heading beyond the white water?

A good little read before you go

It happens to all of us. The calling to venture out of our learning haven of white water to the unbroken waves beyond. You know when you’re ready. Ready for your next challenge and to experience the thrill of riding along empty wave faces. It’s an exciting time and, if you do it right, there will be no going back. It is that point of no return where your love of surfing will skyrocket like you never believed.

A good way to prepare yourself is to learn the 3 following things

  1. how to catch and ride green waves – get some practise first on the small green waves that roll into the white water
  2. how to safely get yourself and your board out through white water
  3. the etiquette that comes with surfing out the back

Time spent in the white water teaches you a lot about what you are comfortable in and capable of. Be attentive to your intuition and wait for the right conditions to venture out in. Listen to those warning bells going off when you sense that the waves out the back are out of your league.

Small days are by far the best. And so long as you have your fundamentals such as paddling and popping up sorted, and providing you are on a longboard, you will be surprised at how small a green wave you can actually catch.

Learning how to read, catch and ride green waves is much more complex that surfing white water, so it does come with it’s challenges. But with the right advice, you can avoid typical traps and progress quickly. Heading out there and discovering as you go is fine and is what the majority of surfers do. Our beginning surfers package is a good option if you want to feel more prepared. It has an extensive module dedicated to reading, catching and riding green waves. It trouble shoots, inspires and fast tracks you through what is often the most challenging stage of your surfing journey. The beginners package also has a module that teaches the skill of getting out through white water on a longboard.

Surfers naturally all gravitate towards that spot on the beach where the waves are consistently breaking. This can sometimes mean that there is a crowd to contend with. These spots are commonly called banks or bars – as in built up sand banks on the ocean floor which causes the swell to break on that same spot over and over again.

When you are new to green waves, a good option is to take a friend and find your own spot rather than worrying about how to negotiate your way around a crowd. Although the bank you go to may not be as good, the fact that there are fewer people out to contend with, makes it much easier to concentrate on having fun and catching waves.

But there is no avoiding the time when you find yourself sitting amongst a cluster of other surfers all seeking the same wave as you. Within this arena of unbroken waves, comes a protocol that every surfer out there is expected to know and follow, even the newbies. Protocol, rules, etiquette, which are designed to ensure fun, fairness, safety and harmony.

The hard way to learn is to paddle out with no knowledge whats so ever. Make mistakes and get put in your place. It is very clear when a surfer doesn’t know, or is just ignoring the rules and very little tolerance (and waves) are given to them. And sorry girls, there are no exceptions to any of the rules for females.

Our beginners package is currently including an additional free module that explains all surf etiquette beautifully, with pictures, diagrams and simple explanations. Understanding of the etiquette will make you feel at ease about your rights in the line up. It also means that you can predict the movements of other surfers, which helps you to make good choices about which waves to go for. And above all, you can concentrate on having fun, knowing that you are contributing to the good vibes in the water.

So before you head out into the big open sea, make safe choices and empower yourself with as much good advice, tips, information and knowledge as you can.

And as you go, take a moment to salute the white water farewell while you wholeheartedly embrace the next chapter of your surfing journey. Go well.

Missing waves: 3 main reasons and how to fix them.

Continuously missing waves when you are learning to surf is frustrating.

Thankfully this is easily fixed with a few simple adjustments.

The main reasons for missing waves are

  • You are not paddling hard/long enough into waves
  • You are paddling into waves that aren’t ready to break
  • You are lying too far toward the tail of your surfboard (you might be worried about nose diving) This weight at the back of your board works against the forward momentum that’s needed to catch a wave.
  1. Do I need to paddle harder or for longer?

This is often tricky to identify and the two issues are intricately linked. Basically strong/efficient paddlers don’t need to paddle for as long to get themselves into waves. Their board promptly matches the speed of the wave and they are ready to pop up much earlier than a surfer who has an inefficient paddle.

While you work on building your paddle strength, you will need to start paddling for longer to get into waves. Sometimes just 2 more paddle strokes is all that’s needed. A wave won’t pick you up unless you are matching it’s speed. The sensation of being picked up by a wave can take some getting used to and paddling for longer isn’t a natural reflex for most. A lot of people hesitate and want to slow down to feel safe. Funnily enough this puts them at risk of going over the falls or dose diving. Staying relaxed, going with the flow of momentum and putting in at least 2 more paddle strokes might be all you need to do to see yourself getting in more waves. In the mean time, you should work on your paddling technique and strength so that you can enter into waves earlier. Read on.

