The Difficulty of Surfing Short Boards

The difficult of surfing short boards is related to the needed expertise and strength when the volume of the surf board becomes smaller.

Surfing Skills for a Short Board

New surfers have often been motivated to surf by the movies. Some are inspired because their friends are surfing short boards and are so dedicated. surfing short boards

When I teach new students to surf, we begin on a 9′ surf board that has lots of volume (length x width x thickness). This allows the board to catch foam waves, makes them easy to paddle, and easy to ride.

As the volume becomes smaller, the board needs more strength and stamina to paddle. It has to catch waves that arc and require master timing. Surfers have to land their pop up perfectly or the board gets squirrely.

The main reason a short board requires more strength is it sits lower in the water and has to be pushed through the water rather than effortlessly gliding.

The reason it is harder to catch waves is long boards can be pushed easily by any wave. A short board has to catch the wave just as it arcs and has maximum power. The surfer has to intersect with the forming wave at just the right time. The short boarder paddles or waits until the wave comes under the board and then paddles down the face before popping up.

The pop up on a short board has to be precise. It is more difficult to pop up on a lower volume board because it sinks into the water, has no room for the feet to help support the push, and requires the feet to land perfectly positioned or the board goes out of control.

How to Phase into Short Board Surfing

I like to cross train for strength, stamina, and flexibility.  I do yoga poses each morning. I ride a road bike to help stamina. I work out at the gym to develop upper body strength. I practice the pop ups 5 times every morning.

Reduce board length slowly maintaining width and thickness. This allows for a shorter board with still higher volume. The board increases one’s ability to paddle if volume is maintained and makes catching real waves easier if there is more volume.

Increase time in the water. The short board requires good timing because on sand bar beaches waves look different every day. Learning to feel the waves and having the instincts for timing require lots of practice, regularly.

If you can’t put in the time, it is all the more important to stick with a higher volume board.


For surf lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page

Bottom turns are an important first maneuver for short boards. (video)

Video on doing cutbacks for both beginner and short boards.

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How to Know if You Can Surf

How to know if you can surf is a question people have at all ages and especially when they become seniors.

Physical Requirements of Surfing

The most demanding physical requirement for surfing is flexibility. I bet not 1% of my new students can put their palms on the ground without you can surfbending their knees. If those over 40 to seniors want to improve their surfing capability, start stretching.

Other requirements are upper body strength and stamina. I can teach the beginners surfing pop to all ages. The beginner pop up has students pushing off the board with their hands, putting their rear foot on the board, and then standing on it to put their front foot on the board.

This pop up is especially helpful with those having minimum upper body strength and too much weight. As students master this move, they start doing the advanced pop up bringing both feet to the board at the same time.

Ability to Learn for Surfing

The first major disability for surfing I find in all ages is the ability to listen and transfer the thought to your body. Like trying to learn a new dance. I find that girls are 90% better than boys and people who engage in other sports are more capable of applying new skills.

Surfing is a compilation of several moves happening one after the other. First students have to remember where to place their body each time on the board. Then they have to learn the timing of catching a wave and when to put their hands on the board for a pop up. Students who can’t remember each technique and default to mind chatter or panic get frustrated.

Rhythm is the Secret to Learn Surfing

I have students count out loud to 4 as in each one they move their body  to the count. There is a nice rhythm of paddling, catching a wave, preparing for the pop up and then popping that is real easy when students get the rhythm.


For Surf Lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page

See my video on the Surfing Pop up

See a good YouTube video on Catching Waves

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3 Ways to Take Off on Surfing Waves

There are 3 ways to take off on surfing waves for foam and real waves. There are certainly more techniques but a few principals can serve you well.

Wave Catching Principals

The first principal that works on foam and real waves is moving before the surfing waveswave arrives to build momentum and bridge the board speed with the wave speed. The bigger the wave, the faster it is moving. If the surf board is not moving at impact, the surf board gets tossed.

On a foam wave, surfers should start paddling 20 feet before the wave arrives at an easy pace and then five hard paddles as the wave starts pushing the board. The surfer can put their hands on the board after the board is in front of the wave. The surfer can feel the board take off.

On a real wave, there are a few approaches. It is common to see a short boarder or long boarder race to meet the face of the wave as it peaks to get a jump on reaching the pocket. Moving at the speed of the wave makes the pop up easier.

A second approach especially for a short boarder is to let the wave come under the board and as it arcs above the surfers head, to paddle and kick hard a few strokes to get down the face.

