Archive for the ‘Beginners Guide to Surfing’ Category

Beginners guide: Checking the Surf

Friday, May 4th, 2012

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

Friday, April 27th, 2012

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

Friday, April 13th, 2012

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?

Nice Rack Guide to Duck-diving

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Nice Rack Beginner's Guide to Surfing

In this edition of the Nice Rack Beginner’s Guide to Surfing I hope to explain what duck-diving is for those who are not familiar with surfing and give those who do not know how to duck-dive some how-to advice. For those who can already duck-dive, I’d like to share some tips to get the most out of your dive.

First things first, the term itself: duck-diving, means to do as a do as a duck and submerse oneself. If you spend some time observing actual ducks or seabirds you will notice that every so often they will disappear under the water’s surface, they do this to look for food. Sometimes sea birds will pop back up with a wiggling fish in their mouth. (Note to beginners: avoid this.)

The function of duck-diving is to push past the walls of incoming waves. By submersing the entire surfboard and one’s body the surge of water created by a breaking wave can be avoided. It is often the case that surfers use duck-dives to escape the brute force of a wave, especially when waves are larger. While duck-diving is the go-to maneuver for most surfers and is easily the safest and most efficient way to get to the outside of a break.

The turtle roll-technique involves rolling upside-down while still holding the board. This technique blocks the impact of the wave, but it causes the surfer to lose any moment they had paddling out, which is one reason duck-dives are a valuable skill. Duck-diving will slow you down some, but usually this technique will afford you time to paddle and prepare to catch or avoid the next wave in the set.

Now to the good stuff: how to duck dive. As with most techniques in surfing, there are many personal variations; the following are meant to get new duck-divers started.

  1. Paddle towards a wave, it is important to make sure you are avoiding the paths of other surfers, for more info on this visit this post on the rules of surfing.
  2. Paddle hard, your momentum will help you. Don’t forget to breathe though, remember that you’re heading under.
  3. Point your surfboard straight into the wave, the straighter your angle the less force will be exerted on you. If you are turned sideways you will chances of getting flipped up and over into the impact zone.
  4. Place one knee on the tail of your board, where the tail-pad on a shortboard is placed.
  5. Press down with your knee while doing a push-up motion with your upper body; the goal is to push your board as deep under water as possible.
  6. Quickly follow your board under the water, as the wave passes over your body, be sure to keep the nose of your board pointing upward. Exhale through your nostrils and relax as you pop out of the other side of the wave unscathed!


  1. The board you are riding greatly effects your duckdive, the more volume you have the harder it will be to push your board under water. Because they are voluminous beginners boards are often the most difficult to dive. To learn duckdiving I advise practicing with a  shortboard on a small day, or in a swimming pool.
  2. Because a board is voluminous does not mean it will not duck-dive! Instead of pushing your board flat against the water, turn it slightly to one rail and “knife” it into the water. By repeating this process on both sides you can get very deep underwater, it’s a trick of big wave surfers!
  3. Some people push down with their foot rather than their knee to get deeper. While this might work for some, I’ve found that a well executed duck-dive using my knee works best.

Hope this helps you get started!

If you have any secrets or tips let us know on Facebook !

For more beautiful photos like the one above check out: