surfable waves — we feel lucky just to get out there and surf once or twice a year.  On reflecting back on a recent trip, here are some thoughts from one aging surfer on how I improved while out of the ocean.

Get in shape!

It’s stating the obvious, but surfing is a physically demanding activity.  General fitness and aerobic capacity are important to paddling strength, comfort on the board, holding your breath during a long hold-down, endurance needed to get back out through those extended close-outs, etc.  This part of a program can be totally unrelated to surfing (e.g. cycling, running, team sports, etc.), but it’s a good idea to complement it with exercise & activities that will be good cross-training for paddling. Short of some new paddling-specific training machines, the best overall choice is probably swimming.  A healthy dose of balance training & core strengthening will really help too.  (I prefer to use a homemade Indo Board, but there are lots of options available these days.)  While you may not have access to the surf, almost all of us can get to some recreational waterway (lakes, rivers, estuaries, etc.) where you can get out on a Standup Paddleboard (SUP) – a great “nose-to-toes” workout that helps with balance, board handling, and core & paddling strength.  And don’t forget to stretch and improve your flexibility.  This can go a long way to avoiding those annoying minor strains & muscle pulls that might make you think about skipping a session when you otherwise would have surfed.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot one of the most important things – practice your pop-ups!   A fast, clean pop-up is critical to starting a good ride, so do lots of reps on the floor to get conditioned, and help to commit the proper maneuver to “muscle-memory” so that it’s automatic out there in the line-up.  Try to do this exercise throughout the entire year (not just a week before your surf trip!).  Coaches Tip.

Read and watch

(Books and videos, that is).  In addition to the glossy surf mags, there are volumes of books, on-line blogs & forums, etc. providing a wealth of information on surfing-related topics.  For example, try to learn something about surfboard construction, rail shapes, or fin design.  While reference books & firsthand accounts are most helpful, you can find some entertaining surf fiction out there too.  The next time you’re watching a video or competition, try to ignore the bikinis, and focus on paying attention to technique, wave shape, board selection, etc.  If you get to the ocean, but can’t surf, you can still watch the waves & conditions to learn (how fast are they? where are the peaks? what’s the wind doing? are there any rips?).  In or out of the water, it’s always a good exercise to “mentally surf” the waves around you.

Keep a log / take notes.

A surfing journal can be as informal or organized as you like, but it’s a great way to “debrief” after a session or trip to collect your thoughts. Think through how conditions changed, why you missed waves, why you caught waves, what better surfers in the line-up were doing, etc.  Come up with a few key points to focus on for your next session.  Your notes can become a valuable reference in the future, but it’s also a fun way to relive that near-perfect Dawn Patrol session (or maybe that epic hold-down) and stay stoked.

Get involved off the water.

Whether it’s your local surf club, an international organization like Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, etc. getting involved can help you stay connected with surfing during the off-season or your time away from the ocean.  These groups can also be great resources for broadening your circle of friends and expanding your surfing options.

Prepare for your trip.

Check the surf forecast and start getting mentally prepared.  Review what you want to focus on in the water and set some goals for yourself.  If you are taking any of your own gear (vs. renting), give it a quick inspection and make sure it’s good-to-go (when they only get used a few times a year, things have a way of dry-rotting & falling apart!).  Make sure you take the right gear & clothing to be comfortable in the anticipated conditions (water & air temperatures, sun protection, magic salves for board rash, etc.).

When you do get a chance to surf, take lessons!  Near most established breaks, you can always line up a certified instructor or coach who is suitable for your abilities. In hindsight, I realize how much valuable time I spent “flailing” on my own out in the water before taking my first lesson.  A little expert coaching is a great way to help identify your weaknesses & bad habits, reinforce your strengths, and get you “to the next level.”

For certain, there’s no substitute for getting out there and surfing, so do it every chance you get!  If you haven’t surfed in a year, you’ll need a few “dust off” sessions, but some of these tips will help you quickly pick up where you left off, maximize your time in the water, and charge forward.  None of these ideas are new or revolutionary, but hopefully you may find that a few of them will help you “up your game” as they did for me.  Have fun, be safe, be kind to your fellow surfers, show a healthy respect for the ocean, and go surf (when you can, that is…)!!!

Written by Joe H Szymanski

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Backhand

Working as a surf guide can be funny sometimes. You find perfect surf and half the people are happy and the other half…not so much. It seems most people are so much happier surfing on their forehand (facing the wave) and not on their backhand (back to the wave). You take a goofy footer to a perfect right and they have fun, but are begging to go to a left the next time they surf and vice versa.

Granted, surfing on your backhand and forehand are almost like two different sports due to the shape of your body and the direction your knees bend. However I think this difference is one of the real joys of surfing and not something to have a preference on. I love the feeling of doing big gouges on my forehand as much as I enjoy a solid BH bottom turn to reo combo; both offer different sensations and challenges, but are equally enjoyable. You’re limiting yourself as a surfer if you insist on surfing in only one direction. So, what is holding you back from surfing your backhand?

Taj Burrow at Chopes, Notice the shoulders are parallel with the rails rather than pointing nose to tail. Photo by Kristen Prisk

The most common reason people find surfing on their backhand difficult is due to how they hold their leading arm/shoulder. You’ll see this quite often in the surf, someone straining to look over their shoulder at the wave, sticking their butt out to counterbalance their arms which are both pointing towards the beach…this could be you. Luckily this is a very easy fix as it just takes a small adjustment to your stance. Think about the stance surfers use for backhand barrels, very low to the board with the shoulders parallel with the rails of the board, left arm to the left and right arm to the right.