A small adjustment is often seen as the short boarder points the board towards the pocket after getting pushed by the wave before putting his hands on the board for a pop up.

Where to Position as Waves Break

Surfers like to take the wave deep which means close to where the foam first comes over the top. This is the point of maximum speed and steepness. This means the surfer has the right of way on the wave, is going fast to reach the pocket, and the degree of difficulty is greater if he is in a competition.

Taking the wave at the corner or further down from where the foam first comes over the top may mean the wave is not as steep and is not moving as fast so catching the wave and the pop up are easier.

It pays to study the steepness of waves and how they break to improve wave catching on any day. Watching other surfers is helpful in deciding how you want to catch waves for your capabilities.


For surf lessons in Oceanside, see the Landing Page

Good YouTube video on How to Surf

Good YouTube video on Catching Waves

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How to Do Surfing Pop Up

New students need to learn how to do the surfing pop up to ride the surf board. There are supporting techniques and skills that have to be learned in conjunction with the pop up as it is one step in several for riding surf board. the surfing pop up

In surf board lessons, I first instruct students on lying on the board balanced with feet at the back and chest up when paddling to avoid pearling (nose of board goes under water when wave pushes from behind)

Catching the wave requires timing and technique.  The main point in riding foam waves on a soft top is to start paddling easy before the wave arrives and then paddle hard as the wave impacts the board.

The Beginner Pop Up

This is where the pop up begins. After catching the wave where the board is paddled in front of the wave (not jumping up as soon as the board is impacted), the student puts their hands on the board in a man’s push up position under the chest.

I have students count out loud with each move so paddling is one and then hands under the chest is two. On three, the student pushes up and in the beginning pop up pushes up off the board, places the rear foot on the board, and then using the force of the hands and the rear foot, brings the front foot forward to place between where the hands were and stands up.

I use the count of three for the push up and putting the feet on the board and by the count of four, the student is standing up looking at the beach. There are two important aspects. 90% of the pop up is getting the front foot to the middle of the board. Just as important, when the student is standing, the hips and shoulders should be squared to the front with both hands in front so they can be seen.  (See video)

The Advanced Pop Up

In the advanced pop up, the student moves both feet at the same time. The proper posture for either method is the front foot in the middle of the board. The back foot is shoulder width apart and perpendicular to the two rails (sides). The knees are flexed. The body weight is equal on front and back leg.  Hips and shoulders facing forward and hands in front.

The same pop up is used on foam and real waves. The technique does not vary even for bigger waves. Only greater levels of courage are needed to move to bigger waves.


For Surf Lessons in Oceanside, see Landing Page

My YouTube video on doing Pop Ups

Good YouTube video for Catching Waves


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Learn Surfing on Soft Top Boards

There are at least 6 good reasons to learn surfing on soft top boards.

3 Reasons to Learn Surfing on Soft Top Boards

Surfers need to begin surfing in broken or foam waves. Hard boards are not designed to catch foam waves, but soft top boards are.  They have big volume so they float light. When a wave hits a soft top board, there is a lot of resistance, so the board gets pushed to the beach. learn surfing on soft top boards

When surfers progress to hard boards, they need the arc of a real wave so the board is going down hill to get power.

The soft top board is easy to paddle. The first thing that gets tired with new surfers are their arms. Paddling is work and few people could jump into a pool and swim a mile.

The floating nature of the soft top makes it easier to paddle than a hard board.

The soft top board is easy to ride. 8′ and 9′ soft top boards have a lot of float relative to a surfers weight so they tolerate more mistakes. This is important learning because beginners don’t get it right for a while.

The hard board is less tolerant of less than perfect techniques and therefore pitch the surfer off the board quicker.

Three more reasons to learn surfing on a soft top board:

A soft top board won’t hurt you when it hits you. They are made of styro-foam and can be used for foam waves and progress to real waves. It is common to fall off real waves and get tangled up with the surf board.

You can learn most of the surfing techniques on a soft top board. There is no reason to progress to hard boards until you have learned to ride real waves and at least learned the bottom turn, cut back and how to accelerate. You could ride 7′ waves on a soft top board.

Advanced surfers can use the soft top for ripping the lip and doing aerial 360’s so the board does not limit advancement.

A soft top board helps build paddling stamina. It is a big jump to decrease the volume on a surf board where it sinks into the water and then you have to paddle it to get out to waves and paddle it to catch waves.

If the volume drops too fast, new surfers are tired in 20 minutes. Surfers want to have at least an hour a session to improve their skills and get into a groove.

