As surf coaches, one of the most commonly asked questions we hear is “How do I catch a green wave?”. For novice surfers, this can be the hardest transition to overcome. Most students hope that it is just some simple part of the technique that they are missing. The reality is there are many factors, and like anything good in life, it is practice, practice and more practice. You can’t replace time in the water.
Positioning is a massive part of the puzzle in trying to catch a green wave. We need to spot the lumps of swell early enough so we can get to a position where the lump has changed into a shape more like a skateboard ramp or a small hill.
Position yourself 3-5 meters behind where you think the wave will turn into that small hill or ramp shape.
Matching wave speed
When you see a swell bump approaching that looks like it might turn into the correct shape, lay down. When the lump is a few meters behind you, start to paddle long smooth and deep strokes to get yourself to the point that the wave stands up into the hill shape.
We are trying to match the speed of the wave and use the force of gravity to start us gliding down the hill. This is the point we have caught the green wave.
One of our repeated tips is that the bigger the board, the faster it will paddle. Until your strength is enough to match the speed of a wave on a smaller board avoid trying to surf a small board. It will simply stump your progress.
Controlling your board
If you are now gliding with the wave, we strongly suggest using a cobra position to steady your board and make sure you are on the wave.
Once you are definitely in control of your board and on the wave, try to get to your feet in the top third of the wave. Remember to bend your knees and not your waist for a low center of gravity and good balance. Look down the line of the wave and not straight at the beach. Your eyes are your steering wheel and where you look is where you go. Looking down often leads to a wipeout.