Surfers progress from soft tops to short surf boards with patience as the necessary stamina, skills, and techniques are mastered. In new surfers minds, the short board makes them cool and a great surfer. The truth is different.
Learning Techniques on a Soft Top
To surf short boards, the new surfer wants to learn all the techniques on a soft top with foam and real waves long before he moves to a short board. A short board by most standards is under 6’10”. A typical soft top is 8′ or 9′.
I teach new teens and adults on a 9′ before moving them to an 8′ because even on an 8′ soft top you have to land your pop up precisely and be in good posture. A 9′ board offers more latitude that most new students need.
Paddling is easy for catching foam waves on an 8′ or 9′ soft top. The pop up has to be precise where the front foot lands near the nose of the surf board and the hips and shoulders are square to the front.
The Errors New Students Must Over Come
Many new students create two errors. They wind up on the board with their butt over one rail, which I call snowboarding because they ride with one shoulder back, and the board tips over because their weight is on their heels.
The second error most students make is they hold on until their feet are both on the board. It is necessary that both hands be in the air when the feet land. If not, the body follows the head leaning over the toes and the surfer flies off the front of the board.
Begin the Real Wave Process
Once the surfer can master riding soft tops to the beach, he then needs to ride real waves. Real waves create a new level of necessary timing. Foam waves break and can be caught in a wide window. Real waves break in a few seconds and require positioning, fast paddling, and a flawless pop up. At this point the surfer also needs more courage because the crashes are bigger.
Surfers learn to take off down the face of the wave and also at an angle into the pocket. They learn at the beginning to move out to corners and catch waves where they are not as steep as at the apex.
Finally a new surfer learns to ride real waves in the pocket where he can accelerate, do bottom turns, and cut backs. These are the basics of advanced surfing. Once this progress has been made, he can consider a real board.
The important factor is to move shorter slowly while maintaining the width and thickness volume of a bigger board. Boards become more difficult to paddle, catch waves, and ride as they lose volume. Moving shorter 6″ at a time is a best practice while maintaining a width of 21+ inches and a thickness of 2 3/4 inches.
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