How to Read Waves
As a beginner it is important to learn to read waves in order to know where to position yourself, and which side to turn to once on the wave. There is some theory to this outline below, but most has to do with getting out there and learning through experience, or even taking lessons.
To read a wave:
- Look at horizon line
- When a set is coming, compare the horizon with the wave’s line
- Identify the highest point of the wave, this is where the wave will break first
- The side with the steepest angle/slope down is the direction of the breaking wave.
- The direction of the breaking wave is the direction you ride.
When learning to read waves, the first lesson to learn is that if the wave line is parallel with the horizon, with no definite peak, then the wave will probably closeout and be very hard to surf. A split break is if to both sides of the peak the wave slope is similar, meaning the wave will break to both sides and if you’re in the right take off zone you get to choose which way to go. As aforementioned you really need to practise your skill of reading waves by simply going out there and learning by trial and error. It’s been said that in surfing there are the hunters and the hunted. To make yourself the hunter as fast as possible it’s about going out there and hunting as many waves as possible.
If there are waves that you think you can’t get into position in time, you should still try. That way you’ll learn if your prediction of where you need to be is correct, it also gives you practise paddling, and makes you more agile when it comes to turning your board around to catch those waves. So when you’re going for a wave always take a peek over your shoulder to see if your predictions are getting better and better as to where the wave starts to break, which direction it breaks to and where you should be in order to catch it. Another important note is if you’re just starting to catch green waves (unbroken waves) you should opt for high tide over low tide, that way the waves are less likely to smash your board into the ground and potentially wreck it. It also saves your from hitting the sand bank when you inevitability fall off.
To know a little about the waves before you even reach the beach it is important to always take a look at the surf forecast.
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