Surfing Waves – Big & Small

If you want to maximize the number of days you can surf and you want to progress your surfing, you’ll need to learn how to adapt to both small waves and big waves.

Your exact scale of small to big is going to vary on some of your own personal factors, but there are some general tips that apply to surfing in progressing wave size.

The first universal tip is: get the right equipment for the conditions.

From there, it becomes a matter of skill, practice, and mindset.

Surfing Small Waves

In some ways, surfing small waves can actually be more difficult than surfing big waves.

Getting the most out of a small wave requires you to develop a keen eye for waves. You’ve got to know where to take off, where the wave will section, and what spots of the wave you need to be in. This improves with experience.

The next thing you need to small waves is the right equipment.

Get a board with a lot of volume and less rocker. You’ll want as much paddle power and planing speed as possible.

Or, you can ditch the board entirely and grab some body surfing fins and a handplane.

Getting good at adapting to small waves will benefit you in bigger surf too – your eye for waves is going to come in handy in all conditions.

Mindset is big in small surf too. Don’t get mad or frustrated. Stay calm and have fun.

Surfing Big Waves

For the average surfer, surfing big waves comes down to your mental state. Most surfers aren’t going to tackle huge waves in places like Mavericks, Teahupoo, or Jaws – this requires a lot of experience, skill, athleticism, equipment, and safety precautions.

Big surf is going to vary from surfer to surfer, and your maximum wave height will likely change as you get better and progress.

If you want to surf bigger waves:

  • Stay calm and remember the basics: The biggest hurdle most people have to get over in big surf is their own fear. If you can stay calm, stay loose, and remember how to surf, you’ll be alright. Big waves are just like small wave – only bigger and faster. If you panic, you’re going to make mistakes, tense up, and find yourself in more trouble.
  • Stay fit: strength, endurance, and fitness in big surf is crucial.
  • Use the right equipment: Board choice in big surf often comes back to more volume and length. Get familiar with your equipment so you’re prepared to use it when the conditions call for it.
  • Know your limits, but get out of your comfort zone: You definitely need to recognize when the surf is too big for you, but at the same time, you’ll never progress if you don’t push yourself. Look for opportunities to surf bigger, faster waves, and eventually you’ll work yourself up to surfing waves you could have never imagined surfing.
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