Well that's a long time, and plenty of money, you're probably an expert surfer, well at least an above average surfer. You may be obsessed and have a sense greatness, but still there's some indefinable reason why you aren't surfing to your potential.
Hate to hit you with this bad news, but being an above average surfer just ain't that big a deal anymore. The lineups are full of hip talking 'surfing experts'. It's the world class surfers, those who push the limits, who get the girls, the fame, the money and the travel. They're the ones who are name dropped in a conversation over a beer. Now, if you've come this far with your surfing already, don't you reckon you may as well go another step and learn to rip?
It's not even a huge step, the technical differences between a good surfer and a great surfer are slight. You just need a few changes in your approach. Surfing is an addictive sport and most surfers are obsevive about it. You only have to turn up at a popular point break at dawn to know what I mean. There will usually be a few guys already paddling out. So most surfers have a healthy obsession with their surfing, but what makes a champion is something more. So what can you do to step up a grade or two? What makes that difference? Let's assume your grommet dreams of stardom are a little outdated. Your surfing has been at a standstill for quite sometime and you have a stack of excuses like why you can't do a good cutty or the "barrel shut down on me" or "my shoulder is a bit stiff". Well let's start and try and get you ripping.
First up, you need a makeover. A new thought process, a new approach to your surfing. You need to get in surf shape, surf all conditions, think, think more, learn tricks, and live by some important rules. Pursuing any goal does take serious effort.
If you want to surf the way you want to surf, then you're going to have to spend more time in the water. If you can't quit your job because of the lame excuse "I have expenses" and "how do you think I afford to go surfing anyway", then do something that gives you more time in the water.
World class surfers are in the water 250+ days a year. Everybody in the ASP started surfing when they were like four years old, so you have a lot of time to make up.
Update your boards. Expect to spend a little and get some good boards. Figure out what board is best for the kind of surfer you want to be, and take a look at what new items the rippers use. Give yourself the best chance you can buy. Now book a surf trip that will challenge you. Head to Indo, Hawaii or South America. Go and scare the life out of yourself.
If you can't afford it, use the plastic and worry about it when you are back home.
There are no out of condition world champion surfers. All have an interest in some other sport. Even if it's playing footy or swimming. Rippers stay in shape. Even if you think you got the abs and shoulders that a gym junkie would be proud of. Ask yourself do I want to be a 'ripper' or a 'rapper'. 'Poncey Boys' are a dime a dozen, a surfer is an athlete and what you need to build is athletic potential. Build yourself for quick muscle reactions and coordination. Mountain biking is great for this. It's a lot more fun than running stairs but that'll work too. A piece of ply on a rounded lump of timber, a balance board, is great for your balance and strengthening those ankles. When you walk down the street imagine whacking the curb in a reo that would spray all your mates.
It's important that your mix your training around a bit. It helps develop a good variety of muscle memory. It also keeps you interested in the next day. Of course the most important thing is time in the water, But when you are out of it you can still imagine yourself connecting turns and improving your style.
Surfing is the frequent and structured repetition of a series of actions directed towards achieving a flow and style. Get that? Motor skill development connects your central nervous systems with your muscle and sensory organs. This is happening as you train, understand this development and you will see that it is possible even for those without the God given talent can improve far beyond what they believed their talents to be. It's not rocket science and not too complicated. Sometimes a small key opens a big lock.There are three stages to motor skill development.
In the first stage there is a generalization of movement. As a result the action is completed by imprecise and unneccessary movement. Meaning jerky, unbalanced and usually a weak effort, but towards the desired direction. There is an over stimulation, usually a contraction, and stress put on muscles.
Now the body is a wonderful thing, it can perform many tasks at once while achieving one major specific goal. In the second stage after you have repeated the moves many times, your body will start to cut out a lot of the unnecessary spreading of the the stimulation processes. We have a thing in us called the 'cerebral cortex', and it has a filtering process, which helps to inhibit the unnecessary movements and so a concentration of stimuli results. Of course there are still unnecessary constrained movements because of the inperfection of of this interaction between inhibition and stimuli.
The third stage of your development is when there is an automation of movements and the creation of a motor stereotype of skills. This helps to develop a proper technique which doesn't need the required attention to the movements of the previous stages. In other words this is where you are aiming for. A skill level that the pros show. They make it look easy, they seem in control and it allows them to create new previosly unthinkable moves by being able to specifically target a certain move, analyze it and then push it a bit further. To get to this stage is what this site is about.
