Beginners guide: Checking the Surf

May 4th, 2012 Jason

You’ll see it at every break on almost any day: the surf check. Non-surfers may be perplexed by the act, and ask, “What’s there to look at?” The more time you spend in the water the more nuanced your surf check will become. A solid surf check will set you up for a better session! Here are some tips to get you started checking the surf.

1. Before you go… There are a couple of things that can save you a lot of gas and energy, usually these things can be checked easily in your local newspaper or online.

  • Tides- check to see if the tide is pushing in or backing out. Get a rough idea of the direction of the tide, and it’s hight, by using a tide chart.

  • Swell size- Usually newspapers will report buoy size. This doesn’t translate exactly to the size of the surf due to factors like islands and points; these block swell energy. Chances are however, if the swell size is gigantic it is not the best day for a beginner to hit the surf.
  • Swell Direction- Is usually noted with an abbreviation like North West (NW) South (S) or South West (SW) depending on where the swell originated. Take notes of how this direction effects conditions at your local break. Many surfing guide publications will tell you what direction works best for a break.

Tip: Has it rained lately? Heavy rains lead to a large amount of runoff. Surfers should pay attention to this as it can have drastic effects on water quality. Poor water quality=greater chance of getting sick! If a heavy rain hits try to wait at least 48 hours before surfing, especially near creek and river mouths.

2. Arriving at your break… From the size of waves to the action of currents, pay special attention to how other surfers interact with conditions.

Hey bros, where's the party at?

  • Is the parking lot full? If this is the case the surf may be especially good. You can often “guestimate” what conditions are like without even leaving your car!
  • How tall are the waves? Surfers often refer to wave heights in terms of human sizes. A “head high wave” is about 5ft tall. A “waist-chest high wave” is 3-4ft tall and so on. See the chart above for more info. “Double” and “triple” overhead waves are 10ft and 15ft tall respectively. These are to be avoided by beginners!
  • Check for rip-tides and long-shore current action. For safety info check out this post on rip-tides. Long shore currents move parallel to a shore, they can be as strong as rivers. Can other surfers sit calmly outside the break, or are they paddling as if they were on a conveyer belt?
  • Where’s the party? Usually surfers will gather into “packs” where the best waves are breaking. However, sometimes it is best to avoid the pack if you don’t feel like competing for waves.
  • Who’s the party with? Is the pack comprised of casual long-boarders or ripping shortboarders? This can say a lot about conditions. Search for a vibe that suits you best.

If you’ve got any tips for checking the surf let us know on Facebook. Check out this Nice Rack post to learn the effects of tide-action on surf conditions! Enjoy your next trip to the beach!

Surfing Beginner’s Guide: Bottom Turn

April 27th, 2012 Jason

So you’re learning to surf and things are going well? We’re stoked for you! If you have a specific goal to reach, or if you just want to see what’s possible there are several building block maneuvers that almost every surfer uses. These are the foundations for aerials, nose-rides, power carves and everything in between. In the following posts I’ll break down the maneuvers with definitions and a few tips. For experienced surfers honing these skills will keep your surfing sharp and allow you to progress as well!

Before these tips become useful you will want to have a good grasp on take-offs, and riding the white-wash straight into shore. It is crucial that you are able to be fully standing before you reach the flat water infront of the sloping wave-face. Look for slow-rolling waves to start.

Bottom Turns

Image from

A bottom turn is a change of direction performed at the bottom/ trough of a wave (as opposed to the face or top of a wave). The function of the bottom turn is to set up for a “ride down the line.” To ride down the line means to ride a wave parallel to to the shore line (technically you’ll be moving towards the shore at an angle. Check out almost any surf video and this is what you’ll see surfers doing!

Advanced surfers will use the bottom turn as a platform for top turns or other maneuvers. This makes bottom turns one of the most important surfing skills, even for pros!

Bottom turns can be done frontside (toes to the wave) or backside (heels to the wave). Follow these steps to get started:

1. Take off with the nose of your board pointed to the beach

2. From take off, ride down the face of the wave (still pointed towards the beach)

3. Point your leading hand towards the unbroken face of the wave. Let your upper body follow the line of your hand and arm.

4. As your upper body opens to the direction you’d like to go, simultaneously weigh your toes(frontside) or heels (backside)

5. As your board and body move up towards the face of the wave unweight your turn and set a path down the line of the wave

Bottom-Turn Tips:

-Steps 1-5 happen in a very short succession. Imagine linking them into one fluid movement and you’ll become one with the wave (or something like that).

-Don’t jam into turns. As you learn to weigh your toes or heels into a turn proceed gently. It doesn’t take a whole-lotta force to turn a surfboard. There will come a time to throw your weight when you become a full fledged power surfer.

-If you find that your body is moving and your surfboard is staying-put (this always ends with a splash) remember to keep your body centered over your board. It’s easy to get excited and leave your board behind.

Remember the bottom turn is the first thing you’ll be doing once you take off. It sets up the entire ride!

In the next beginner’s guide we will tackle top-turns and more.

If you’ve got any tips or great examples of bottom turns let us know on Facebook!

