Stab Magazine | How To: Catch More Waves (Even When You Suck)

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How To: Catch More Waves (Even When You Suck)

Questionable tactics to garner a heftier wave count on your next session.

style // May 7, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Surfing in crowds is a fucking nightmare: drop-ins, back-paddles, altercations, and a severely starved personal wave count.

It’s an a priori fact that surfers who can actually ‘surf’ have developed a knack for nabbing waves off the pack; regardless of whether it’s impeccable Snapper or a smouldering day on a blown out Bondi bank, surfers who surf well, catch more waves. They don’t need any additional help.

But what about the plebs out here struggling, do we not also deserve equal-wave rights in this socially ‘just’ political surf climate?!

Obviously not.

There’s no #metoo campaign, no #Kook’sWavesMatter, and not enough wavepools when it comes to the injustices occurring in our most crowded lineups. Those without a competent skill-set are therefore left to flounder and fight for the drivel.  

However, for those of us who flail amongst the masses, there are ‘alternative’ methods to up your wave count.

I’m incompetent at snaps, run of the mill cutbacks and even nosedive on anything steeper than a gradual slope; but along my journey, I’ve developed a gift for stroking into proportionally more waves than my similarly surf-stunted peers can.

I’m no expert, nor or these methods grounded in empirical facts, nevertheless, here’s a few frowned upon methods I’ve learnt courtesy of my time bobbing around Bondi and Sydney’s other coastal clusterfucks.

All The Gear With Some Idea

Now, it should be noted this approach won’t work if you’re utterly incapable of holding your head above the wax or keeping your legs together when paddling. But if you can nail down your paddling style then you’re halfway there.  

What do you do when someone in a circa ‘09 suit and yellow-tinged Hot Buttered* whistles their way inside you? You keep paddling and go, right?

Yet if this exact same surfer had slipped on something from this decade and even forked a little extra coin for a board less-resemblant of a junkies front tooth, you may have just held back a second longer. 

You don’t want something that screams ‘new’ like a Flashbomb and Tomo Omni combo, just something low-key, that doesn’t scream “hire-store sale rack”.

If you can at least portray the image of quality surfing, then just maybe, you’ll find yourself chipping into a couple of extra lumps.

*This stereotype can’t accurately be applied to people that are 60+, in fact, the opposite is true.

Unless that surfer is Kerrsy, it’s probably safe to go on someone wearing this.

Snakes are your friends

It’s snake or be snaked in this post-popular world of surf.

Not when the line-up is only holding ten or less, but when the crowds swell beyond a countable amount, snaking shifts from surfing faux-pas to absolute necessity.  

Take a look at any crowded spot and compare the number of decent waves to surfers – it’s impossible for everyone to have a slice. Considering the situation is already unfair, you may as well tilt those odds in your favour.

I’m not saying go out there and weasel your incapable arse right into the midst of every set, but I am saying to paddle inside those slightly above or on par with yourself on the odd occasion. 

A back-paddle here, a whitewash take-off there and you’ll find yourself on a few semi-rippable waves. Certainly more than the number on your tally had you played by the rules of surf etiquette. 

You’re usually better off burning someone less than fluent in the local dialect, or if you really have no soul, someone younger than yourself who probably won’t pick a fight.

Just don’t ever call someone off a wave if you’ve snaked them. The only rung on the ladder lower than that is riding a SUP.

The signs at Sydney’s beaches claim snaking is a cardinal sin, but that’s only if you enjoy not catching any waves

Paddle late and like a maniac

Do you ever see those dudes who paddle holding a vein popping expression across their face?

Well, it’s a fact of life that no one drops in on these guys, because they look psycho and probably are.

You, a young novice may not be pathologically wired, but there’s no reason you can’t embrace their paddling mannerisms and too find yourself plowing over the backs of those in your path to glory.

Additionally, although it might be easier to catch waves by paddling early, when the peak is packed like a tin of sardines, the later you paddle the better. If you jump the gun too early you can almost guarantee that someone else will slip onto the peak and power over the top of you as you try to “get under it”. 

Bring a friend

Truthfully, surfing like this takes an honest toll on your conscience, but it takes a larger toll on the patience of those sharing a surf with you. Inevitably, if you push the limits of your newfound wavefinding skill-set too far, you’ll find yourself face to face with someone who can surf – and most likely fight – better than yourself.

When the local hothead kicks off, ensure you’re within close proximity of a pal – preferably one of larger stature than those initiating the fight – and pray that the term ‘safety in numbers’ rings true. 

Alternatively, bring yourself a small and calm-minded friend who never retaliates. They won’t help you defend yourself, but you’ll be able to snake, drop-in and stuff them all session long with nothing more than an awkward car ride home.

Paddle around the line-up.

You’re not Kelly Slater. Waves won’t come to you, so you’ll need to go to them.

Spend your time gazing intently at that horizon and jet your way towards any lump of swell that even appears to be travelling wide.

Everyone else is doing it and no surfer has ever caught a wave at Snapper, D-Bah or Bondi without weaselling their way between the stagnant sitters when a set is approaching.

Always apologise

If you’re in the wrong, there’s no arguing and there’s no quicker way to end your session than an entire lineup who has just witnessed you defending your unhealthy surf habits.

You’ll look like a bitch when you cry for forgiveness, but at least you’ll live to snake another day.

It’s also harder for someone to rationalise clocking you square in the head when you’re cowering for apology with tears welling in your eyes.

The downside

Whilst there are many positives to these approaches, there are also a couple of negatives. Specifically, the negative relationship between employing these strategies and your sense of self-worth.

You may be hopping onto double the amount of waves as everyone else, but nothing eats away at your previously brittle ego more than your friends abandoning you because you do nothing but snake, back-paddle and spend the entire session irritating everyone around you.  

You’ll be friendless and zapped of self-confidence, but hey, at least you’re getting waves!


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