So…you’re out there in the lineup, you see a great wave coming towards you, you do a perfect pirouetted turn, lie down on your board and paddle as hard as you can towards the beach with the excitement building inside you for the amazing wave you about to catch…but rather than get the ride of your life, you end up doing a very dramatic nose dive. After the inevitable saltwater washing machine cycle, you resurface, get back onto your board and paddle back out wondering what the hell went wrong.
You could blame the wipeout on many, many things – board positioning, paddling to hard, not paddling enough, to name but a few. But before we start to break down the diagnostics of this disaster, think. Did you look back at the wave once you had committed to paddling for it? If you didn’t, this could be the problem.
A wave can, and will, change shape and character within just a few feet of travel. A mellow, friendly looking wave can near instantly jack up into a heaving death pit or vice versa. You have to keep an eye on what the wave is doing so you can adjust your paddle speed and positioning accordingly, even if this just means you know not to go.
A well-watched wave, even if it goes wrong, will make you better at being in the correct position in the future. If nothing else, at least you will know the wave is about to crash on your head rather than it being a nasty surprise!
So remember, when you’re paddling for a wave, all the exciting stuff is happening behind you…keep an eye on it!