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How to Surf for Intermediate Surfers

Breaking into the Next Level

Once you've got your surfing basics on lock, what's the next step in taking things from beginner to intermediate surfing? We're glad you asked, and we're here to help out.

Surfing is like building an entire ecosystem of experience, and everything you do in the water teaches you and affects other aspects of wave riding. You must lay the groundwork of expertise before building higher, and breaking the threshold of beginner to intermediate isn't easy. When looking at how to surf for intermediate surfers, start by ensuring that you have the fundamentals mastered, pinpoint the areas of possible improvement, and implement strategies to practice and gain experience with these new challenges.

How to Improve Intermediate Surfing

The best place to start improving your intermediate surfing is first to make sure that you have the basics dialed in. You'll never progress forward with sheer success unless you take things one step at a time, and never expect more than your capabilities allow for. Don't go trying airs if you can't turn yet, and work your way diligently up the ladder to better surfing without skipping any rungs.

Before asking how to surf for intermediate surfers, ask yourself, "Am I even ready to take things to the next level?". The answer to this question lies in:

  1. Fully understanding surfing etiquette, beginner surfboards/surfboard set up, and basic do's and don'ts in the water.
  2. Ensuring that you are skilled in paddling, duck diving, and your pop up
  3. Knowing how to choose and catch the right waves
  4. Being able to generate speed on a surfboard

If you honestly feel these aspects of your surfing are where they need to be, then heed our advice on how to surf for intermediate surfers to use what you already know as a starting point to more progression.

Intermediate Surfing Equipment

We are only as good as our equipment allows. Chances are, if you're towards the end of your beginner surfing journey, then you've been spending most of your time on a fun shape or a longboard. These are excellent boards to learn how to surf on, but you will find limits in their maneuverability.

For more advanced surfing, you need a more advanced shape. This means that it's just about time to get that first shortboard on your radar, and overall, to learn more about surfboard shapes and how their varying characteristics affect your surfing.

A beginner shortboard will still maintain a bit of extra volume. It might be a touch wider than boards shaped for aggressive performance to add to the buoyancy and stability, helping you get the hang of riding a shorter, harder-to-control stick.

If you want to become a better longboarder, and wish to stay away from the shortboards for a little longer, then there's plenty of ways to become an intermediate surfer through logging. Should this be the case, then It's time to start noseriding, and we have the details of this old-school style of surfing outlined in our guide "How to Noseride".

To learn more about intermediate surfing equipment, visit our guides for all available information, including:

It's a lot of information, but the more you know about surfboards, the better you will determine the board intended for the style and type of surfing you wish to pursue, and this board will help to progress your surfing with more success and less time than a board not suited to your skill sets.

Surfing Fitness and Dedication

Many surfers ask: "how long does it take to become an intermediate surfer?".

The answer is unique for every single person, but is greatly influenced by things you do outside of water and your overall level of dedication. Are you ready to practice that turn for an entire season with little to no success, only to paddle out next winter and try it again? Hopefully, an astounding yes is the case because sometimes, that's exactly what it takes to become a better surfer.

It could be years or months before you find your own answer to this question, and in the end, you shouldn't care for how long does it take to become an intermediate surfer, as long as you enjoy every minute of the process.

There are ways to become a better surfer even when not in the water.

Watch videos of talented surfers and take notes on what they seem to be doing, and talk to other surfers to seek advice where needed.

Implement a dedicated surfing fitness routine to increase your strength and stamina, as this leads to better surfing and longer surf sessions, and longer sessions mean more practice.

How to Have Better Surf Sessions?

Catch more waves!!

A majority of the answer for how to have better surf sessions lies in identifying and catching better/more waves, as the right waves allow for more practice.

How to Identify Waves for Surfing

To identify the best waves:

  1. Are you catching the peak?

You'll get the most out of your ride by dropping into the peak of the waves. When learning, surfers often spend time catching the weaker, less intimidating shoulders of the wave. Try moving closer to the peaks of the waves for more power and longer lines to practice your first intermediate turns and carves.

  1. Avoid closeouts

When you are about to paddle into the wave, if it appears as though it is going to break all the way down the line, then it's probably a closeout. As you begin to paddle into a wave, look left and right to see if the wave will open up. If it looks like a closeout, pull out and wait for an open line on the next wave.

  1. Watch other surfers

Before paddling out, take a few moments to watch other surfers. Where do they seem to be dropping in that allows for the best waves? Watching other surfers is a great method in how to identify waves for surfing, as this allows you to replicate their positioning in the lineup for the most success.

  1. Surf a Different Peak

Although watching other surfers will help you identify where the best peak is, sometimes these areas are already a little too clogged up and crowded with other riders. You might want to move to a less crowded peak if you aren't getting any waves because of other surfers owning the lineup. The waves might not be as good, but a bad wave is always better than no wave!

  1. Understand Sets

Understanding how waves work will help you with understanding how to identify waves for surfing. The ocean ebbs and flows, and usually, the best waves come in sets. If a good wave seems like it's coming through, this might just be the beginning of a set, and a better wave is forming behind it. By knowing that wave quality often comes in sets, you can remain attentive to waves out the back to catch the best and biggest ones.

