Monday, May 14, 2012

How to: Watch the Waves and Become a Student of the Sea

The most important thing I think I can pass on to anyone about surfing is that you must become a student of the ocean. This means using every opportunity you have when you are down by the water to study what goes on. For example,

Know the beach
  • Is it a point break, beach break or reef break?
  • Notice where to get in and out safely.
  • What is below the waves you want to surf?
    • Sandy bottoms are softer, but reefs and rock bottoms are more predictable.
Read Surf and Tide Forecasts
  • Know the direction of the swell and the tide before you arrive.
  • Develop an understanding of what the swell direction and tides mean for the spot you plan to surf.
Watch Other People
  • How do they get in and out?
  • Assess the skills of those out so you can avoid hazardous surfers and be mindful of experienced ones.
  • If you plan to surf a more localized spot, try to learn who the locals are. It is respectful to give them priority on waves.
Watch the Waves
  • Are there only rights, only lefts, or both?
  • Estimate wave size and difficulty.
  • Identify hazards such as rip currents or sharp rocks.
  • Understand where the small, medium and larger waves break.
  • Determine which waves you will most likely want to ride and where you need to sit to catch them.
  • Is there a channel you can paddle out in or sit in if a set comes?

Surf terms:
Beach Break- a sand bottom surf spot with a combination of left and right breaking waves.
Channel-a deep spot in the lineup where waves break more gently or not at all. 
Point Break- a rock, reef or sand bottom spot where waves wrap around a point and break in the same direction.
Reef break-a reef bottom break which could consist of live or dead coral; may have a combination of lefts and rights or it could be a point break.

Have fun out there and be mindful!


  1. great tips, dev! helpful all year 'round. i surfefd pipes today after not surfing there for awhile. really had to slow my roll and observe what was going on, instead of relying on what i remembered. wise words.

  2. I don't know much about surfing but once i do start to learn I'll know to look for these things. thanks


  3. LOVE this! Reminds me of the movie North Shore! I do think the most important part of surfing or any water sport for that matter is learning about the ocean. GREAT tips, great post, and yes it is important to mind the locals. I've seen many people get into fights over that.

    ♥ Duckie.

  4. you are my surf idol

  5. I totally suck at this part of surfing. And the ocean is constantly changing...which makes it extra difficult!

    We sold J's surfboard over the weekend. I felt quite sad about it...but he didn't seem attached. We only lost $50 which made great financial sense so we don't have to pay to bring it on the plane home.

    Still though...that was our first board we bought :-/ and I was sad to see it go.

  6. great tips!! i tried surfing when i was younger and my husband and i just moved back to the beach so i'm thinking about giving it a go again.

    glad i found your blog!
    xoxo - denise

  7. Look at you spreading your surfing knowledge to us! And that photo of you at the top? I LOVE IT.

  8. haha, thanks for the tips! Wish I read these a few years ago when I was surfing! Great pics :)

  9. We're moving to Florida next year and I've been thinking about trying to learn to surf once we get out there. This makes me even more excited to learn!

    - ashley

  10. Hi Devon, how big is your surfboard? just curious...

  11. @anonymous I ride all different sized boards, but the one in this picture is 5'6". Cheers!

  12. Hi again!, thanks for the info on your surfboard, good luck on the Roxy contest, i voted for your video several times; i couldn't participate (just turned thirty).

    Cheers from Panama!

    P.S. Can we have more "tricks" please? the one you posted helped me a lot, i want to be able to rip like you do!

  13. Liliana MedagliaMay 16, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Hi Again! thanks for the info on your surfboard, good luck on the Roxy contest, i voted for your video several times. I couldn't participate since i just turned thirty.

    Cheers from Panama!

    P.S. Can we get more "tricks" please? the one you posted helped me a lot and i want to rip like you do!

  14. @Lily Panama? Awesome! Thanks for voting for me girl. I really appreciate it. I will try to put up some new tricks soon!


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