Why & How We Surf

by Amanda LeVett on January 22, 2015

Why can’t I friggin’ do this!
This is a common phrase I scream internally while surfing. In this case I was trying to get barreled off of my take-off. I would drop in, fade, pick my line, and get ready. When I say “get ready”, the optimistic side of me envisions the barrel of my life. Then reality hits like the lip of a wave to my face.

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced surfer, the question will surely come up: How do I improve my surfing? That’s a big question, but we can start by dealing with anxiety, finding good advice, and spending more time in the waves.

Fear is an emotion.
Anxiety is possibly the biggest hurdle, but with experience, you can get over it. For example, in the surf movie, A Broke Down Melody, a surfer has lost the use of his legs. Amazingly, he still surfs and his advice to other surfers is “If you try, you make it. If you don’t try, you never make it.” (He’s from Tahiti or Fiji— somewhere awesome and beautiful— and his English is a little broken. So repeat his advice with an accent, it adds to the impact.)

It is a bit cliche that the first advice is don’t be afraid, but there’s a reason why every instructor says this. Fear can be debilitating and prevent progress. We must push ourselves to improve and the first hurdle is overcoming fear.

Find a teacher… in everyone.
I bet you’re dying to know if I ever improved my barrels? I didn’t, but I did have a realization. I was complaining about my barrels (or lack of) and a friend asked me, “Where are you looking when you’re in the tube?” Huh? Beats me. She told me to look to 1 o’clock to help keep my line, essentially look where you want to go. Awesome advice!

So I tried this again, but still complained about barrels (or lack of) and another friend says, “You can’t bottom turn into a small barrel. When the waves are small, you have stay mid-face, gain speed, and come from behind.” Really? Wish I had known that 10 years ago!

So here’s my advice: Leave your pride at home and ask questions. Find teachers and don’t be embarrassed to approach them. I promise you’ll learn much faster.

Surf. Repeat. Surf.
For a year I barely surfed because the waves just weren’t good enough. This is what I thought and after a while, I began to believe it. Worst of all, when I did surf, I surfed poorly because I was tired, stiff, and couldn’t read the waves.

I’m going to dare say something deep here— If you want to surf better, surf more. (You can quote me on that.) So I started surfing whenever I found a surfable wave. Oddly, I found a lot of surfable waves and I was always having fun. I learned that more often than not, it’s better out there than I thought.

So, my humble advice in the Why & How We Surf: Know that fear is an emotion to conquer, search out and accept advice, and most important, get out and surf!

Amanda Stalling Into the Tube

Amanda LeVett is a surfer, hotelier, world traveler, and Las Olas surf coach. When she’s home you can find her and her dog Sadie every morning scanning the horizon for the next set.

Right: Amanda testing the advice. Photo: Sunny Smith

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