  1. Understand Waves

You also have to know what kind of waves you're riding to direct your surfing accordingly. Steep, barreling, and fast waves are hard to do turns on, and you're better off practicing your barrel riding skills. Slower, mushier waves are more ideal for mastering those cutbacks and hacks. Ride to what the wave provides, and understand the types of waves so you can know what skills you plan to work on in the water.

  1. Surf the best intermediate surf spots

Some spots are simply better for intermediate surfers than others. As well as understanding the waves, you must also understand the best intermediate surf spots. You want to avoid sketchy, shallow reefs and fast, hollow beach breaks, and try to stick to the spots that produce clean, mellow, and long rides with open faces.

How to Surf for Intermediate Surfers- Tips and Tricks

With all of this in mind, here are a few tips for how to improve intermediate surfing.

  1. Stick to the power sections of the wave.

Surf close to the pocket, and don't let yourself get too far ahead on the shoulder where maneuvers become slow and difficult.

  1. Guide with your eyes, lead with your shoulder.

When leaning into carves and hacks, use your eyes to visualize your path of direction. Follow this path into your turn by leading your body and your board with your front shoulder, and keep your eyes following the direction your shoulder takes you by using your head as a guide.

  1. Don't try too hard

Don't overexert yourself when going for those first turns. You might think it takes a ton of force to throw buckets out the back, but it's actually more about timing, precision, and using the right parts of the wave. When leaning into your first turns, take it easy and small. Go for minute movements instead of thrashing your fins out the back, as this will help build those building blocks to more aggressive turns.

  1. Keep those knees bent.

Keep yourself as center and as stable over your board as possible when practicing your first turns. Bend your knees, and keep them bent. This lowers your center of gravity over the board and promotes balance when coming out of the turn.

  1. Work with your board.

Placing your feet on different areas of the surfboard will create a unique response in the water. Far back on the tail pad, for example, helps to direct the fins and places more pressure on the tail during turns for more aggression. Moving your feet slightly further up the deck will help to generate speed. Take mental notes of how varying foot placements affect your surfboard, and use these placements to your advantage when trying certain maneuvers.

  1. Master your bottom turn

The bottom turn is the go-to set upturn for nearly any other maneuver while surfing. A good bottom turn will keep your speed and momentum all the way into a big hack on the lip or a nice carve. Take lots of time in mastering the bottom turn as the baseline skill required for other styles of turns. When on the bottom portion of the wave, keep your body compressed, dig into the leading rails, and eyeball the section ahead where you plan to hit, using your front shoulder to lead yourself back up the face and into the section.

  1. Keep your Speed

Without the right speed, you'll get left behind in the whitewash and lose the wave, or you won't have the speed required to come out of certain maneuvers. Ensure that you keep ample speed through pumping by being aggressive and in tune with this necessity. By remaining aware that you need speed, you'll remind yourself to immediately begin pumping upon pop-up, as you have to be cognizant in using your body and strength to keep your speed.

  1. Be Strong

Waves are seriously strong, and a key component in how to have better surf sessions is to match their strength with your own! Sometimes you have to fight back a little to avoid being knocked clean off your board. You have to be powerful in paddling to catch the right waves, powerful with your pumping, and powerful through your turns. Remember this fact, and tell yourself to be strong while surfing. It's an extreme sport, and it takes extreme action to do it right, so it's good to feel those legs and arms burning.

  1. Surf all types of conditions

To broaden your skillets, it is best to surf in all types of conditions. Bad waves provide plenty of opportunity for practice and will present lessons that good waves do not, and vice versa. Big waves help you with paddling, breath-hold, fear, and balance down the line, whereas small waves help learn basic maneuvers. Cater to the ecosystem of surfing by surfing the ecosystem of different, constantly changing waves.

  1. Ride with the wave

When gaining experience with those first intermediate turns, you have to ride with the wave, not against it. Try visualizing your line as your ride, and determine the types of maneuvers that the specific wave you are riding will allow for. You will better learn how to read a wave with experience, but the key takeaway is to always be aware of what turns are capable on what sections and to never try and out surf a wave- surf with the wave, and use what it provides to your learning advantage.

The Takeaways

In the end, how to improve intermediate surfing is up to you! As with anything, practice makes perfect, and perfection takes time and dedication. Don't let yourself get distracted with the idea of becoming a ripper, and take things one step at a time. Build your experience and knowledge slowly and diligently, mastering one specific maneuver to then build upon the skills required for another.

The most crucial aspects here are to always have fun with the journey and never beat yourself up for not surfing as well as you wish.

Once you feel good about things, it's the time to begin building up that quiver for more versatility in your equipment depending on the conditions at hand and transition between surfboards depending on what these conditions call for.

Want to know how? Visit the next article in the series, "Adapting your Surfboard to Conditions," to learn precisely what styles of boards and fin setups are ideal for what conditions and how/when to change your board accordingly.