Surf Tips

The Simple Way to Better Surfing

By Matt Griggs

Why do you surf? Take a minute to answer this properly. You are now half way to improving because you know what your driving force is.

Now, what do you want out of reading this? You now have purpose, something you should paddle out with every day.

Now, ponder these few notes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Now you have a catalyst for inspiration.

But before your brain explodes, the above are merely just tools to awaken the inspiration in you. It’s natural that everyone wants to improve at whatever it is that we do, but you have to know where that improvement is coming from. Read on…


It’s a daunting subject and I usually steer clear of
head doctors and sports shrinks, because I believe
more in action – and not confusing you with in
depth analysis of your inner athlete or whatever
bullshit we can come up with to justify the pay
packets of these sports stars. Firstly, you are not
an athlete, you are a surfer! But the brain is just
another muscle – and if you get specifi c with it’s
use and learn how to train it as such, it has many
benefits. Here are a few tools:


If we talked and tinkered with the technicalities of
surfing, we could fill a book, right? Now, just imagine
I gave you five instructions to remember before
you paddle out (for example: rotate your shoulders
more, lower your centre of gravity, deepen your
bottom turns, read the wave right…). You’re so
confused that you’ll probably wax the bottom of
your board and paddle out backwards. My point
being, you’ll fall off every wave. Surfing is a feel,
not a thought. Like driving a manual, you don’t concentrate on the gear stick, the brakes, the clutch
and the accelerator all at once, because you have the
feel for it now. It happens way too quickly to think it
as it happens. So pick a theme that inspires you and
narrow your focus: speed, power, timing… just pick
one, and what you’ll find is, that if you get that right,
everything else usually revolves around that anyway.
Trust your instincts! The year Tom Curren won his
third world title, every surf he had that year was no
longer than 30 minutes, the same as a heat time.

Kicking Goals

The biggest problem here is people always pick
the hardest goals when it comes to improving. If I
asked you what was the easiest way you could improve,
what would it be? What could you do that’s
easy that you KNOW will make you surf better? It
may be making sure you always have wax job, or
you concentrate on reading the wave right… or surf
at least once a day…You then chip away at them
and change them when you need to. You work out
how you can improve and you turn it straight into
action. “I just go into a heat with one goal usually,”
says Mick Fanning. “It might be as simple as making
sure I complete my waves.”

You Will Fail

Don’t be scared of what you look like. Don’t be
scared of falling off, don’t be scared of taking that
wave that you last pulled back on, don’t be scared
to fail. Failure is part of the terrain to improvement.
Embrace and confront the fear and know that you
will fail at some stage, but if you keep hitting that
lip, you will soon get the better of it. You learn fear
as much as you learn not to fear. The choice is yours.
“The best barrels you get are always the ones you
think you’re not going to make,” says Dean Morrison.
This applies to every turn.


Again, there are so many things you can do to get
fit and strong, but out of those things, what is going
to make you a better surfer? For example, riding
a bike will make you fit and strong… for riding a
bike, but not necessarily surfing. When you break it
down, surfing is an explosive sport. A wave, unless
you’re from J-Bay or Chicama, generally only goes
for around 10-15 seconds. So you train with the end
in mind. Like the head stuff, it’s all about simplifying
and being specific – and knowing what you are
doing is working. Core stability exercises are the
way forward. The body works more powerfully and
efficiently when all the muscles are balanced and
switched on, so core stability, yoga, Pilates are all
great things to do.


Warm-up is exactly what it suggests. If you stretch
your muscles for the usual 30 seconds, you will
lengthen them, but you will also relax them and put
them to sleep, so you stretch after, or at night when
you’re watching TV. I know it’s easier to stretch
the muscles that are flexible and strengthen the
muscles that are already strong, but remember we
are trying to get balanced strength here to prevent
injury and maximise performance.

Before you surf, do a warm-up routine to prepare your
muscles for the explosive act of surfing. It may be as
simple as running down the beach, but that simple
act will stop your muscles ripping in half. If you do
the little things right, bigger things will happen!


Keep your body balanced. There are some muscles
that are weak and loose and some that are strong
and tight. The body naturally takes the path of least
resistance, favouring the stronger muscle groups.
This doesn’t mean it is correct. While one muscle
gradually gets stronger and stronger, the other
might weaken, causing an inbalance – and then,
injury. Injuries aren’t freak occurrences, they are
due to inbalances in the body and a lack of stability
strength to take whatever load you are putting on it.
So do your yoga, your core stability with someone
that is well informed and inspiring to be around,
get a surf buddy to do it with, know what you want
to achieve – then go do it. Oh – and one more thing:
enjoy. A happy surfer is a better surfer.

When Griggsy’s not writing articles for SE or blogging for us, he’s travelling around the world as Rip Curl’s WCT pit-boss training Mick Fanning to bring the World Title back to Australia.


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