What Happens in Surfing: A Breakdown of the Sport

Surfing is an exciting water sport with a unique culture all its own. But for newcomers, the thought of paddling out into the waves can be intimidating. By understanding what happens in surfing – from reading waves to riding them – you can gain the knowledge to participate safely. Let’s break down the key events that unfold during a surf session.

Pre-Surf Preparation

Before hitting the water, surfers go through a standard routine:

  • Check surf forecasts and conditions
  • Select proper wetsuit/board for the waves
  • Arrive early to watch break patterns
  • Wax board and attach leash
  • Stretch and warm up on the beach
  • Look for rip currents or hazards

Advance preparation sets you up for success.

Paddling Out Through Waves

To reach breaking waves, surfers paddle through the impact zone:

  • Time paddle out between wave sets
  • Push board vertically through white wash
  • Hold breath when waves break over you
  • Duck dive underwater if needed to avoid big waves
  • Get clear of shorebreak turbulence

Getting outside safely is priority one.

Sitting on Board Beyond Break

Once outside, surfers position themselves:

  • Paddle to avoid crowds if needed
  • Turn board toward shore to face incoming waves
  • Site outside breaking point in takeoff zone
  • Sit on board to conserve energy between sets
  • Communicate with other surfers in lineup

Patience and wave judgment are key in the lineup.

Identifying Suitable Waves

Picking your wave involves:

  • Scanning to read incoming swells
  • Looking for clean unbroken wave faces
  • Verifying no one else is on wave
  • Checking for proper positioning
  • Determining if it’s within your ability

Choosing waves wisely prevents mishaps.

Catching and Popping Up

To ride waves, you must initiate momentum:

  • Aggressively paddle as swell lifts and steepens
  • Push up onto front foot when wave draws near
  • Slide back foot to tail of board
  • Jump up swiftly as board catches speed
  • Land feet stable in surfing stance

The challenges begin as you attempt standing up.

Riding Down The Wave Face

Once up and riding, it’s time to maximize the wave:

  • Arms out for balance, knees bent
  • Spot landing zone ahead
  • Gain speed trimming down the slope
  • Adjust weight to keep board trimmed
  • Absorb bumps and chop through legs

Riding across the face is the glorious feeling surfers live for.

Bottom Turns

To return back up the wave, bottom turns are utilized:

  • Dig rail into wave trough at bottom
  • Push tail down and pivot back up face
  • Use weight shifts and edge pressure
  • Generate speed for maneuvers ahead
  • Stay centered as board transitions

Controlled turns reverse direction and maintain flow.

Cutbacks and Top Turns

Various turns help surf the wave:

  • Cutbacks – reversing back across face
  • Top turns – arcing turns high on face
  • Snaps – explosive top turns off the lip
  • Floaters – riding over broken sections
  • Carves – drawn out arced turns

Turns allow harnessing the wave’s energy.

Aerial Maneuvers

To get airborne, surfers use techniques like:

  • Ollies – springing up off tail
  • Grabs – grabbing board for leverage
  • Straight airs – launching off waves
  • Full rotations – spinning board 360+
  • Alleys-oops – air reverse entries

Airs provide a thrill by taking flight.

Ride Toward Shore

As the wave slows, surfers begin wrapping up the ride:

  • Angle toward sand as whitewater builds
  • Move into inside section if more speed remains
  • Hop off back when close to shore
  • Or get barreled if opportunity presents

An elegant exit completes the wave dance.

Paddle Back Out

After riding in, it’s time to do it all again:

  • Paddle straight through incoming waves
  • Conserve energy for bursts between sets
  • Negotiate current and rip channels
  • Return to lineup for your next wave

The quest repeats as surfers chase endless waves.

End Session and Exit Water

When the legs tire and it’s time to go in:

  • Catch last wave straight to shore
  • Unclip leash before standing in shallows
  • Walk board back to towel/gear on beach
  • Carefully navigate shorebreak as needed
  • Rinse gear with freshwater before storing

Safely concluding the sesh ends the surfing journey.

Community and Camaraderie

Underpinning it all is the surfing tribe:

  • Friendly smiles and greetings
  • Everyone sharing the liquid playground
  • Respecting each person’s waves
  • Cheering on nice rides
  • Relaxing after sessions
  • Passion for surfing bonds all

Good vibes make surfing special.

So while intimidating at first, understanding the general flow helps beginners engage in surfing. With practice, the process becomes second nature. Before you know it, you’ll be a welcome member of the surfing family riding waves with grinning joy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surfing

Where do surfers change clothes before and after surfing?

Most surfers change discreetly under towels or in their cars in beach parking areas. Public restrooms may also have changing facilities. Wearing a bathing suit underneath wetsuit helps quick changes.

How does a surfer know which wave to catch?

Reading incoming swell patterns, observing wave intervals, noticing lulls between sets, and lining up correctly helps determine which waves to paddle for. Experience teaches wave judgment.

Can a beginner surfer start by riding waves on their belly?

Yes, belly surfing on your board helps gain confidence before attempting to stand up. Just be courteous to standup surfers by yielding right of way when doing so.

How long does the average surf session last?

Anywhere from 1 to 3 hours is common. Fitness level, water temperature, wave conditions, and time availability determine session length. Knowing limits prevents fatigue.

How do you safely get your surfboard back out after riding a wave in?

Paddle straight through waves without hesitation, being sure to duck dive under larger ones. Don’t linger inside or get caught off guard avoiding shorebreak.

Do surfers really shout “cowabunga” when catching waves?

Maybe ironically sometimes, but not usually! That’s more of a stereotype from pop culture. Staying focused to catch waves leaves little time for shouts.

Why do surfers wear different colored wetsuit tops or hats?

To easily identify each other in busy water. It helps avoid collisions and shows who has right of way on waves in a respectful lineup.

How do surfers know when to go in for the day?

When they become too exhausted to effectively or safely catch more waves. It’s ideal to end sessions while energy remains positive rather than overextending limits.

Now you’re ready to head out and see what happens in surfing for yourself! Wax up that board and paddle out there!

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