Although the topic is already largely covered, from Lanzasurf we thought we would give you our own little insight – there is much more to getting to the line-up than pulling a perfect duck dive!
First things first: remember that the objective is to get to the line-up spending as little energy as possible, so you can use it on riding waves once you are out there. There is little point in making it to the line-up exhausted, with your arms feeling like jam and no energy left to drop-in and stand up on your board once you finally catch a wave!
So here are the main rules you want to follow in order to get to the line-up with minimal effort and make the most of your surf session:
1. First of all: stop and think before rushing into the water.
Assess the conditions: what’s the size of the biggest waves in the set, and where are they breaking? Is the peak easily accessible, or are you in for a 20-minute paddle out to sea? How many people are in the water, and what’s their level – if you see Kelly coming in with a broken board, then that’s probably a fair indication that it might be a little too much for you… Where are the rip currents and how strong do they look? Are waves closing out or opening? Left or right? How many waves come in a set, and what’s the time lapse between two sets? Ask yourself if you can handle the conditions and if you brought the right board.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding not to get into the water if you’re not sure you can make it back in one piece!
2. You’ve decided you are going in.
Ask yourself where you will enter the water, considering the spot’s hazards and specificities: rocks, pier, rip currents… Is there a channel where the sea is deeper and the waves don’t break as much or as hard (this happens mostly on reef breaks but if you’re lucky you can find them on beach breaks too, although you may not be able to spot them as easily)? Where is the impact zone and how will you get around it without getting in the way of other surfers?
Think of a plan A and B for getting back to the shore at the end of your session or if your leash breaks. Observe where other surfers are getting in and out, and don’t hesitate to ask them what the best way is to get to the line-up. Which techniques are you going to use to pass whitewater / small / medium / big waves? Take at least 2 fixed reference points to make sure you know exactly where you are at any time.
If you are on a beach break – save energy by walking as far as you can! Hold your board by the nose or the rails, always on your side and never in front of you to prevent it from bouncing back on you.
Jump over the whitewater and waves for as long as you can, then dive under them pushing your board’s nose down with your forearm and elbow. This is way less tiring than any other technique to get to the line-up. Make sure you get into the water where the rip is: waves usually don’t break as much or as hard in the current, and the pull of the rip will help you once you start paddling.
4. Use the rips and choose the right timing
Once you can’t walk any further, it’s time to start paddling, but there’s no point in exhausting yourself paddling like a madman/woman through a set! Instead, wait until the last wave of the set has passed, then use the pull of the rip created by the volume of water flowing back out to sea. You will save lots of energy and get to the line-up much faster by getting around the impact zone.
Remember to breathe, relax, and paddle calmly, only speeding up to make it past a wave before it breaks and save yourself a turtle-roll or duck-dive. It is very bad etiquette, as well as very dangerous, to cross another surfer’s path going down the wave, so if faced with this situation, paddle towards the part of the wave that has already broken even though it means more effort for you!
5. Getting through the waves
Only in very rare occasions will you be able to make it to the line-up with your hair dry, and the most likely is that even if you walk as far as you can and use the rips, at some point a wave will break on you… but don’t see it as a pain in the neck! Instead, enjoy the challenge, and remind yourself of how lucky you are to be in the ocean while others are at work or in the metro: surfing is not only about riding down a wave, it’s also, and mostly, about connecting with the water.
To pass small whitewater, start paddling a little harder a few meters before it hits you, then just before the water hits the nose of your board, push yourself up while pushing the board’s nose down slightly so that the water passes between you and the board. Start paddling again straight afterwards so as to regain momentum straight away and not stay stuck in the turbulences.
There are two main techniques to push yourself and your board through a breaking or broken wave: the turtle-roll, and the duck-dive, both of which we will explain in detail in another post to come shortly.
The duck dive is usually the more efficient of both, but if you are riding a board with a lot of buoyancy (longboard or fairly wide/thick surfboard) you will struggle to sink it deep enough, so you are better off using the turtle-roll technique. In any case, always approach the breaking wave at a 90° angle, and try to gain as much momentum as possible before the wave hits you. Timing is key: no matter what technique you are using, if you are right under the lip when the wave breaks, you will most likely be in for at best a good shake, at worst a methodical washing machine – so speed up or delay your paddling to either pass the face of the wave before it breaks, or once it has broken into whitewater already. No panic: if everything else fails, there is still a last resort option – drop your board sideways and dive as deep as you can, as if trying to reach the bottom; then when you feel the wave pulling on your leash, pull your leg back, grab your board, get back onto it and start paddling again. DO NOT EVER do this before making sure there is no other surfer/swimmer near you.
6. Always use common sense putting your security and that of other surfers first.
Don’t rush, and try to match your pace with that of the sea: if it is playing reggae, don’t try to dance rock! Keep calm – if you are struggling in the impact zone, catch the whitewater, go back to shore, and start all over again. Don’t fight with the sea – you will lose for sure!
7. In the line-up
You have made it to the line-up, congratulations! Before getting carried away by the excitement, remember to greet other surfers, this might save you a lot of hassle, and will possibly enable you to make new friends!