Paddle strength is something you naturally develop in time and obviously the more you are getting in the water the quicker you will improve.

But you don’t necessarily have to be strong to be an efficient paddler. In fact, efficient paddling requires around 30% strength and remaining 70% comes from correct body positioning and correct paddling technique. It is very easy to spot a beginning surfer having trouble piecing these foundations together correctly. And working it all out yourself takes a lot of trial, error, time and not to mention all of those missed waves and frustration in the process.

So naturally you want to fast rack yourself into good paddling. What are the secrets? How do I improve my strength? What does correct body positioning look like and how do I get my paddling technique right? Closely watching established surfers is always a good option. Another good option is our Surf & Nourish Beginners Package.

Our beginners package is made up of a series of simple, easy to follow, modules that isolate the different skills you need as a beginning surfer. Body positioning when you lie on your board and paddling are two of the key fundamental skills that require correct instruction. Both of these skills are covered extensively in it’s own module. You will establish good habits and learn the common mistakes to avoid. When you master these two key elements of surfing, you will soon be effortlessly gliding into waves with good function, confidence and style.

2. When you aren’t reading waves correctly

As a beginner, you will be doing all of your surfing in the white water. Embrace this is the safe learning arena for as long as you need to. The main thing to be sure about in white water is that the wave has broken before you try catching it. But on very small days, or as you improve and decide to venture out the back, you will need to know how to read unbroken waves.

Breaking wave provides a small window of opportunity to paddle in and take off. Some waves can trick you and look like they are about to break and then they back away. This can often be the case during a high tide. Learning how to read waves, predicting the take off spot and positioning yourself accordingly simply takes time. As mentioned in the paddling segment above, going with the forward momentum when a wave is picking you up is needed. However, if you are paddling too late into a wave, you are likely to nose dive. Watch the movements of the surfers in the line up catching all the waves. Notice where they position themselves, how early they begin to paddle in, how they look over their shoulder to gauge what the wave is doing and adjust their paddling accordingly. You can also check out our beginners package. It has an in depth look at the different stages of a breaking wave – from swell bumps, to green waves to white water and how to read, catch, and take off on them.

3. When you aren’t positioned correctly on your board

If you are worried about nose diving, you will probably be placing your body weight too far down the tail of your board to compensate. This is like having your brakes on and waves will simply pass by underneath you. Reposition yourself by sliding forward. Arch your back to allow space for an imaginary soccer ball under your chest. With your shoulders lifted and your back slightly arched, maintain this body position while you keep the nose of your board sitting about 5cm out of the water. This might mean that you have to slide either forward or back on your board again.

You will now have more available weight at the front which means you encourage forward momentum. You want your weight to be available but adjustable to stop nose diving. So maintaining the right body posture is key here.

Once you are sure you have caught the wave, quickly press maximum weight into your hands, fully arch your back and straighten your arms. You can stay there and glide for a split second to establish your balance before popping up. Our beginners package has an extensive video tutorial that shows you how to catch and ride green waves and demonstrates this technique.

Once you have established the correct spot on your board, you can use a marker pen to put an X where your chest should be placed so that you don’t have to review this each time you jump onto your board and start paddling.

The individual modules in our beginners surf package collectively make up the knowledge and skills required to get you going. It provides you with unlimited access to video tutorials, diagrams, simple explanations and beautiful imagery. You can work through the order of progressions, or flick back and forward between modules whenever you need to refine or practice an aspect of your surfing.

Sign up to Beginners Package and let us inspire you in all aspects of your surfing journey. From successfully catching waves, to attaching a surf leash correctly, to perfecting your pop up. Join our sisterhood of surf and inspiration, and let us fast track you to finding beautiful flow in the ocean.

beginners checklist

Here it is, nice and simple. The 10 essential pieces of equipment that you will need before heading out for your first surf.

Plus a little bit of extra information to make the technical side of your surf equipment easy.