Soft top boards are less expensive and easy to resell. In California, Costco sells excellent soft tops for $99 that last a life time. They can easily be resold for the same amount or more.

Many short board surfers keep their soft tops because on small wave days, soft tops catch waves easier and are so much fun to paddle after the continuous work with short boards.

Be patient and dedicated to learning all the techniques before trying to be cool with a better board. Learn surfing on a soft top board and surfing on a hard top is an easy transition instead of a frustrating one.


For Oceanside surf lessons, see the Home Page

For over 700 surfing posts see my other surf site

This is a good YouTube video for catching waves

This is my own YouTube video for mastering the Pop Up

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How to Ride the Surfing Short Board

Learning how to ride the surfing short board requires practice, patience, time, and steady development.

The Important Aspects of the Surfing Short Board

When we move from a high volume board to ride the surfing short board, we are not always aware of the advantages we are giving up.

The short board by definition doesn’t float like the high volume boards and has less resistance to waves. This is why surfers love them.

After developing skills and stamina on successively shorter boards from high volume boards, the surfer arrives with the necessary skills, strength and courage.

The surfing short board is not just shorter but thinner and narrower. When a foam wave hits a short board, it passes by without impact. To get a wave to notice a short board, it has to come under the board and the surfer has to paddle the board down the face.

Paddling out to waves is more work and paddling fast to catch waves is more difficult. When short board surfers jump to a high volume board for fun, they do it because on small days, they are faster and catch waves so much easier.

The lower volume we experience when we ride the surfing short board makes them unstable in a wave for beginners. The pop up has to be deadly accurate or the board will feel squirrely before the surfer falls. The surfer posture has to be accurate with his weight over the center line to make the board go straight down the face.

The Techniques Change in Riding a Short Board in a Wave

Riding the surfing short board in a real wave requires different techniques than riding a high volume board in foam waves.

A foam wave comes straight in and is predictable. A real wave breaks and offers a few seconds to position the board in the right spot. Where as in a foam wave, the surfer paddles in front of the wave, in a real wave, the surfer paddles but lets the wave come under his board.

A foam wave is ridden straight and a real wave is ridden at an angle to the wave in the pocket. A high volume board can just ride straight without much effort, but a short board has to be accelerated or the lip catches up fast.

The point of the short board is to do maneuvers that allow greater angling into the wave with the rails. The rails are thin and the surfer can edge them and make sharp carves up and down the face.

The most important carve is the bottom turn used to turn into the pocket, go up the face for a trick, and to escape over the back on a close out wave. In each carve, the surfer pressures the heels or toes on the wave face and rotates his upper body into the turn.

Accelerating is necessary to get speed for maneuvers. The surfer presses the nose of the board up and down the wave with his front foot.

The cut back reverses direction to regain the power of a fading wave or for style. This is a reverse bottom turn where the feet pressure the outside rail and the upper body counter rotates to reverse direction.

To Ride the Surfing Short Board the Surfer Needs More Courage

Riding the surfing short board means catching the wave before it crashes. If the surfer gets in the impact zone, the crash hurts. The progress on a surfing short board leans toward riding bigger waves.

Bigger waves have more speed and weight. This becomes apparent very soon. Dave Kalama says bigger waves are increments of fear. All surfers have fear, but they learn to manage it.

Confidence comes from mastering all the basic techniques and developing the strength and stamina to learn in longer sessions.

Tweet: How to Ride the Surfing Short Board.


For Surf Lessons in Oceanside, visit the Home Page

This is a great tutorial on catching real waves


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Learn to Ride the Surf Wave Pocket

The surf wave pocket is where all the tricks and maneuvers are performed. When aspiring surfers see movies, they see experts riding the surf wave pocket.

The surf wave pocket is the arc of the wave where surfers enter by the surf wave pocketdropping down the face and executing a bottom turn or angle immediately into the wave while catching it.

On short boards, the first maneuver in the pocket is accelerating. The surfer runs the nose of the board up and down the face of the wave with his front foot pushing and releasing.

On long boards, surfers can accelerate, but the surf board volume helps them drive the pocket without as much effort.

Maneuvers in the Surf Wave Pocket

Before a surfer begins to learn competitive tricks in the pocket, he wants the three basic maneuvers:

  • The bottom turn
  • The cut back
  • The acceleration

The bottom turn gets the surfer in the wave after dropping down the face. The cut back helps reduce direction to regain the power of the wave and for style points. Accelerating is used after each maneuver to make gain speed and make the next maneuver easier.

