| By Kent Senatore
North Shore, Oahu
Surfing a new spot can be a daunting task. Without
the proper knowledge, you could hurt yourself or worse
yet, hurt someone else. Here are a few tips that will
help you figure out a new spot without getting in any
Choose the right board
Always ride the appropriate board for the spot, the first
thing to understand is which type of surfboard is best
suited to the new spot you have chosen. Is it a longboard
surfboard or shortboard
surfboard spot? This is usually pretty obvious, but
the crowd will tell you if you don’t already know.
In general, short board spots consist of fast and hollow
waves breaking over a shallow bottom with an aggressive
crowd like the north shore surf spot Velzyland
a.k.a. V-Land. Conversely, the long board spots are usually
slower less hollow waves breaking in deeper water with
much less aggressive crowds like the surf
spot Canoes in Waikiki.
When most of the surfers are on short boards, chances
are you’re at a short board spot and you won’t
be welcome on your 10'0". Don’t bother paddling
out. Instead, look for another spot or go get your 6'2".
Short boarders are almost never happy to see a long
boarder paddle out at their spot and on the other hand,
a short boarder will always be welcome at a long board
spot because you won’t be catching many waves.
It makes more sense to ride your smaller board at the
short board spot. You’ll most likely get a lot
more waves without getting frustrated.
Before you paddle out
Before you paddle out, watch the waves. You should
wait to see at least two sets break. Then watch a few
surfers enter the water and paddle out which will give
you a good indication as to where the channel is. Most
surf breaks have a channel which is deeper than where
the waves are breaking. Since the water is deeper, the
waves don’t break in this area. It’s also
where the water pushing shoreward from the breaking
waves will turn and begin moving back out to sea. This
makes it the best place to paddle out because you can
use the out going current to your advantage. Now that
you’ve located the channel, start scanning the
area directly in front of the breaking waves. Look for
any exposed rock or reef or even a change in water color.
In clear water, which you'll find in Hawaii, you’ll
see the color change from blue, in the deeper areas,
to green or brown, in the shallow areas, which should
be avoided to decrease your chance of injury. Make a
mental note of these areas and plan an escape route
in the event you should be pushed into this zone by
a wave. Remember, as long as you’re taking off
from the proper spot you probably won’t get near
the danger zones so don’t let the reef or rocks
scare you, just be aware of it.
Now, you’re ready to paddle out, but don’t
rush it to get out. Even if you’re a good surfer
it’s not a bad idea to sit in the channel or on
the inside and watch another set from the water because
things will always look different once you’re
out there. After you’ve made the paddle, check
the vibe in the line up and look for the best surfers.
You’ll notice them first because they’ll
be the ones getting the most waves. They’re going
to be your best guide as to where the take off zone
is. Watch and learn but don’t get in their way.
If you can manage this without annoying, or crowding
them you’ll be able to glean tons of knowledge
about wave selection and positioning just by being a
good observer. A little respect will get you a long
To get into the wave catching rotation, sit close to
the peak but never force your way into the zone at a
new spot. Be patient and sit on the outside edge of
the pack, each time someone inside of you takes off
move over into their space and eventually you’ll
find yourself in position to catch a wave. Remeber to
always look before you go. It’s easy to get caught
up in the moment and drop into a wave you thought was
yours without noticing someone else in better position
then you. If you follow these simple guidelines, act
respectfully, and surf the spot on a regular basis you’ll
become one of the crew before you know it. Surf with
aloha, and most of all, have fun!
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