What is the best coaching for droppers

Buy a surfboard - advice from a professional coach's point of view

Buying the right surfboard is always a challenge, regardless of whether it is the first or the tenth. Often it ends with a wrong decision. With the wrong surfboard you will block your progress and skills. So that this doesn't happen to you, one of the most sought-after professional surf coaches in Europe explains how to find the right board. Namely, the one with which you become the best possible surfer. Based on the case of the surfer “Average Joe”, this article tells you what you absolutely have to watch out for. Reading is worthwhile for everyone, regardless of whether you are learning to surf or have been with it for years.

Martin Walz

Martin Walz is the only internationally established professional surf coach in Germany. Among other things, he is part of the trainer team of the Olympia Surf Team of the German Surfing Association. In addition, he regularly coaches surfers at QS top level. Martin is a sports scientist with a master's degree in sports psychology. He spent 3 years as a research fellow at Surfing Australia.

Average Joe wants to buy a new surfboard

Average Joe (AJ) is an ambitious recreational surfer. He has been surfing for several years and now wants to buy a surfboard that suits him and his surfing level. He has already received all sorts of information about buying the right surfboard from friends, surf instructors, surf shops and Google. Unfortunately, these contradict each other and Joe has the impression that some of the advisors either don't really have a clue themselves or want to talk him into something.

Another guide to board buying Joe could now list all models for 2019. In addition, he could then define the advantages and disadvantages and then make a purchase recommendation. With this approach, however, AJ would very likely not be able to buy a sensible board. Like most of us, he has one pretty romantic idea of ​​his own skills (Sorry, the truth is tough sometimes). This inner image leads him unconsciously to buy surfboards that are too short, too thick, too pointed, etc.

Another mistake Joe could make is deliberately buying the wrong surfboard because he hopes to be good enough for his board in the medium term. That then is a self-destructive prophecy. The fact is that the wrong board will not make you a better surfer. It just makes you stagnate in your skills and robs you of a lot of joy.

You will soon find out why this is so. As well as what a board needs to look like to maximize AJ's capabilities.

The right surfboard helps to overcome performance plateaus

How is the stagnation of surfing skills related to the choice of surfboards for the 4-6 week surfing vacation a year? The aim of this post is to answer that question and provide an understanding of how Joe's long-term surfing performance depends on his surfboard purchase. And show you what to look out for when you want to buy a surfboard and what you can safely neglect.

Paddler, dropper or surfer? The context for the recreational surfer

We call it surfing, but most of the time we're just paddling. Let's take some time to put this thought into numbers. How much does Joe actually surf in a session, a week, a year? And by that I really mean surfing. Waves that belong to him, that stay open, that don't just consist of a drop and that he doesn't mess up after 10 meters with a driving mistake.

In a 60 minute surf session, AJ paddles about 30 minutes of his time. He sits in the water for another 18 minutes. The time he spends standing and surfing on the surfboard is only 1-3 minutes, the remaining 10 minutes he goes "over-the-falls", starts waves that he cannot get, swims and swallows water or drops others purely.

In other words, it is a challenge for AJ to really surf more than 2 waves in 60 minutes. After that he is mostly tired and not much is possible. Or the tide has changed and the onshore wind comes and statistically there are fewer and fewer waves that AJ could surf in the line-up.

If one also assumes that in 7 days of surfing vacation there are an average of 1.9 days +/- 0.9 days of surfable wave conditions, then AJ with 4 weeks of surfing vacation per year comes to an average of 7.6 days + - 3.1 days. With around 10 years of recreational surfing, that makes around 100 good days with an average of 2-4 waves surfed. That is around 300 waves surfed in 10 years.

Everyone knows that learning takes a lot of repetition. The easiest way to improve your learning curve is to increase the number of repetitions! And as you can see, it's not that easy as a recreational surfer inland.

Figure: The right surfboard gives you more time to make the right decisions.

The right surfboard size - what are the most important dimensions?

AJ’s surfer dreams depend to a large extent on improving his learning curve. It may surprise you, but the right surfboard can help Joe a lot in fulfilling his wishes - if he sets the right priorities. His wishes are:

  • Ride more waves with more joy every year
  • Surfing waves in such a way that he can consciously pay attention to his surfing
  • To be able not to be distracted by other surfers, speed, exertion, etc.
  • Learning to read the wave better

Now the question: With the given talent and the same surfing time, what can Joe do to influence it? A lot from my experience! It starts with self-awareness of its abilities and swimming training and ends with buying a surfboard.

But what should AJ pay attention to when making a purchase decision? What are the most important criteria and what is less important?

Surfboard Volume - Why It Matters Less Than You Think

In recent years, the volume measure of surf boards has become more popular. This added another variable when buying a board. Since then, the volume dimension has been AJ's preferred argument when it comes to choosing his surfboard. “It is short but has a volume of 45 liters.” A sentence that has certainly been heard more often in the German-speaking surfing community.

But the fact is, when a lot of volume meets short length, the board cannot be paddled faster. If the same volume is again distributed homogeneously over a longer length, you can move around faster in the line-up.

In the end, the volume is an indirect variable, which results from the sensible selection of other sizes - above all the length.

Surfboard length - the mother of all criteria when buying a surfboard

As soon as AJ goes surfing on a longer board such as Egg, Malibu, Midlenght, he can move through the line-up with less effort. He can paddle faster through currents and also ride smaller inside waves. He can run away faster and paddle his shoulder before clean-up sets. He saves more energy for his surfing. This would not be possible with a smaller board like fish or shortboard. Here is a little article about it.

