Riding Steep Surfing Waves


When I teach Surf Lessons in Oceanside, beginners start with riding foam waves. But I explain that the technique we learn is expert and would be the same technique to ride big waves. In my Oceanside surf lessons, I paddle out with intermediate students to ride steeper waves.

Dropping down the steep face of a wave is one of the most thrilling parts of surfing. It is the part every surfer talks about when he says the waves are really big today. He is talking about making that first drop.

When you see a surfer on video riding the giant waves, the most dangerous or trickiest part is dropping down the face and surviving to get into the pocket. Once you are down the face of a wave, the rest is relatively easier.

There are three real secrets. You have to be willing to paddle in front of the wave. You can’t paddle over the top as many intermediates are doing on local breaks. The wave comes up behind you and then you have to give it a few fast strokes once the wave has you to be sure you are down the face. You then have to pop up with a low center of gravity to stay on the board during the speed of the drop.

The steeper the wave, the more you are forced to drop down the face before you can make a bottom turn or carve into the pocket. Surfers on bigger waves start using bigger boards, but the pros have used their 5’9″s on Pipeline so it can be done.

If the wave is not too steep and fast, a surfer would like to get an angle at the top of the wave so that he is in the pocket quicker and away from the falling lip. The big reef waves are not close outs like we experience in Oceanside so the surfer is looking for a long ride down the pocket or a barrel. With Oceanside close outs, the whole wave only stays up a few seconds.

If you can’t get an angle at the top of the wave, you hope when you hit the bottom you can carve and outrun the lip to the pocket. On the steep closeout waves, they often collapse on you before you get very far unless you started near the corner.

Sometimes a surfer will grab a rail to help hold the rail in the wave and improve speed and stability as he out races the lip to get into the pocket. Grab your courage and your board and go for a spin.

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