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10 Useful Tips for Big Wave Surfing (That Will Help You Catch that Perfect Swell)

by Cristina Costea

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Big wave surfing is by far the most spectacular surf discipline. Tackling big waves is both scary and thrilling, and it can take a surfer years before they are able to ride such massive waves, that can reach 80 feet. Yes, you read that right, 80 feet! 

In 2011, Garrett McNamara broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed by riding a 78-foot (23.8-meter) wave in Nazaré, Portugal. In 2013, he broke his own record, by surfing a 100-foot (30-meter) wave in the same location.

If big wave surfing fascinates you or if you’re just starting out and you need some tips, we have just the thing for you – 10 tips for big wave surfing that will get you closer to that perfect swell! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being a Mavericks surf contest star in a few years!


10. Improve Your Flexibility


Tips for Big Wave Surfing


Did you know that Garrett McNamara credits his success to Yoga? He mentioned in Men’s Fitness that “to be physically ready, I do a lot of yoga. I definitely stretch beforehand; It’s always good to stretch afterward, too. Mainly I do yoga to prepare. Preparation is everything, and having the right safety crew in place is essential.” Pilates is another great way to achieve that much-needed flexibility!


9. Don’t Neglect Your Diet!


What else does Garrett McNamara credit his success to? A predominantly vegan diet! That’s right! The big wave surfing king eats mindfully, and we suggest you let him inspire you in this direction. Surfing on a bellyful of steaks will not get you anywhere in big wave surfing. To be honest, it won’t get you anywhere in surfing! Eating plant-based foods will keep your body light and your attention focused on your goals.


8. Practice Holding Your Breath


Tips for Big Wave Surfing


You’re in a body of water, there are big waves around you, you need to be able to hold your breath for a decent amount of time. Our recommendation is to not even tackle big wave surfing if you can’t hold your breath for at least a minute. You can practice virtually anywhere! Once you can hold your breath for a minute while standing still, try walking and holding your breath. The ocean is wild and you need to be ready for it!


7. Don’t Resist the Whitewash


Whitewash can be annoying and it can drag you around until you don’t know up from down. But if you resist it, you run the risk of breaking something or even worse. Our tip is to let go and allow it to take you wherever it wants, relaxing your body into a fetal position and just going with the flow, until it stops.


6. Paddle, Paddle, Paddle


Tips for Big Wave Surfing


If you want to catch a good wave, you will need to paddle, paddle, paddle! It’s amazing how important such a seemingly small move is! Paddle into the wave, be mindful of your fear, but don’t let it control you and just go for it! The great thing is that you can practice your paddling in any weather and body of water!


5. Learn How to Deep Duck Dive 


When it comes to big wave surfing, paddling out to the perfect spot can be quite adventurous. We highly recommend that you learn how to deep duck dive so that you arrive safely where the big waves are. You can practice your deep duck dive anywhere in the water, so make sure you’ve nailed it before you tackle any big ones!


4. Know that Fear is Alright


Tips for Big Wave Surfing


Who wouldn’t feel fear when they’re face to face with a 50-foot (15-meter) wave? Daredevil surfer Robbie Maddison said: “I feel fear in every situation and I’m mindful of it, but I also let it guide me to the potential things that could go wrong.” In other words, don’t allow fear to overtake you and work on overcoming your fears. Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve anything in big wave surfing.


3. Study, Study, Study


We’re not telling you to hit the books! You just need to study the surf spot you’re planning to go to. How are the currents there? Is there a reef you might bump into? Are there sharks? Is it crowded? Have an answer for all these questions and your big wave surf session is going to be much more pleasant!


2. Never Tackle a Big Wave Session Alone


Tips for Big Wave Surfing


The swell is awesome, you’re feeling pumped and ready to go and you hit the beach on your own! That’s a definite no, especially for beginners. Grab a friend and tackle the waves together. Not just because it’s safer, having someone with you in case something goes wrong, but they can also point out what you did well or not so well.


1. Learn How to Wipeout Like a Pro


It was surf legend Laird Hamilton who said that “wiping out is an underappreciated skill” and he was right! So, learn how to wipeout because it can not only help you become a better surfer, but it can potentially save your life. Don’t take each wipeout as a failure, but as a step forward towards your goal! Learn from your mistakes and from your wipeouts!


Are you interested in big wave surfing? Or as Trump would call it huge wave surfing? If so, how about you check out our big wave surf destinations and book a surf camp now?!   


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