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Surf Tips

Surf Tip: Beating The Crowd

Surfing in a crowded lineup is always a challenge.  Unfortunately if you want to surf the most popular and storied waves such as Rincon, Lowers, and Blacks you’ll always have to deal with crowds.  However, there are a few things you can do in order to help get your fair share of the wave helpings.

1.) Time It Right

Time of day is crucial.  This is going to make the 9-5er’s mad, but if you can manage it, going late morning and early afternoon during the work week will give you the opportunity to surf with the fewest people.  Even a lunchtime session can be better than the pre and post work crowd.  Holidays and big events are other primo times to go.  Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s, big games.

2.) Wait For The Second Or Third Wave

I’m always amazed at how many people attempt to paddle for the first wave of a set.  It seems like the whole lineup feels the need to paddle for it, leaving me almost alone out the back for the second or third wave.  And a lot of times the second or third wave is the biggest of the set anyway.  Patience and knowing what the swell is dealing out will always bring rewards.

3.) Know The Spot

There’s a lot to be said for knowing a spot.  You’ll be clued in to the moods of the break, and will know where a rogue peak might pop up every so often.  At my usual spot I know there’s a great left that breaks just south of the main peak, but only about a third of the sets hit there.  Even though there are fewer waves I get more total because nobody tends to hang out on that peak.  Unfortunately surfers are lemmings, and if they see you catching a lot of waves they’ll come join you.  If you don’t have the luxury of being a local, taking some time to watch the break before paddling out will help out immensely.  Sometimes it’s harder to evaluate the break from the lineup.  To be honest, however, I’m usually too amped to get in the water to watch for very long.

4.) Hang To The Side

In ultra-crowded lineups such as Trestles, sometimes jockeying for waves right in the middle of the pack is hard.  If you hang off to either side you’ll be able to pick off the waves that swing wide.  Just make sure you watch out for people taking off deep.  I employed this strategy at Lower Trestles, where 6 people can paddle-battle shoulder to shoulder for one peak.  I don’t usually feel like doing that kind of thing, so waiting for the swingers gave me the ability to grab some gems.

5.) Know The Kooks

Observation is key.  There are always some people out who are paddling for everything yet never catch anything.  Take mental notes on who is being a buoy, and be prepared to go.

6.) If All Else Fails…

Go down the beach.  Sometimes a sub-par wave with fewer people is much more rewarding and fun.

Got any tips for catching more waves?  Post a comment below

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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Rhett Cowan
Rhett Cowan
13 years ago

My favorite surfer is Evan Geiselman he rips it up in the lineup. I surfed by him once and I didn’t even bother to try to compete for any waves against him, he is insane. I have his prepaid card, this company called Myplash carries his card, idk how they found him but he is sick.

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