Lets face it, we all know that rocking up to the beach and being confronted with 1-2 foot onshore mush can really kill your surf froth, small waves are lame. However, surfing small conditions can really help you develop and improve all aspects of your surfing. So first things first, we’ve got to change our attitude. This means instead of getting back in the car and driving home dry, we need jump out and attack the water with full energy and positivity. At the end of the day, waves are waves, it could be flat. Let’s not forgot that 80% of the contests we do (especially as girls), we are challenged with small conditions, the worst tide times, and normally mid-day onshores. The main thing to remember about the small days is to stay light on your feet and to really work it. On bigger days the wave does most of the work for you, but on the smaller days, you do. Doesn’t sound fun does it, but here are some useful tips to get you ripping on smaller waves and out there surfing more days of the year.
Paddle hard and attack the take-off
You need to enter a small wave at high speed, so when you chose what wave to go for, go at it hard. Paddle fast, kick your feet, and fully commit. Also think about taking off behind the peak so you get down the line projection.
Lift your arms on takeoff to lift the weight off the board and accelerate you forwards. Turn down the line fast with a slightly further forward stance and stay on your toes. Really work using your legs, keep you weight centred over your board, and be as light as a butterfly; you’ll be speeding down the line faster than the longboarders. Remember when you go for a turn manoeuvre to shuffle that stance back again.
Manoeuvres: When. What. And where.
Floaters and cutbacks with re-bounds off the foam are good manoeuvres to maintain speed and flow. Tail slides, 360s, chop-hops, and airs are also great tricks to practise in small waves, but make sure you chose your section wisely as your more than likely to only get once chance to pull it off.
Rail to rail surfing is key for fluidity and style. My coach drills this into me on a weekly basis. Work using your legs and your back foot to skim through those flat sections, and eliminate the hopping! The other key to gliding through flat spots and connecting waves is having enough foam under your feet (Rob Machado), which leads me onto board selection.
For small waves you want to look for something that has more volume in the tail and through the middle than your standard board. A wider nose can also help increase your paddle speed, and get you into waves easier. Look for a short, fat, flat, wide design with a wide tail, and don’t be afraid to go a good few inches shorter than your standard board. Swallow tails, bat tails and diamond tails are all great designs for surfing the small conditions as they will help you release from turns more quickly and also turn on a tighter radius, which are all key elements to enhance our small wave surfing.
My normal short board is a 5’11, 18 1/4, 2 1/4, but when the conditions are small like they have been recently, I always chose my magic “Diamond Geezer” Quiver. It’s a 5’8, 18 5/8, 2 1/4 wide nose, wide tail magical creation. I love it. Whatever the conditions are like, I still froth to get out there because I know I’m always going to have a good surf on this board. I think it’s really important for the mental side of surfing to love your board , so chose something that really works for you.