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Surf Tips

Surf Tip – Looking Down The Line

This tidbit is geared towards beginners who are catching green waves more consistently but might be having trouble staying ahead of the curl or whitewater, or who might be nosediving a bit more than they’d like.

I gleaned this tip from someone over at the forum several years ago, and it helped my surfing immensely when I was at this stage.  And it’s simply this:

As you’re paddling into the wave, look down the line as you’re popping up.  I think a lot of beginners tend to look at the water directly in front of them at the bottom of the wave, or at their board, a passing seagull– everywhere but down the line.

In most sports, surfing included, you’re going to go where you’re looking.  In snowboarding if you look at the snow in front of your board you’re probably going to eat it.  The same goes for surfing.  As you progress and start doing more maneuvers you’ll notice that turning your head and looking at where you want your board to point is the first thing you do.

See how this girl is looking down the line as she’s popping up?

As you’re paddling into the wave, look down the line.  This is where you want to go.  It’s actually quite a nice sight: a perfect ramp of blue water just waiting for you to glide across it.  Just this simple act of looking where you want to go will gear your whole body in the right direction.  Your board will automatically angle down the line.

Even now that I’ve gotten better I have to remind myself of this when I’m in steeper or bigger waves, when a glance at the bottom is a bit scary.  “Just look down the line,” I tell myself, and then I trust my body to do the work.  Once I concentrate on doing this the problem solves itself, and I end up catching some pretty fun waves.

Extending your gaze down the line as you’re up and riding the wave is also important as you progress.  This allows you to size up what the wave is doing so you can react accordingly.  A friend of mine made a comment to me a few summers ago that my friends and I weren’t looking down the wave – we were only looking at the wave right in front of us.  After I resisted the urge to be all defensive, I realized he was kind of right.  My awareness of the wave wasn’t extending much past my board.  Now that I’ve gotten over that bad habit it’s actually very satisfying to spot a section 20 feet down the line that looks like it’s going to wall up and close out, speed up and race it out, beat the section, and continue down the wave.

So for your next session concentrate on telling yourself “look down the line” as you’re popping up.  If you find this is working for you, or you’ve got any other tips, throw down a comment below!

Happy surfing!

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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2 years ago

Best tip ever. Actually made all the difference in the world. I’m not going to sale my board now.
Thank you Hayley

6 years ago

Best tip ever.
I’ll try it tomorrow.


12 years ago


Your surf tip is not just a great tip but so well written and clear. I have been surfing the Outer Banks for several years and have a tough time getting into that “sweet spot” in the wave consistently. the waves break real fast here and you have to position fast so your tip is sooooo…accurate. I tried it today and …bingo!

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