You want to be world class, then you surf all conditions, not just those offshore sunny days. Surfing is a push or be pushed sport. Push yourself in everything. When observing the break from the beach watch the waves own breaking line. Follow it in your mind and when out there surf with it. Don't leave the power of the lip too far behind. On those figure eight cutties take a controlled amount of speed into your turn making it a continuous flowing turn. No two stage turns. They'll lose your speed, resulting in you having to wind up again without the aid of the initial drop, wasting precious time. Ever wonder why some guys can smack a lip 5 or 6 times while you are going all out for 1? They surf with the wave optimizing their speed and carrying it through all their turns by not breaking their flow with two stage or three stage turns. World class rippers can make even sloppy waves look like they've got power. They get the surfboard on edge and use the power the displacement gives them. Surf the whole wave, good surfers don't meander or break it up into sections. Waves can be hotly contested in a line up, so keep surfing a wave as long as it's breaking. Many guys flick off way too soon because it may have gone a bit fat. A lot of times it's the lack of judgement by the surfer. He isn't surfing close to the pocket and power and has let his speed and drive dwindle. Often a wave will let you smack it one or even two last times on the shorey, so why not smack the guts out of it.
Great surfers don't just do, they think. They visualize. Visualization is not sitting around with your head in the clouds, it's a focused mental exercise where you see how you will look when you surf. This type of concentration is probably the most important distinction between the good and the great.
Choose a great surfer who you want to surf like, and try and copy their surfing style until the time comes where your own develops. Watch every surf movie you can, frame by frame if you want, imagine your self surfing like the stars and get that image firmly in your skull.
In the water replay every phase of your approach to the wave. Imagine yourself drawing good lines even if its bumpy or gnarly out there. Be smooth and in control. If you see yourself getting pitched from the lip then that's where you'll end up.
Every type of surf condition requires adaptation. Try different moves and techniques in the sort of surf that you are in. Experiment with getting on edge a bit more or bustin' the tail loose if the surf is a bit bumpy. Draw longer lines when there is a bit more size, do grab rail turns while you square up back towards the foam on a power cutty. A dragged hand in the water in bottom turns and cutties helps make sure you are getting enough edge and lean.
Don't under estimate the value of a coach, but don't get some mellow fellow stuck in the way it used to be. Find a ripper, someone who travels, surfs big, knows surfboard design and has an analytical mind but doesn't explode your mind with it. No slurred slow speaking bum. He mustn't be afraid to talk normally and not like some trumped up rapper.
But if you rather be on your own in your quest, surf with people who are better than you when you can. So you can be inspired to try harder. Most surfers are full on competitive in any lineup and sometimes you are going to be the loser of the pack. When this happens slow yourself down a bit. You've probably lost a bit of control. Work on your style and one idea at a time. Ask yourself questions, why did you fall? All problems are solvable, but you must know your bad habits, and force yourself to take the time to make them right.
Have a friend video you and others in the lineup so you can compare yourself. It'll show those nasty little habits that all your mates know about but were too polite to tell you for fear of their own self examination. Ask openly to your mates if there was something that sucks about your surfing, and don't get defensive when they tell you something that you do is crap.
Through practice, work up a secure repertoire. A bag of reliables, and I don't mean a tame backhand turn. Pull it tighter more vertical. Have your bottom turn in front of the breaking lip. Get that hand in the water and look straight back up at the curl. Know a lot of tricks and you'll become more confident. More confidence means more fun, more respect, more waves, and the more inspired you will become.
Let someone else do your bragging, not yourself..
Some days you are going to surf like a goof, laugh it off.
Don't blame your boards, get new ones, talk to your shaper.
Accept and encourage helpful criticism.
No whingeing about soreness, your personal problems, just get on with it.
Keep your ego to yourself, that doesn't mean you shouldn't develop one. It can help you achieve your goal.
A good surf can come down to one or two good waves or even a good turn. A good surfer puts them in his memory but knows that he can do it again and even better than before. This will keep you motivated for a life time.
Fear is something to work with. Fear produces adrenaline and adds to your sense of achievement. As for those crappy 'no fear' T shirts, if you got any use them as a car wash rag. It's because with the love of overcoming your fears comes the adrenaline that'll make you go from a good surfer to a great surfer. Respect fear and use its energy. It's a gift.
There's a point of balance in you that is centered. If you have felt it before, you'll know what I mean. It's your sweet spot. Find it, know it, live it. Be smooth and you will be in control.