The Surf Wave Pocket in Different Kinds of Waves

The most difficult pocket is the close out wave. The pocket only stays open for a short window and the waves are usually steep. Surfers often grab a rail to hold the board against the face and get speed quickly.

The most popular pocket is the barrel. Surfers drop down the face and bottom turn into the wave if it barrels quickly or have to stall with half cut backs if the barrel forms more slowly.

The ideal pocket is on waves formed at points or by reefs. They generally gain perfect shape and can hold form for very long runs. J Bay, Coolengata, Rincon, and Malibu are some famous long point breaks.

Tweet: Learn to ride the surf wave pocket.

For Surf Lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page

This is a great tutorial on catching real waves


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Learn Surfing in One Lesson

People often how long it takes to learn to surf. You can learn surfing in one lesson.

Learning Comfort in the Ocean

One of the benefits I enjoy seeing students learn is comfort in the ocean. learn surfing in one lessonThe ocean is intimidating and many people show fear before they get in the water. One young boy recently was trembling with fear during the dry land lesson and almost quit after his first push to the beach.

He feared the water going over his head. After a few brave trips through the first foam waves and the fear began to subside as he realized the ocean passes by without harming you.

Soon he said, surfing is fun. I am amazed at how young kids are braver than I would have expected as they drag their surfboard out to bigger surf.

The Physical Requirements for Learning to Surf in One Lesson 

Kids learn immediately. Learning to surf to most people is getting up on the surf board and riding to the beach. New students don’t paddle out to real waves and ride like seen in the movies.learn surfing in one lesson

Kids have flexibility, are light, and can get into the correct posture the first trip on the surfboard.

Teens can do the same, but many start dealing with weight which makes it more difficult. After 70 pounds, the pop up on the surf board is more precise and better skills are required.

Young and older adults have to pop up correctly because of size and weight and need certain physical skills. Flexibility, upper body strength, some core strength, and stamina help.

The pop up for standing on the board requires the front foot to pass under the chest and land where the hands are placed in a man’s push up position. Many adults have not stretched in years and have trouble getting their foot forward.

Learning to surf in one lesson without preparing for surfing requires minimum athletic ability.

The Easy Pop Up for Learning to Surf in One Lesson

There is a professional pop up in which both feet are brought to the surf board at one time. This requires all the above mentioned physical skills.

I have a second, Plan B, pop up I demonstrate that can work just as well

learn surfing in one lesson

for beginners to ride foam waves. In this pop up, the student places their rear foot on the board first and then as they are standing up on it, bring their forward foot to the middle of the surf board.

I use this method with kids and adults that have flexibility and/or weight problems. It is successful most of the time and over weight students are the only ones that continue to have problems in one lesson.

The Fundamentals of Surfing

New students are most frequently amazed that they learn surfing in one lesson. They learn to hold the surf board pointing toward the beach, roll over on it before the wave arrives, paddle the surf board in a balanced position, catch waves, pop up, and ride to the shore.

Then they learn to paddle out through the waves, turn around, and catch the next wave. This prepares students to paddle out to bigger waves as their skills, confidence, and courage increase.

They can practice on their own and whereas they learn surfing in one lesson, they can then practice as often as available to advance their skills.
Tweet: Learn Surfing in One Lesson.


For surf lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page

This instructor gives a good overall video lesson on learning to surf

Watch my video for pop up instructions:

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Group Surfing on Vacation

Surfing on vacation when you visit the beach can be the highlight of any trip. Oceanside in San Diego, for one, offers good foam waves so beginners get a good start.

Group Surfing on Vacation is Fun for Everyone

Group surfing on vacation is a bonding experience between participants and even the parents of kids surfing. Everyone gets to watch and/or participate while enjoying a fun time at the beach. group surfing on vacation

Lessons are taught in waist deep water in the shore breaking waves so everyone has a front row seat. Because the boards are foam, students learn in waist deep water, and there is not much speed to waves, safety is high.

It is best to break groups up into age groups when possible so everyone has someone to play with and ride waves with. Also with kids and teens, they will have similar capabilities and learn from each other.

What are the Skills that Have to Be Learned to Surf the First Day

One of the great things about learning to surf is most people get it right away. I teach a four count method that has all the kids up usually on their first ride.

The teens depending on their ability to absorb information can be up almost as fast. The bigger the student is the more precise he has to be in his movements because of a weight to surf board volume ratio. Lighter is easier.

Adults to seniors are equally adept at learning as we find age is functional, not chronological. Active adults who are not over weight and are stretched, find the task almost as easy as do the kids.

