More “Concept” Than “Strokes”
– Last Updated: Mar-31-05 5:15 PM EST –
because the basic strokes, especially forward and sweep, are the most used along with the stern rudder. The issue is to when to use these strokes to realize the concept of "classical" surfing.
Took me a couple of years, and only after watching good surf kayakers, to understand what I should be striving for. Initially, I was happy to catch a wave, zoom straight down the face, ride it and then brace and ride the foam pile when the wave broke. More often than not, the wave was controlling me as opposed to me controlling the boat and working in harmony with the wave energy. In clasical surfing, you want to be on the green face right in front of the pocket where the greatest energy is. Here, you control the boat and make the moves you want ("self expression" and thus the notion of an "expression session" for an informal surf session) while staying in on green face or in the pocket. You probably noticed that once in the foam pile, you begin to loose some of the control of the boat to the wave. In essence, the wave is controlling you and not so much you controlling the boat. It's here that folks begin to brace and "side surf" which is really more "surviving" the wave than truly "surfing" it. As far classical surfing is concerned, once you're in the foam pile and can't get out, the the ride is essentially over. That's why you'll see boardies jumping off the board once they're in the thick of the foam pile, if they haven't already busted back over the lip before the closeout.
So in surfing, you're trying to stay in the green face. The moves you make, whatever they may be -- basic or "play" moves, should be done with intent of maintaining the green face and pocket. A major component here is really learning to use the boat edges/rails to carve. Carving gives directional control and speed. If you don't carve, the tendency is to slide out and lose forward momentum. On a fast wave, the section of wave closing behind you (as indicated by the foam) may catch up and envelop you. There, again, you are no longer in control as much as being controled the wave.
So, in addition to really carving, you need to be able to read what the wave is likely to do in front you (as well as sense what it's doing behind you). The strokes required should be used judiciously to keep you ahead of the closing sections behind you, or to exit the wave entirely if it looks as if a complete closeout is about to happen. So how do you use strokes "judiciously?" For an example, a lot of paddlers know that a "stern rudder" should be used. But how much? Sometimes on a steep face, if you stick the whole blade into the wave to rudder, there is greater friction and the rudder will actually slow you down and you may have the closeout section of the wave catch up and shut your ride down. So, you have to learn how much of a blade to use in a rudder, depending on the wave. Also realize, when you're moving fast, you have a lot of dynamic stability, meaning that you can be way on edge, leaning way out and carving and yet have no risk of falling over (think of a bike at high speed going around a corner). Therefore the stern rudder can simply be an inch or two of the blade edge to accomplish what is needed. What often is seen with beginner surfers is that their stern rudder is more like a brace, fully in the water and slowing them down. They don't realize that with good edging, they don't have to use much blade to have directional control. But, by using too much blade, the rudder is like a brace and becomes a de facto and needed brace when the closeup catches up to them because they going too slow to stay in front of the pocket. Sometimes a wave is moving so fast and the closeout is also happening really fast, you may not want to even use a rudder. Rather, you're controlling boat direction and "trim" (position on the wave face) simply be edging and using hip movement. You would want to avoid or use minimally a rudder because it will slow the boat down. Instead, you may want to judiciously use quick and short forward and/or sweep strokes to increase speed to evade a closeout and/or to regain the wave face.
Here is pic of me on a small wave face closing out and me carving and getting ready to stroke to try to regain the pocket and the green face. In fact, I was able to. Had I used a stern rudder here, I would have lost speed and likely fail to regain the wave.
The other thing that can happen is that on mushy, slow waves, you may get too far ahead of the pocket and begin to lose energy. Here, you may want to do a very drastic stern rudder to make a cutback to the pocket to regain the energy. If not, the mushy wave section can fade right under you and you end up losing the wave.
So, if you have the basic strokes down, what it comes down to is understanding the "surfing concept" and applying the right strokes to realize that concept. SeaDart gave some good links to info as well as footage. Watch and read with that in mind, then go out and ride with that concept in mind. Each wave is literally different. With each ride, you'll get better at reading the wave and figuring out what needs be done to stay in the pocket or the green face. A (near) perfect ride is when you ride the boat in concert with the wave energy and maximizing it for a long ride. This is the stuff of the "Stoke."
(edited for clarity.)