During retreats we focus on avoiding crowds altogether as much as possible, but we know that most people don’t have the luxury of living in a spot or having a schedule where it’s possible to avoid other surfers. For all of you living a city surf lifestyle, here are some tips you can use to catch more waves even at a crowded spot.
1. Surf during “off” hours.
If you’re an early riser, get up early. My alarm goes off at 3:30am most mornings. Ok I know, I’m a bit of a spazz, but I have young kids and I live in a hot place, so that 4am cool quiet coffee work session is key. I’m caffeinated and out the door by 4:45am, and paddling out by 5am. I typically get my best waves in the first 45 min or so before the crowd paddles out. By 6:30am I’m at least partially surf satisfied and happy to paddle in for breakfast while the tourists and locals battle it out.
If your body or mind don’t work that early, at least skip the morning surf rush hour and wait ’til 9am. If you’re lucky enough to be in the tropics, the super sunny hours of 11am – 2pm are usually much less crowded, so gear up in your super cute surf leggings, rash guard, and surf hat, and enjoy relatively empty waves at lunchtime! Even if you aren’t in the tropics, lunchtime is typically a bit less busy than the morning hours.
If neither of those options work for you, wait it out ’til sunset and surf into the dark. On a surf trip to a crowded spot in El Salvador a few years ago, our crew would stay out literally into the dark and there always seemed to be a good set right after sunset. If you’re willing you wait you can score the wave of the day after everyone else has paddled in!
2. Tell the Local Shredder he’s ripping.
At every crowded lineup there will be at least one guy, but more likely a handful, that are the local shredders. They live there, surf there on every swell, and dominate the lineup by catching every good wave. This is your target to befriend. As they surf past you, give them a cheer and a smile. As they paddle back out, tell them how sick that last turn was, or comment on their board, wetsuit, anything! Once you make conversation contact you become a person to them vs. just some random surfer in their way. The next time a wave comes in and you’re paddling for it, they may tell you go “GO!”
3. Be Assertive, and When your wave comes, GO!
A busy crowd will take advantage of any hesitation. Start on the inside, catch a couple to build your confidence. While in there, take note of the shredders. Who are they? Where are they taking off? Where are the people of your same skill level sitting and finding waves? Once you establish your setting, paddle out into the spot. Then when that wave comes your way and the shredder you’ve complimented looks to see if you’re going, you better paddle and go! If you choose to paddle over it, or take a few weak paddles and then back off, you’ve lost your chance and the crowd might not give you another. Once you show the crew that you’re out there to ride waves too, most times they’ll open up a spot in the lineup for you.
Follow these tips and you’ll be catching more waves in no time! If you need some help with the confidence, come see us on a retreat and we’ll help you out!