We've all seen beginner surfers practicing pop-ups and other drills in the sand. Regardless of how they may look, the truth is that practicing out of the ocean is a great way to practice the mechanics of surfing before you step foot in the ocean. It's also the perfect way to still get some practice in when you can't get in the ocean because the waves are too big or blown out. Here are a few out-of-ocean strategies you can try.
Work on Your Pop-Up
The pop-up is without a doubt the hardest thing that beginner surfers have to figure out. While you won't have to work as hard to stabilize yourself on dry land, practicing your pop-up will help tone muscles, especially your upper body, and keep you limber and agile for when you're out on the ocean.
To do the drill, mimic the paddle strokes you would be doing if you were paddling out to catch a wave. To pop up, put your arms in a chicken wing position. Then do a cobra push-up while, at the same time, dragging your knees underneath you. When you land, make sure you do so with your feet below your chest and your front foot in the center of the board. When you've successfully landed, jump back down to your starting position and do it again. To see the greatest difference in your skill out on the water, practice at least 10 jumps per day, every day.
Some common mistakes that people make that you should watch out for are:
- Not pushing up with your arms and jumping up with your arms still bent.
- Landing in a wide stance.
- Landing with your feet pointed in a V shape.
Practice Lying on the Board
This may sound like it should be easy, but to do it properly, you have to be in the correct position. To find the sweet spot, lift up the board, and with one hand under it, find the point where the board balances perfectly without rocking back and forth. Next, either remove the fins or use a pillow to protect them, and then lie on the board in that sweet spot. Arch your back and raise your feet so they are off the board. Each time you practice your pop-ups, make sure you are in that exact spot.
Strengthen Your Paddling
If you have access to a swimming pool that's large enough to turn your board in, practice paddling, turning your board, and even standing up. This is a great way to practice the pop-up on the water but in an environment that's far more controlled than you'll get in the ocean.
Perfect Your Swimming Technique
Surfing is physically strenuous. The stronger you are as a swimmer, the easier it will be for you to paddle out. Regular swimming sessions can also give you the stamina to get out of strong rip currents and safely navigate large waves if the weather suddenly changes.
You should already have some basic swimming skills, and you should definitely know how to freestyle. If you don't have this swimming skill mastered, you may want to start here. After getting into the pool, spend 10 minutes swimming and becoming acclimated to the water. Rest for 10 to 20 seconds between each lap and stop before you start to feel fatigued.
After you've become acclimated, spend 30 to 40 minutes working on the freestyle stroke. Swim at a pace that's as fast as you can manage, and rest for 30 seconds between laps. When you're feeling particularly tired and ready to call it quits, push yourself harder with a series of sprints for the final 10 minutes. For this final part, take slightly longer rest after each lap without exceeding 45 seconds. This series of sprints will help you push past your normal abilities and prepare you for unexpected conditions out on the ocean.
Learn to Skateboard
For some surfing practice on dry land, consider jumping on a skateboard. A skateboard has a very similar feel to what it's like on a surfboard, and it's also a great way to practice your balance. As you become more advanced on a skateboard, you can actually start practicing some skateboard tricks, which you can eventually try out on the ocean.
Skateboarding doesn't just help to improve your balance and technique — it also strengthens many of the stabilizer muscles that you need to be a strong surfer. It's for this reason that regular skateboarding can help to increase your power and athletic ability when you're out in the water.
Watch Surf Videos
You don't always have to practice on a board or in the water to improve your skills surfing. Watching great surfers is also a great way to improve your skills, and you can pick up tricks for what works for them and what doesn't. You don't have to make it to the beach to watch surfers in person either. There are lots of videos online of pro surfers that can help you improve your own skill. For example, you can take note of how they pop up and how they modify their technique based on the type of surf.
You can even analyze their paddling technique to improve your own. Try recording your own surfing, or even paddling and practicing your pop-up in a pool, and compare your technique to that of experienced surfers.
Read Surfing Magazines and Websites
There are numerous surfing magazines, not to mention countless websites and blogs where you can get advanced tips to improve your surfing abilities. By reading these publications on a regular basis, you can quickly pick up tips and other information to help you progress more rapidly with your own surfing.
Practice laying on the board in the perfect spot and work on your pop-up until you have it mastered. Watch lots of videos with surfing pros, and consider giving skateboarding a try. You'll be amazed at how much your skills have improved the next time you're out on the water.