How to Hang | Intermediate Longboard Skills

April 13th, 2012 Jason

I recently came across this video of Joel Tudor explaining to Robert “Wingnut” Weaver his approach to Nose-Riding, Cross-Stepping and Drop-Knee Turns. I decided to break down some of the skills discussed in the vid for those who aren’t familiar with them. You’ll also find some of Tudor’s talking points! Like the narrator Robert “WIngnut” Weaver (a legend in his own right) mentions, Joel Tudor makes the art of long boarding look easy. Who better glean a few tips from?

  • If you consider yourself to be of an “intermediate” level of longboard surfing chances are these are some maneuvers you’re working on. If you consider yourself to be an “advanced” long boarder then take some tips from a pro!

Kassia Meador

Kassia Meador cross-step guru.

What is cross stepping? Trim is the optimal state of glide on a board, usually this means the board is perfectly flat on the wave and moving it’s fastest. If you’ve learned to trim a longboard then you know that it requires some footwork. Shuffle-stepping is a very functional way to get around, but lets face it, it doesn’t look so hot. Cross stepping is the smoothest way to move around  a board. Cross stepping can put you in position to turn, set your board in trim, or allow you to hang.

  • Joel’s Tip: The speed of your step should reflect the speed of the wave. If its a short beach break wave you’re riding, you will get the most out of your ride by making quicker larger steps. If you’re cruising a point-break or slow reef you have time to make smaller calculated steps.

Joel Tudor Noseriding

What is Nose Riding? Ever heard “hang ten” or “hang five” ? Sure you have! Hanging is a fun trick that involves cross-stepping to the front of your board and placing the toes of one or both feet over the nose. Skilled nose-riders can maintain their perch for a short time and then retrace their steps back to continue maneuvering the board. Intermediate riders should focus on learning when to nose ride and how place their board in the pocket of the wave so they don’t nose-dive!

  • Joel’s Tip: When hanging five-frontside both feet will be on the toe-side of your your board. The opposite is true hanging backside. On the nose move your back foot forward as a wave slows, and move it back as the wave speeds up. This will help you get a longer and more controlled nose ride!

Robert Wingnut Weaver -Acrylic on Wood by Hannah Vokey

Check out this awesome painting of Wingnut doing a drop-knee turn. Click on the image to see the artist’s homepage.

Drop-Knee Turns are a turn which can be done as a bottom turn or as a cutback. They involve extending your back foot and turning your back knee downward to apply pressure to the inside rail. The wider stance of this turn requires both knees to be bent more than usual.

  • Joel’s Tip: When turning position your back foot over the top of the fin-box at the front edge of the fin.

Who’s your favorite longboard style maestro?

Are headstands the ultimate performance maneuver?

Send us a picture of your favorite long-boarding move on Facebook!

Did you know that Nice Rack Heavy Duty Surfboard Racks are the best for storing your longboard on your wall or ceiling?

Wetsuits: Nice Rack Beginner’s Guide

April 4th, 2012 Jason

How does one put on a wetsuit? It might seem like a silly question if you’ve never tried. In reality putting on a wetsuit falls somewhere in between deciphering the Da Vinci code and astrophysics. I would hazard to guess that 100% of surfers have had a traumatizing wetsuit experience(TME) like falling over while entering/exiting or putting one on backwards.

Here are some tips to prevent TMEs to help beginners get in (and out) of their first wetsuit. Old dogs might learn a trick too.

Buying a wetsuit
“Tight is right,” suits loosen up a smidgen when wet. Don’t go too big or the suit will just fill with cold water like a torturous water balloon.

Go to a reputable surf shop and have a pro help you with sizing, ask what thickness of suits are normal to wear in your area. Shop around to get a feel for prices and advices before you buy. Remember that if the surf is pumping and the weather is freezing you’re going to want to stay out for a long time. Personally I’m willing to sacrifice some flexibility for warmth.

  • TIP #1 most surfers don’t wear anything under their suits. that doesn’t mean you should try wetsuits on this way. Wait until you own the thing.

Getting Into a Wetsuit

Newer, more flexible wetsuits have made getting in and out a-lot easier. Unfortunately top of the line wetsuits will cost top dollar, leaving most of us with less user friendly models. Be patient and practice at home if you don’t want to waste time exposed to the cold.

Try not to pull on weak parts of the suit; this might rip the neoprene. Getting in one foot at a time will save you grief, as will getting one arm in at a time!

  • Tip # 2 My cousin always leaves his socks on when he’s changing. For a while I thought he was just forgetful, but then I realized this was a calculated move. The socks make it easy for your feet to slide into the suit, you won’t have to hop around the parking lot half-naked trying to get your feet through the legs. Some people use plastic bags in place of socks for this technique, just be sure to take off the bags (or socks) before you head to the water.

Consider buying or making a changing mat! wetsuits are expensive! If you use a changing matt it will extend the life of your investment. A good mat will keep you from dragging your suit though the gravel, sand and dirt that you will usually be changing in. This will save you time rinsing your suit too.

  • Tip #4 WET WETSUITS WILL NEVER EVER BE FUN TO PUT ON, but it’s always worth it. (ok maybe not but give me credit for trying to inspire you)
  • Tip #5 Changing when you’re numb: Be pro-active when it is cold, pack a jug of hot water wrapped in a blanket to rinse with after your session. -OR- Take a leap of faith and sneak into the nearest hotel hot tub*…

*Nice Rack does not condone trespassing into hotel pools or hot-tubs…

Got any wetsuit tips or tricks? Have you ever filled a wetsuit up with a hose to become a human water balloon? Let us know on Facebook!