(Intermediate) Surf Lessons No.24: Tube Riding – Getting Barreled

This is it… what surfing is all about!! The Tube Ride – You won’t find a better feeling from anything else, way better than any drug and way more addictive!


Once you have tasted your first barrel that’s it everything else on this world will come second, work, school, responsibilities, you can forget all of them if there are some shacks to be had!

There are so many different names for tubes out there, barrels, caves, kegs, pits, shacks, bazzas and the green room but they all offer the same feeling!

It’s so hard to actually put into words the feeling you get from tube riding in the barrel without sounding cliché, you have heard it all before about how time slows down and you’re in your own little world, think about it you are riding in a space where you are completely surrounded by water, it’s not actually touching you and you can breathe in there! I’m not going to try and explain the feeling anymore, all I will say is go out there, pull in and join the club! Only then will you understand why surfers get so giddy when talking about the tube ride!

How to Tube Ride

So how do you pull in and ride the tube successfully? Firstly we will cover a couple of terms that you would have heard when someone has talked about barrels or tubes as they are otherwise known.

• Deep – the term “to be really deep in the barrel” basically means how far back in the tube someone is, the further back in the barrel they are riding the deeper they are. Getting deep in a barrel takes the feeling to a whole new level, the deeper you are the better it feels. When you are deep everything is super critical, every tiny body and surfboard movement will either mean success at making the barrel or getting taken out by the foam ball.

So what is a foam ball?

• The foam ball is the white water of a breaking wave but it’s the white water you can’t see from the beach. You will see white water exploding in the air when a wave breaks but what you can’t see is the white water exploding within the barrel. If a surfer is super deep in the barrel and riding the foam ball he couldn’t possibly be deeper. It is also the hardest possible spot to ride in the barrel because the curve or curl of the wave is so intense that every tiny movement you make on your board is 20x harder to judge right. If you are also riding on the foam ball you are riding on foam, which we have discussed in lesson 18. Is the hardest thing to ride on because it is so unpredictable!

So let’s start at the beginning with how to pull into tubes and how to successfully come out of one!

We are going to learn how to get barreled frontside in this lesson. The reason for this being its a lot easier than backside, we will learn that later on in the advanced section.

The best way to get the feel for it is to pull into and tube rides anything that comes your way. If it’s a closeout pull into it! Make sure it is actually throwing out and not just crumbling on your head. Every time you get a chance to pull in and tube ride, DO IT. If you don’t you will never get a feel for tube rides.

When you see the lip start to throw out watch it carefully, it’s all about positioning here, if you are too low you will cop it on the head, too high and your head will hit the roof of the barrel and you will get pitched.

You want to be just in the right position so the whole thing goes over you, get in a good stable crouch position BUT make sure your ass is tucked in. Everyone is guilty of sticking their ass in the air when they are learning to pull in but it is a habit you need to get out of fast. If you stick your ass out you will not only be totally off balance but the lip will hit you in the back or your ass (depending how big the barrel is) and also you will look like a total clown doing it, expect to take a grilling from your mates if you do it, it’s good if they do rip you for it because it will make you think not to do it next time!


Avoid doing a head dip! A head dip is when you lean your head and shoulders into the barrel, it will feel like you are in the thing because your head is in there and you have the view but you’re not, you need to stay crouched completely centered over your board, this is very important, if you are centered over your board properly it will stop your bum from poking out and getting copped by the lip.

Another thing everyone does when they are learning to pull in and tube ride is close their eyes!! Don’t!! I mean what are you doing you are pulling into a barrel that has this glorious view and you are missing all of it because you have your eyes closed! Also stay in there as long as you possibly can, just because you are in the barrel it may feel like you are going to get hammered but the truth is the barrel is probably the safest place you could be! All the energy of the wave is erupting around you so by the time you get knocked off the main source of energy that the wave possesses will have already broken and gone, leaving you to just go under water and pop back up again when you fall. If you jump off you are likely to take a beating because you will be jumping off right as the most powerful part of the wave is breaking! Don’t pull through the back, if you do this it’s not classed as a tube ride! You have got to get into the habit of staying in the barrel until you can’t stay in there any longer and the wave has to physically knock you off! If you don’t stay on your board for as long as you possibly can in the barrel you will never get the proper feeling for riding the tube and it is certain you are unlikely to ever come out of one.

So now you’re pulling in and hanging in on until you can’t any longer and the wave shuts down. This is the level you need to be at to move on.

Sooner or later you are going to get a barrel that is makeable. By this I mean you will be able to pull into the barrel, ride it and come out. This is where things get ridiculously exciting because if you thought pulling in was fun, just wait until you come out of one!

When surfing hollow waves chances are they are going to be steep and sucky. They might also have late takeoffs so a hard paddle into the wave is essential. Treat your last paddle before you stand up as your first maneuver. If you are going to need to pull in straight on takeoff, paddle hard, jump to your feet and try to angle down the wave rather than doing a bottom turn, if you are able to angle down the wave you should be able to set your line easier and just slip in as the wave throws out over you. Watch that lip as it throws out; you don’t want to take your eyes off it. When you are in the barrel there will be so much going on around you, body positioning is crucial and so is board positioning, use your ankles to tweak your board position, you want to keep body position to an absolute minimum in there and because it’s so sucky you will be surprised at how much tweaking your ankles will move your board up and down in the barrel. Run your back hand (trailing hand) along the wall of the barrel to get a feel for the line and also a bit of stability. A good place to look when you are in the barrel is at the exit but at the very top of the exit where the lip is pitching out, by doing this it will stop you from riding too low in the barrel and you will have a good sense of how much room there is above your head!

Now that you know the basics of what you should do in the tube the only thing that can help you more is experience. The more you pull in and tube ride the more comfortable you will feel and this will result in you making and coming out of more and more barrels.

Also to remind you and in the wise words of one of the greatest tube riders to have ever lived “the safest part of the wave is in the barrel” – Gerry Lopez.

Get out there and Tube Ride NOW!



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