10 Ways To Improve Your Surfing

Do you like stale food? Stale relationships? Stalemates? Of course not! So why would you let your surfing go stale? You’re better than that. Or, at least, you can be. In an effort to help edge your surfing a little closer to that of the folks we feature in our magazine, we reached out to Chris Gallagher Stone. Former ‘CT competitor and current surfboard shaper, Gally has coached the likes of the Hobgood, Gudauskas and Marshall brothers; and even non-siblings like Taylor Knox and Josh Kerr. Those guys had to pay him. Here, just for you, he does it for free.

We stopped by the Channel Islands factory so the boys could check out a few boards. Here's a quiver of Dane's.Dane Reynolds’ decorated fleet of flare. Photo: T Sherm

1. Equipment

Chris Gallagher Stone: Be honest with yourself. If you’re an average surfer and the water line is at your chest when sitting on your board, it’s too small. Find a board that catches waves without struggling and doesn’t sink when the wave slows down. Top pros have a hard time finding the “magic board,” so don’t hold on to the same OK board for too long. Keep trying new stuff and different dimensions. Your perfect board is out there, but you have to look to find it.

You’re a towel. Mick Fanning. Photo: ShermEver wonder how Mick Fanning looks so loose? Well, here’s how. Photo: T Sherm

2. Flexibility

Most people stand too tall while surfing. This is mostly due to stiffness in the legs, hips and back. If you can’t get low, you can’t be powerful and in control. Focus on stretches that allow you to get into a low position with a straight back and weight centered on your feet. Just doing a normal squat, and working toward correct form, will stretch and strengthen you in that position.

After a long road to recovery, Dusty Payne is in the best shape of his life. Finally, his rankings got the memo.Nobody does fit quite like Dusty Payne does it when he’s on the comeback. Photo: T Sherm

3. Fitness

Finding a training routine is up to the individual. It may just be surfing every day. One thing I would caution against is training for “mirror muscles” and pushing a bunch of metal around the gym. This tends to stiffen you up a bit and doesn’t do your surfing any favors. Surfing is short bursts of speed and explosiveness. Like flexibility, training for speed and power takes time and there are no shortcuts. Start out slow, with just body weight exercises, and work your way up in reps and intensity.

Kolohe Andino and an almost reasonable excuse to wear shoes with a wetsuit. Photo: JimmicaneKolohe’s preheat jump-rope ritual and the only excuse to wear shoes in a wetsuit. Photo: T Sherm

4. Warm up before session

A proper warm up is probably one of the hardest things to get yourself to do. It’s tough to be on the beach jumping around when the surf is pumping. But while you you might miss a couple waves warming up, but you will rip harder on the ones you do catch, and could prevent an injury as well.

A good warm up can be between 5 – 10 minutes. Think about what surfing physically demands when planning your warm up — squatting, twisting, jumping, landing, pushing up, popping up and paddling. Find a routine that gives you a slight sweat when you are done and gives you an overall sense of readiness. You will feel a difference and hopefully that difference becomes addicting.

1312wall01-tajWO-DuncanFind it….find it…….there it is! Photo: Duncan

5. Lining up your peak

Too many people paddle out blind and chase the spot where they last saw a wave break. Don’t do this. Before you paddle out, assess the peak or specific spot where you want to surf. Walk to that spot and look directly behind you and find an easily recognizable landmark. You will be amazed how many more waves you will catch if you stick to that spot.

JJF Backdoor photo: Dane GradyJohn John Florence and the last exhale before another leisurely backdoor drainer. Photo: Dane Grady

6. Rhythm

Sometimes we get so excited to shred, we fail to stay relaxed and build slowly into a surf. Creating a proper rhythm is important to any good session. Try to breathe slowly as you paddle out, releasing any tension you might have from the day. Find your happy place. From there, the session should start out slow, just going down the line keeping a nice flow. As the surf progresses, increase your attack level.

Surfing Magazine Trip to Salina Cruz with Noa Deane, Sterling Spencer, and Dillon PerilloNoa Deane, planted. Photo: DJ Struntz

7. Stance

By far the most common mistake in wave riding is in the stance. The sweet spot on most boards is pretty far back on the tail and is normally the fastest and loosest part of the board. It is usually located almost directly on top, but just forward of, the back fin of a three-fin board. Find this spot and adjust your front foot placement accordingly. Another common is mistake is having too much weight on your front foot. If you want to utilize that magic spot on the back of the board, your weight should be about 55 percent on your front foot, 45 on your back foot. Yes, sometimes you’ll move your feet and sometimes you’ll shift your weight forward, but what I mentioned above should be the foundation.

JW15MX7D0316Parker Coffin on the unwind. Photo: Jimmicane

8. Approach

Try to surf the top two-thirds of the wave. You want to avoid dropping straight down all the way to the bottom. It’s best to take off at an angle parallel to the beach and try to stay as high as you can. From there, when you see the section you want to turn on, drop down to just below the middle of the wave, bottom turn and hit it. Going too far to the bottom usually slows you down and often makes you mistime your turn. Using this as a guideline should help you get off more turns and carry more speed.

Kelly and Quik went hand-in-hand for 23 years. Monday, they got divorced. Photo: C. WilsonEvery last piece of an exemplary approach, performed by none other than Mr. Slade himself. Photo: Corey Wilson

9. Low stance / Low arms/ Ready position

Try to stay low throughout the entire wave. It’s not as easy as the pros make it look, it takes a certain amount of discipline and strength that is hard to maintain. Staying low has the obvious benefits of stability and power. But it also connects the body together to work in better unison. Another thing that helps the body stay connected is holding your arms low and close to your sides. (For backside, have front arm close and back arm straight behind you).

1306wall-12-bobbymartinez-seth_de_rouletBobby Martinez finds the groove. Photo: Seth De Roulet

10. Heel to toe

All right, you have your foot on the tail with weight slightly on your back foot. You’re at the top of the wave, waiting for your opportunity. You’re low, with arms hanging at your sides. Now, start doing little turns from heel to toe to create a rhythm. Let your hips and shoulders lead your board like you’re pumping on skateboard. Use the same principal for surfing and you will have more speed, be centered over your feet and on your way to smoother and better surfing. AKA more fun!

Good luck — Gally

Need more than this? Gally is available for private camps, sessions and even remote video reviews. Email him at c.gally@yahoo.com.