29 July 2011

Coaching: Positions (The Hook)

After an initial assessment two weeks ago, this morning's dawn patrol was my first session with my new surf coach, Barry Green of Making The Drop. He's focusing his instruction toward my goal of becoming a decent shortboarder, one day.

Yep, that's me. Photo by Chris.
I brought my 5'4" 9:Fish Clownfish "Nemo" for Barry to check out. He took it for a test drive while I rode my 7'0" Ward Coffey "Emm". At least initially, the Hook was surprisingly uncrowded given the recent dearth of decent waves. Santa Cruz has been not-quite flat, with mostly junky windswell waves father north, but today southwest groundswell was serving quality waves to shoulder high. We found a spot to the right of the main peak, just past a section that often didn't connect, and had it mostly to ourselves for the duration. I got a slew of good drops into waves with fleeting shoulders. Woot!

Between the inconsistent sets, there was plenty of time for coaching. Barry gave me a lot of good advice, and documenting it will help me to remember, but he'll probably have to repeat some things before they sink in. He's trying to get me to think and act more like a shortboarder, positioning myself for a deeper takeoff on the steeper part of the wave. Positioning is key on a shortboard, since it lacks the glide of a longer board. My wave sense also needs to improve, so that I'm considering not just whether a wave is catchable from where I'm sitting, but also if I should paddle left or right before turning for it to get into a better spot for a longer ride. For instance, the section forming on the face of one wave should've alerted me to paddle quickly 5 yards to the right to get past it, instead of going directly for the wave and being caught behind the section. Makes perfect sense.

On paddling, Barry said to start sooner when I'm going for a wave, looking over my shoulder to see what the wave is doing and adjusting what I'm doing if necessary. I also should have "more than one gear." I've been paddling a lot like I swim: slow and steady. Sure, I go faster when I'm trying to catch a wave, but still at a constant speed. Instead, I need to paddle appropriately to get to the takeoff zone, which may be just a few strokes if I've positioned myself correctly, and then dig deep and fast as the wave reaches me. In the pool, Barry's got me doing swim sprints to build strength for those bursts.

Barry thinks my stance is good, natural. But my paddling position is conservative, a bit too far back on the board. He had me shift forward an inch (which lines up my nose with the green bubble under the dolphin in J-Bird's design) and lower my feet. When I paddle, I've been keeping my knees bent up to shift my CG forward, but instead should use my upper body for that, arching my back and head upwards while paddling and then dropping them toward the board to get into the wave. It's going to take conscious thought to break the habit and keep my feet down, but I caught some good rides with my new paddling position.
Until the next coaching session in two weeks, I'll try to put these ideas into practice, and out of the water I'll also be doing exercises on an upside-down Bosu balance trainer. Barry thinks the fish will be a good board for me eventually, but I'm not there...yet.

When I arrived at work, my coworker said he could tell I'd been surfing not because my hair was wet but by the big smile on my face and the spring in my step. Stoked!

Surfline: Clean, lined up peaks working through with some fun looking corners on offer. Inconsistent at times. New small to fun size SSW (190-200) groundswell provides mainly knee-waist high sets at good exposures. Top southern hemi spots produce chest-shoulder high and occasional larger sets. Minor NW-WNW swell wrap mixes in. Light winds early with patchy fog possible. Conditions are mostly clean through town as the tide builds in from a predawn negative low. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.2 ft at 11.4 s WNW 60 / WIND WAVE: 0.7 ft at 2.9 s SE / WVHT: 5.2 ft / APD: 8.4 s / MWD: 293° (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 12 kts / WVHT: 5.2 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WDIR: 190° / ATMP: 55.2° F / WTMP: 58.5° F. Tide: 0-1'. 


  1. http://blog.swell.com/check-it/5-easy-ways-to-improve-your-surfing/

  2. Thanks for the link.
    1) Skate: No. I never learned, and I'm afraid of falling not in water.
    2) Watch surfing: Yes. I watch videos occasionally but need to pay more attention to other surfers when I'm in the water.
    3) Swim: Yes. Several times a week, mostly using a pull buoy (arms only).
    4) Bodysurf. Sometimes on tropical vacations. I only get in the ocean about twice a week, and when I do, it's to surf.
    5) Surf. Yes. See #4.