Fit To Surf?

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact, that I am, by no means, an athlete. However, I am fortunate enough to be able to surf everyday, which keeps me in OK surf shape. I can paddle for hours and catch most of the waves I want, in any conditions. Ask me to run to the store and back it becomes a very different story; I will return a breathless, tired, sweaty mess. So, clearly I would not be the first pick to represent my country in a half marathon that’s for sure, but if they needed someone to paddle through white-water for 4 hours I think I would be a strong candidate.

This is an example of sport specific fitness.

To perform to your maximum potential in any sport, athletes have to put in hours/weeks/years of training to become better, faster, stronger than their competition. This is also true in modern competitive surfing. Nearly all the guys currently on the world tour have personal trainers. Consequently the level of surfing is truly amazing.

Now, I am not writing this telling everyone to get down to the gym and do 300 sit ups a day because, to the recreational surfer, this won’t apply (although it may be a good idea…myself included). I am writing this as a reminder to get fit before a surf trip so that you can surf longer and catch more waves. Which I think will guarantee you a better and more memorable surf trip. In my experience of surf coaching and guiding over the last 15 years it’s usually someone’s surf fitness that lets them down.

Did your last 7 day surf trip go like this?

Day 1

Super amped to surf, but it was harder to paddle than you remembered so you missed a few good waves. But you’re stoked…you surfed somewhere new.

Day 2

Paddling is feeling better, its but you’re still not able to catch as many waves as you want. Feeling a bit tired on the second surf.

Day 3

Usually the best day, your paddling feels good, your catching the waves you want….life is good.

Day 4

Another good day, shoulders are feeling it, but you are still getting great waves…maybe you decide on skipping the last surf and have a massage. Note: This is also the day that all the rashes and sunburn kick in.

Day 5

Tired, starting to miss a lot of waves, getting a little frustrated. Guys will usually have back or neck problems.

Day 6

Deep down you are getting tired now, you’re putting on a brave face in front of your mates, but surfing feels like work.

Day 7

When will the paddling stop? Hopefully a few token waves to finish the trip.

Sound like you?

There’s a simple fix, which you all know already, you just forget to do it….

If you are lucky enough to live by a beach – surf, surf a lot, even if it sucks (no excuses) Make some good food choices. Remember to stretch. Get down to the pool and get some laps in. You will need a minimum of a 2 week lead-in for a week long surf trip.

If you’re landlocked it’s harder, but you just need to hit the pool…a lot! Alternate distance swimming and sprints. This is the closest you can get to re-creating going surfing. Stretch, eat the right food, get amped watching surf videos, go skateboarding. Do everything you can to get prepped for your trip. Again, you need a 2 week lead in minimum.

When people sign up to run a marathon, they train, because they want to get to the finish line. And when we book a surf trip we all daydream about the epic waves were going to ride. And if you get fit before your next trip, you’re far more likely to be the one catching and riding the best waves rather than floundering on the inside with tired arms.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Look Where You Want To Go

“Look where you want to go and you’ll go there”.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  However, one of the most common surfing mistakes is not looking where you want to go on a wave.  This is especially important when taking off on faster waves.

If you’re finding that you often get left behind in the whitewash as each wave peels perfectly ahead of you, it is usually caused by two things…

1 > Looking at the bottom/trough of the wave as you paddle into the wave.

2 > Looking down at the board when you pop up.

If you look straight down towards the bottom of a wave (or even worse, at the board) when you first catch a wave, you will naturally go where you are looking. Which, in this case, is straight to the bottom of the wave where, if you then look across the wave, you’ll have the unfortunate view of watching the wave peel away without you as you flap around in the whitewash.

Does this sound like you?  Luckily, this is an easy fix.

If you want to go across the wave (down the line) in faster surf you have to make sure look where you want to go.   When you feel you’re about to catch the wave, look roughly 15ft or so down the line (across the wave) and high on the face – this is exactly where you want to go to make the first section and get some speed.   Then with your eyes still focused on your target spot, pop up as normal keep the high line and enjoy the ride.

Coaching Tip : If you’re finding it hard to not look at your board as you take off try practicing your pop ups alternating focusing your vision to your left and right on land (using the corners of a room works well) to get your body used to the new movement.  Often when people practice pop ups on land they are so preoccupied thinking about foot placement they constantly look down… a good habit to get out of as early as possible!

If you manage to consistently take off on waves looking where you want to go, you will automatically stay higher on the wave face right from the start which in turn will give you more speed and help you ride faster waves successfully!

If you feel like you are managing to look down the line on take off but you are still only going straight, you probably have a foot placement or weighting issue….more of that later.






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


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.



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.


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?


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.


Looks perfect…bites



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

What Lies Beneath


When heard for the first time, this statement always gets the same reaction from any beginner/intermediate surfer. Their usually happy-go-lucky, up-for-anything, calm faces flash a look of sheer panic when the word “reef” is mentioned.


What is a reef break?

A reef break is a wave that breaks over anything that is not sand. It can be coral, boulders, bedrock, shipwrecks or even artificially created reefs using sand bags.  Some reefs can be jagged and nasty while others can be flat and covered with moss.

“Is it safe?”

The simple answer, very often, is “Yes”.  Reefs get a bad press because there are many perceived dangers associated with reefs that, in some cases, can be fully justified.  Waves like Pipe in Hawaii and Teahupoo in Tahiti are incredibly powerful breaks with shallow, sharp reefs underneath them and are extremely dangerous (not an ideal place for your first lesson!).  However, for every super heavy reef break there will be a mellow, cruisy reef around the corner that will have perfect waves, even for complete beginners.  Calm reef breaks have many advantages and, as long as you are aware of the potential dangers, surfing a reef can be very safe and, in most cases, easier than a beach break.

“Will I hit the bottom?”

Sure, you might, but when was the last time you hit the bottom at a beach break?  If you are surfing “out the back” there should be very few times you have actually hit the bottom hard.  If you are hitting the bottom often when surfing, it might be time to reconsider your whole technique – aiming for the bottom is not exactly the goal when surfing!

When surfing a reef, there are a few wipeout techniques needed that you might not have considered when surfing a soft, sandy beach break. Obviously, diving head first into the water is not going to end well (and, really, you shouldn’t do this at a beach break either!). When wiping out, fall backwards (off the back of the board) and onto your back so you don’t penetrate the water, covering your face and head with your hands.

You’re also likely to hit the bottom if you ride the wave straight and into the shallow part of the reef. The goal will be to trim across the wave into a nice, deep channel or to pull off the wave before it gets too shallow. When riding a reef, you never want to “ride the wave all the way to the beach” like you do when surfing whitewater at beach breaks because the “beach” will be shallow and often sharp, rock or coral. Bad for your board and fins…and bad for your poor little toes! You should not have to put your feet down very often on a reef (it’s not good for the coral or marine-life anyway), but if you do, you’ll find that wearing reef booties will save your feet from any nicks and scrapes from the bottom.

So, as long as you don’t paddle yourself out at Pipe on an NSP during your second surf session, there is every chance you will survive surfing a reef break.

See, there’s nothing to worry about! And the advantages to surfing a reef break greatly outnumber any of your concerns.


Reefs have a fixed peak.

The real advantage to a reef is that the bottom is fixed.  This means that the wave will always peak up in a similar place, unlike a beach break where the sand is constantly moving. A fixed bottom reef makes it much easier to be in the right place when the waves roll in.

"Swimming Pools" Fiji

Reefs have a fixed direction.

At a good quality reef you will either be spending your session going left or trimming right. It will always peel in the same direction, at the same spot. This takes out a lot of the variables and can help you progress quickly, unlike a beach break where the waves break at different spots and will peel in all directions.

Reefs have channels.

This is the real beauty of surfing a reef.  Channels are areas of deep water next to a reef where, no matter how big the waves are on the reef, the water is always calm.  This means no more fighting your way out the back through mountains of whitewater after each wave! Hallelujah!  At a good reef break you will be able to paddle around the waves (in the channel) to get yourself back into position. Sweet! Having a channel also gives you a place to relax in safety in between sets if it all becomes a bit overwhelming.

Reefs are predictable.

One of the most over quoted lines in surfing is “no two waves are ever the same”.  This is true,  but you can get waves that are pretty damn close to the same on a perfect reef break!  With the waves breaking at the same spot (more or less), you’re going to catch more waves. You won’t have to “hunt your waves down” like you do at a beach break. If you can catch a lot of similar waves in a session, then it’s easier to experiment and try new techniques which will increase your rate of improvement. Sounds good to me!

You can surf from a boat.

Sick of paddling, duck dives and turtle rolls? Get dropped off at the peak, surf your brains out on predictable, quality waves, and then paddle back to the boat without having to do the “reef dance” (balancing, leaping, falling while climbing over dry reef to the shore).  And nothing is better than a cool beverage on deck after a few short paddle strokes.

A large percentage of the best breaks in the world are over reef, so don’t let such a little word scare you. Next time you hear the word “reef” get excited, not scared! Just make sure you surf reef breaks that are suitable for your level.

Here is a quick list of super mellow reef breaks that are suitable for all levels (even complete 1st timers).  Don’t let the fear of surfing over a reef put you off.

Swimming Pools, Fiji
Tortugas, Costa Rica (Close to our base in Nosara!)
Farms, Secret Atoll, Maldives
Wakiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Shark Bay, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Medewi, Bali, Indonesia
Nonyas, South Male Atoll, Maldives
Boneyards, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Inside Puena Point, Oahu, Hawaii

Cruising at "Nonya's" AKA "Bushi Corner" in the Maldives


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