Having open shoulders makes it far easier to view the wave and put weight either on the inside or outside rail. Next time you surf try to catch a few waves on your backhand and think about opening up your shoulder and position your leading arm on the same side as the wave face rather than the opposite side with your trailing arm…surfing on your backhand should have just got a whole lot easier! If you are serious about utilizing your backhand some professional coaching can speed up the learning curve.

I’m natural footed, I love right-handers and I have been lucky enough to have surfed amazing waves on my forehand like Anchor Point, Kirra, Coxos, Lobos, Sultans, Shipwrecks and so on. But for all the world-class rights there is a whole plethora of amazing lefts that you could miss out on like Pipe, Uluwatu, Honkys, Frigates, Desert Point etc. and there’s no way I’d be standing on the beach just because I’d have to surf my backhand!

Don’t limit yourself to going in one direction (think Zoolander), get out there and challenge yourself, go surf on your backhand, open the leading shoulder, get good at it and the next time a perfect wave comes through and it’s on your backhand you will be excited rather than disappointed.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

…I’m On A Boat

Soon it will be time to go back to Waterworld.

In Nosara, Costa Rica where Pureline Surf is based, we are lucky enough to have a very long surf season that stretches from November right through to August.  But sadly, September and October are a bit of a write off.  The swell is still there, but endless days of rain and onshore winds make it pretty unappealing. And there’s also the little problem of flooded rivers, muddy roads, and lack of supplies to our little coastal town. By all accounts it is not somewhere you want to be unless you are a duck!  So rather than sit around in the rain and moan, we are headed back to the Maldives in mid-August for more tropical sunshine (just can’t get enough of it!) and some great reef break waves.

This will be my third season in the Maldives and I truly love the place.  It is the most picture postcard perfect place I have ever been!  With crystal clear water, beautiful marine life and palm fringed islands, what’s not to like?  When you factor in uncrowded (or usually completely empty!) world-class waves it’s an easy choice when looking for an escape from the rain!

We work with a fantastic company out there called Tropicsurf, which is hands down the best surf travel company I have ever worked with (trust me I have done the rounds). The brain child of Ross Phillips, a fantastic surfer, coach and surf pioneer, Tropicsurf  provides luxury surf adventures for all ages and abilities in a style that cannot be matched. They are industry leaders in coaching and luxury travel and run trips in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Morocco, Fiji and more!

Three years ago, I took my maiden voyage in the Maldives on the Four Seasons Explorer (a 150ft luxury catamaran) as a Tropicsurf surf guide and it’s an experience I will never forget. Pairing the best guides and coaches in the world with a luxury catamaran in the most exotic place on earth is match made in heaven. The thing that has always impressed me most about Tropicsurf is their insatiable drive to get quality waves whatever it takes.  Twelve-hour overnight trips and chartering seaplanes is pretty standard with these guys. And all the while their guests are blissfully enjoying their fresh sashimi and lobster while sitting in the hot tub! Truly living the dream.

Tropicsurf is also stationed on land at two luxury resorts in the Maldives, The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Anantara Resort and Spa, I’m happy to say that I’ve had the pleasure of managing both of them. This year we will return (for the third time) to our favorite spot in the South Male Atoll, Anantara Resort and Spa. This fantastic 5 (and 6) star resort is spread across 5 small islands and just happens to be right next to some of the best surf in the Maldives that is suitable for all levels (even beginners). With a beautiful 50 foot surf boat at our disposal, we will be taking our lucky guests to the best surf in the south for a truly unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime-experience.

And after a few months in the Maldives, we will be back in Costa Rica in November to take advantage of the dry season and the amazing waves here.  Consider yourselves updated.

Only guy in there!

 South Male Atoll Surf Spots

 Nonya’s

A super fun right had reef break that is fun for all levels, Nonyas has two very distinct sections, a super mellow outside sections suitable for beginners that can link up with a super long rippable wall on the inside with the occasional tube.  A longboarders dream wave, but still fun on a chunky shortboard.

video

 Jacks

A bit of a secret spot off the corner of one of the islands, a short, shallow tubing left that is super fun once you get over the “shallow and sharp” part.

 Henry Reef

A fickle left across the channel from the resort, it has a long playful wall that accelerates as it goes down the line.

 Twin Peaks

Picks up the most swell in the South Male Atoll, a bit of a funky wave but always surfable.  Offers fun rights that grow in size along the reef.

 Boatyards

Named boatyards as it’s across the channel from a local boatyard (clever hey), but over the last few years the reef has shipwrecked a fair few vessels that got to close.  This is probably one of the best lefts in the Maldives, on it’s day it’s a world class left that drains down the reef for a really long way.

 Kandooma Right

I think this is the best wave in the Maldives, when it is on it’s full stand up barrel perfection….need I say more?

 Riptides

So ripable, it should be called skateparks,  when small it’s great for all levels, when it’s big…it just gets better!  There is a very defined channel so you can get out of harms way easily here at any size.  If you are lucky there could be some large Mantas feeding in the channel while you surf.  Great spot for a surf & snorkel trip.

Hospitals

Looks perfect…bites

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,