With this argument one regularly hears from AJ and his friends that they cannot duck-dive a large board and therefore cannot get into the line-up. Therefore, they prefer to choose their board short and pointed with little volume. And it is precisely this surfboard selection that makes Joe a paddler, at best a dropper, but not a surfer. Hence my advice for AJ: "If you are not able to reach the line-up with a longer board, you automatically know that the wave conditions are not for you." Fact.

Figure: Volume distributed over a decent length. With this board you can paddle fast!

Since surf fitness is a fundamental problem for AJ and his colleagues as long as they were not competitive swimmers, a longer board always makes sense from an endurance point of view. It saves energy and AJ has more resources to concentrate on surfing and strength endurance is trained in a playful way.

In addition, AJ does not have to paddle the steepest part of the wave where he is usually not fit and fast enough to get the takeoff in time. A longer board can be said to be an ideal training tool for AJ if he is to learn to read the wave and line-up better.

The relationship between surfboard size and learning steps in the brain

Correct surfing technique is defined as correct movement in the correct part of the wave. That is, if AJ makes the right move but does it in the wrong part of the wave, he'll fall.

The shorter the board, the more Joe has to move on it (Compress, Lean, Rotate). A shortboard or a fish requires that it redirect the speed in milliseconds and that on the most energetic part of the wave.

Ergo everything has to go very quickly and AJ's brain has to foresee the spatial and temporal impressions and coordinate them with the movements. In surfer lingo: timing and Flow must be perfect. “Beeing caught behind” is therefore the classic phenomenon at AJ with boards that are too short. Scientists call this embodied cognition overflow. That means everything happens too quickly at the same time and AJ cannot react quickly enough.

Illustration: A short board wants to be maneuvered close to the pocket. The arrows indicate the direction in which the energy of the wave decreases.

A longer board, like an Egg, Malibu or Mid-Lenght, on the other hand, slows down the surfing experience for AJ's brain. Due to the length of the board, he gets into the wave much earlier. This leaves AJ's brain much more time to predict what the wave will do in the next 5 seconds.

Since the board now glides much faster by itself, AJ can choose the line in the even flatter wave and let the board run. In Surf Lingo: Trim and Glide.

Figure: A longer board (red surfer) allows surfing in the non-critical parts and you can concentrate better on the trim and glide along the wave face. Surfing is slower and more conscious.

In this experience, the impressions of the wave while surfing can be processed more consciously and AJ's brain can control the movements "Compress, Lean, Rotate“Adjust to the parts of the wave more routinely. Thus, the experience of the wave is woven deeper into long-term memory. In the long run and through repetitions, the result is a steeper learning curve for AJ's surfing skills. He thus unconsciously learns to link the classic surfing movements with memory traces of the waves he has surfed so far in his life. He trains his visuomotor control. The be-all and end-all of surfing.

Hierarchy of criteria when buying a surfboard

So the decisive factor in achieving this is the length. However, this is inextricably linked with the shape of the surfboard. Therefore, here is a small hierarchy regarding dimensions, shape and rocker lines. The important things first:


Priority 2: length - about 1 foot longer than you are

Priority 3: "Nothing that looks like a straightened banana torpedo".

(As you can see Volume does not even appear in this hierarchy…)

Summary - which surfboard should you buy now?

What does all this mean for Average Joe? (Maybe you also noticed that there are certain parallels between AJ and you?)

It is not my intention to badmouth shorter boards for recreational surfers. Anyone can have a shorter board in the Quiver to have. But a longer board is important for training progress! I recommend an arm's length more than his height. Not too long a fish and not too long a shortboard. You should choose the Shape, MALIBU, EGG, MID-LENGHT, FUNBOARD, or HYBRID.

If you can generate speed independently, ride tight S-lines and your sessions consist more of surfing and paddling out than sitting around, then you can consider TESTING a shortboard. A lack of fitness and the ability to maneuver a larger board into the line-up, on the other hand, as well as a car that is too small (roof rack!) Or a cooler look (only works as long as you are not in the water) are no arguments for a shortboard.

Figure: Good choice - a board like this generates speed on its own on the wave and you can concentrate on surfing.

What are the biggest mistakes when buying a surfboard?

So now you know what the right board should look like. To be on the safe side, here is a short list of the biggest mistakes to avoid when choosing a board:

  1. The board is too short
  2. The board is too thick
  3. The board is too pointed
  4. You buy a surfboard that you are not good enough for NOW and hope that your skills will "grow in"

Exercise on buying a board

"Only a poor craftsman blames his tools"

A small set of exercises for AJ to learn faster on his new board. In addition, a little reality check whether AJ's surfing skills can keep up with the board.

  1. Board choice: longer board

30 min water time

Goal: Surf 2 waves with a clean S-Line

If goal is not achieved back to the beginning 1. If goal is achieved then:

  1. Board change: short board

30 min water time

Goal: 2 waves with a narrower S-line each.

If the goal is not achieved, go back to the beginning 2. If the goal is achieved then:

  1. Board change: longer board

20 min water time

Goal: 1 wave: build up as much speed as possible.

After 80 minutes of surfing, it makes sense to take a break. Unless it's pumping and the Average Joe still has resources.

If AJ now reaches level 3 on most surf sessions, he can assume that a short board is absolutely legitimate Quiver belongs.


About the author

Martin Walz

Martin Walz is the only internationally established professional surf coach in Germany. Among other things, he is part of the trainer team of the Olympia Surf Team of the German Surfing Association. In addition, he regularly coaches surfers at QS top level. Martin is a sports scientist with a master's degree in sports psychology. He spent 3 years as a research fellow at Surfing Australia.