A second ratio is power to weight meaning the upper body has to get the rest of the body off the surfboard to stand up.  As adults get into careers and family raising they start putting on pounds and exercise less.

The Surf Pop UP for Standing on the Surf Board

In a group surfing on vacation, most participants will utilize the professional pop or improvise. There is a second method I often use that is very efficient in getting the slower adapting students to get on the surf

group surfing on vacation
The pop up begins with a push


The professional pop up has the front foot landing in the middle of the board as the back foot remains at the rear of the board. This process requires a big push from the shoulders, flexibility, and good core muscles.

The almost as effective method has the student putting the back foot on the board first and using it to stand up and bring the front foot forward to the right spot. It doesn’t require the power of the first method and is good when people are a little heavy.

Fun is The Prime Ingredient for a Group Surfing on Vacation

Most participants fall in love with surfing immediately. Then they want to do it everyday. It rallies the whole group to get going in the morning and organizes the beach activity.

Once on the beach everyone can boogie board, swim, tan and sleep without any major necessities. Its not like going to Disneyland where everything costs. The ocean is free.

Tweet: Group surfing on vacation is great fun. Everyone can learn,


For Surf Lessons or Groups in Oceanside, see my Home Page

This instructor gives a good overall video lesson on learning to surf

Watch my video on the various pop ups:

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Catch Surfing Waves

One of the most fun aspects of surfing is to catch surfing waves. Even when beginners can’t pop up on the board they find the speed of riding waves as a natural phenomena is great fun. The board is a porpoise without flippers.

Catch Surfing Waves

There are many surfing techniques that precede and follow the act of catching the wave.

catch surfing waves
Getting a real wave

The surf board has to be positioned whether looking for a foam wave or real wave. The surfer has to start moving for momentum. When the foam is about to impact the surfboard or the real wave comes under the board, the surfer paddles hard.

This is the point where beginner surfers have difficulty. On foam waves, the biggest mistake surfers make to catch surfing waves is they don’t paddle long enough. Beginners pop up as soon as the wave impacts the board instead of paddling until they board takes off in front of the wave.

On real waves the biggest mistake beginners make is trying to paddle over the top to catch the wave instead of letting it rise under them and then paddling three hard strokes.

Position, Patience, and Courage

To catch a surfing wave, beginner surfers need to be in control of the mental process. They have to have the patience that comes from experience to seek the right wave.

In foam waves, new students should look for a straight wall of white foam that is large enough to push the surfboard. Students often just jump in front of anything to paddle and then waste a lot of energy.

In foam waves, the surfer must paddle before the wave arrives and then hard once it impacts the surfboard. Many students start jumping in front of the wave like they were on a boogie board and get turned over instantly.

With real waves, it takes courage to get in front of the wave before it arrives. Beginners have to learn the intersection point of getting the board to the place where the wave is going to arc. Paddling while waiting for the wave to get momentum and then paddling hard when the wave is under the board makes it easier.

Advanced surfers line up where the waves are breaking, spot a wave starting to form, and know where to position to catch it as it peaks. It takes courage to get in front of the wave because if the judgment is wrong, the wave breaks with all its weight on the surfer.

The Techniques Before and After to Catch a Surfing Wave

The beginner riding foam waves has to be positioned correctly on the surfboard. Feet have to be at the back of the board, the nose in the middle and the balance of the board set with the butt.

catch a surfing wave
ideal beginner riding posture

Students should roll on the surfboard before it arrives pointing straight ahead at something on the beach and paddling toward it. Too many students roll on the board at an angle to the wave coming in and get turned over immediately.

Students want a pop up that puts their front foot in the middle of the surfboard and their hips and shoulders facing forward. Hands in front of the face control the hips and shoulders. The board should go straight without much work balancing.

On a real wave, the same balancing for paddling the board is required, but a great pop up is necessary with the feet landing precisely. With real waves, lacking this accuracy results in more severe punishment.

On a real wave, surfers want to start accelerating in the pocket immediately to stay ahead of the breaking lip. This begins with a bottom turn into the pocket or the wave taken at an angle into the pocket. Accelerating is accomplished on short or mini long boards by running the nose of the board up and down the pocket with the front foot.

Beginners Start with Soft Top Boards

All these techniques can be learned on practiced on 8′ soft top surf boards. Learning to catch a surfing wave is easier if the surf board is higher volume so the techniques can be mastered before moving to shorter boards that make everything more difficult and frustrating.

Tweet: Catch surfing waves. Master the foam and real waves.


If you are interested in Surf Lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page

Watch my short video on the correct pop up techniques:

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