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Small Surf Basics

Windsurfing in small surf
Click here to see a video demonstration (Will open in a new window)

Welcome to a new world of windsurfing. For some windsurfers, the first time they saw windsurfing was probably some guys ripping it up in the waves. This might have been what got you interested in the first place. You saw them turning, jumping and going off. You might have thought, I want to do that.

Now for the first time your dreams are about to come true and you'll experience something so amazing that it will change your life - wavesailing. Jumping, cut backs, top turns, bottom turns, ripping it up and going crazy. Ok, that's enough talk, let's just get into the waves.

Start simple, small waves with cross-shore wind. Direct off or on-shore is a big no. A good day to start out on is in 15-20 knots. Enough wind to drive you over the surf, behind the breaks and then ride in on the wave.

Now before we get out into the water there are a few unwritten rules that you want to keep in mind, they are:

  • You need to be able to tack and tack well!
  • The same goes for your waterstarting skills.
  • Have some sort of jumping or air time experience.
  • You should be able to jibe.
  • When learning for the first time stay away from crowded waves.
  • The sailor going out has the right of way.
  • The sailor closest to the lip or breaking part of the wave has the right of way.
  • Ask and speak to the locals about the wavesailing situation in that area.
  • Don't drop in on a wave that someone else is already riding, very dangerous. The first person on the wave owns the wave.
  • Stay out of the impact zone if you can.
  • Know your limits.
  • Take note of the tide and currents.
  • Control your emotions, it gets very exciting and fun but just try be aware of what's going on around you.
  • Have fun and rip it up!

Right, so what are we hoping to achieve when you head into the surf for the first time? Well firstly, you'll need to learn how to get out and this can be easy or very difficult depending on the conditions. It's actually quite quick to get out, as long as you are not groveling out too slow and given the conditions mentioned above.

When heading out watch the sets and the pattern of the wave. You'll begin to notice when the other guys head out and you'll also notice that sometimes there will be a calm patch before the next set rolls in. You want to go out when it's calm and come in when it's big. If you're going out when it's big and coming in during the calm you probably won't have much gear left, not to mention a smile.

When heading out, you may go over some white water or a wave. It can be slightly thrilling for the first time because the wave comes toward you much faster than you think and even faster because you are heading into it. You may feel slightly anxious, but provided that the wave is not mast high and that your weight is back while bending your legs to cushion over the wave, you'll find it a lot easier than you thought. If you see a huge wave out there rolling in toward you, you can always opt for the chicken jibe if you want to. Sometimes you can head downwind or upwind to bob over and around to avoid the lip.

That's the beauty of wavesailing, how you respond to what the ocean brings you.

Once you're behind the break, go on for a little longer and then turn around, rather tack to stay upwind. You'll find a section where the swells are building up as you come in, this is where you pick your wave to ride back in. Try to stay in front of a swell by slowing down if you need to and soon you'll be riding your very own wave. As the wave breaks behind you, you'll be riding it downwind to avoid it from breaking onto you.

Windsurfing in small surf

Right, that should be enough to get you into the basic feeling of wavesailing. Once you have the hang of it you can learn to ride the wave by carving a bottom turn, pretty much like a half jibe, and then cutting back on top of the wave.

Windsurfing in small surf

When you find yourself turning up and down the wave, you are wave riding for the first time.

Windsurfing in small surf

Windsurfing in small surf

Weather data OK
Brisbane
20 °C