(Intermediate) Surf Lessons No.23: Surfing Big Waves

Surfing big waves is a whole different type of surfing. Some people love it some people hate it but if you want to become and all round surfer with the full package it’s a must do!!


Surfing big waves is serious, it certainly isn’t for everyone but if it’s something you really want to get into there is no other feeling like it when you drop into a bomb and your flying along at mach 10. If you prepare your body and mind correctly it’s something that you can conquer and feel surprisingly comfortable with.

On a Big day you will see guys out there charging, these same guys might surf pretty poorly when its small, with bad styles but as soon as it gets big, they are in their comfort zone, with great style and loving life. By saying this I don’t mean that any level surfer can tackle big waves, because I think the higher your skill level is the easier it comes but it takes a certain type of person to want to surf big waves, when the horizon goes black and a huge wall of water is bearing down on you, you have to want that wave in order to make it! If you hesitate or aren’t fully committed you are going to get eaten!

How to Approach Surfing Big Waves

The best way to get into surfing big waves is to gradually push yourself, start off with trying to ride waves that match the size of the biggest wave you have ever had. Keep gradually pushing yourself to take off on bigger and bigger waves, the key thing here is to “Push” yourself, this is the only way you will get into surfing bigger waves! It helps if you have some mates out there and especially if they are of similar skill level to you. If they are of a similar skill level and they don’t want to take off on the bigger ones why don’t you step up and show them how it’s done! Once you do it they will want to step up and you will push yourselves by trying to get a bigger wave than your mate.

If you really want to catch a wave remember to paddle your ass off for it, the more committed you paddle into a wave the more chance you have of making it. If you have got butterflies in your stomach this is completely normal, it’s a way of your body setting up for the ride of your life, use this adrenalin to your advantage.

If its crowded out there, you’re in position and you paddle for a wave make sure you are going to catch that thing, if you freak out and pull back at the last minute you can kiss your chances of catching another set wave goodbye. The quickest way to get respect especially when there are people in the water is too take off on the set waves.

We are not saying that you should paddle out in anything! You need to know your limits and what you are comfortable with but to keep progressing and taking off on bigger waves you need to push yourself to do it!


If you do end up wiping out on a big one or getting caught inside remember to Relax!! This is absolutely vital. If you panic all your oxygen will get used up in no time. If you do find yourself getting tumbled round underwater try and sit back and enjoy the ride, you won’t get another feeling like it, people spend a fortune travelling round riding the scariest rollercoaster’s well this is kind of like a rollercoaster, well more accurately like riding in a washing machine, so try and enjoy how it feels to be in a really bizarre situation. Another good thing to try and do is practice holding your breath lying on your bed or in the bath. Anywhere that you are in your comfort zone. See how long you can hold your breath for. Baths are really warm and relaxing places to do this, when you are getting tumbled around after wiping out try and take your mind to when you were lying in your bath or on your bed at home just kicking back and relaxing. If you do this, the wipeout will pass in no time and before you know it you will be back on the surface ready to take off on another bomb..

Before paddling out to surf big waves try to chill out a little and take deep breaths. Check out the spot fully! Where do you paddle out, how long is it between sets and how many waves are there in a set, where is your exit point going to be, where are the rips and what do you do if you snap your leash or board, where do you go?? If you fully survey the situation there will be no need to panic if something does happen.

When it comes to equipment make sure you have got something that is made for surfing big waves. It is no good just trying to rely on your everyday short board. If you take off on a big wave it will spin out or you won’t get enough speed paddling and you will get pitched! Make sure you have a board that has got a good amount of length, maybe a pintail for extra stability on bottom turns. Having the right equipment will fill you with confidence to take off on some big ones and charge!

Remember to have fun. Like I said surfing big waves isn’t for everyone but you will be shocked at how much you can push yourself and the size of waves you actually can ride. Prepare for it properly and you will be safe and sweet.


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