  1. LONGBOARDS give you volume and stability which is what you need to get going. Foam longboards (foamies) give you the protection against bumps and bruises and their rubber fins cope with being ridden into the sand. There are a lot of variables out there to the classic longboard shape. When you are looking to hire or buy a surfboard you might find yourself having a conversation about different board dimensions / litre-age /volume / your weight / surfing ability etc. It can get technical. Our e-book has a free height/weight formula that will guide you towards finding the perfect learning board.
  3. BIKINI or one piece. If you are surfing in warm water and don’t need a wetsuit, make sure the swim suit you use is secure.
  4. WETSUIT Obviously the need for a wetsuit is dependent on the water temperature where you are surfing. A bikini underneath your wetsuit makes getting changed in carparks much easier.
  5. TOWEL
  6. WAX If your board already has wax on, rub a little more on for added confidence.
  7. WAX COMB These are very handy little tools. Using a wax comb to rough up old wax on your board can be done if you don’t have any wax. You will also need a wax comb to remove old wax.
  8. FINS Old boards have glassed on fins. Check that the board you are using has fins in tact. If not, a fin key might be needed to screw fins into the fin plugs. Sounds technical but is super easy.
  9. LEASH Make sure it is securely attached to your board with a strong leash string (below)

Sign up to our beginners package to get further help with the technical side of surfing. Our surf equipment video tutorial keeps it simple and gives you confidence. We show you how to apply wax, removing old wax, correctly attach a surf leash and put in and remove the 3 different types of fin systems.

Inspire me: Renee Coffey

Written by Kara

singer/songwriter, surfer, free spirit, adventure lover, traveller

Renee is a natural people magnet. Open, relatable, a long lost friend kind of person. So down to earth, but usually floating in the clouds, always upbeat and positive.

Surfing, playing her guitar and writing music are inspirational fixes that make this girl tick and she keeps them all high on her priorities list. Renee is a walking example of a life fulfilled by following your passions and doing what you love. During the last year she has achieved a lot. And not because she necessarily set out to. They say that the stars tend to align when you absorb yourself in what you love. In the space of 10 months, Renee has managed to write and record her first album, surf almost ever day, squeeze in live gigs, all while working a full time job teaching.

Renee has endless energy for surfing and prefers to go that little bit further to find waves with more power and less people. And she will still be out there when you’re going for your second surf, fresh as a daisy paddling into every wave that she can.

She would never rate herself as a good surfer. Attempt to complement her on taking a late drop on a 6ft wave and she’ll brush it off with a laugh and make a joke about herself having a poo stance.

She will make the most of every surf, stay out until the last minute, before jumping into her car to make it just in time to play live at a high end wedding, hair still salty, but looking totally glam. A professional class act with a captivating voice one minute, to roughing it on a road trip, living on avocado toast and sleeping in her car somewhere far off the beaten track the next. A people lover and peaceful soul who can be the life of the party or drift off on her own solo adventure, totally happy in her own company. Its the many faces of Renee that make her so unique, so loveable, so Renee.

I caught Renee just before she was leaving her homeland New Zealand for a solo surf trip to South/Central America.

What came first? Music or Surfing?

Music was something I was exposed to from a young age. I started piano lessons when I was about 8 years old, then attempted violen and the drums, but didn’t catch the real bug until I started guitar at 15. Surfing came way later. I first took an interest at 18 after a trip to Oz but didn’t really get into it until I was living on the coast 2 years later. These days I find myself running to my gigs from the surf and finding big clumps of seaweed in my hair later in the evening. Not very glam at all!

How would your friends describe you? 

Ditzy, clumsy, no filter, bubbly, positive.

What you would tell yourself if you could go back and have a chat with you when you were learning to surf?

Just have fun! It can be a very challenging sport to learn. 2 steps forward/ 1 step back. Always keep your mindset focused on having fun. 

What helped you through the learning stage as a surfer? How did you transition down to a short board?

I learnt on a longboard. It’s such a great way to learn. You manage to get the hang of the basics and have fun because you spend so much time actually surfing rather than falling off! When I got a short board I forced myself to take it out every day for 10 consecutive days no matter how shitty the waves/ weather as long as it was surfable. After that I was getting the hang of the basics on a short board and was more hooked than I ever had been. One of the best pieces of advice someone gave me was paddle hard for as many waves as you can. One thing that slows down the learning process is that people don’t catch enough waves. 

“One thing that slows down the learning process is that people don’t catch enough waves.”

Tell us about your album Hummingbird. How did it evolve? How long it took to record / did you hit any walls with it etc 

Hummingbird was an idea I came up with after moving from one stage of life to another. Hummingbird represents finding light heartedness in all seasons. I had planned ten tracks to record on the album but only ended up recording one of them. The rest of the songs were written as we went. The studio can definitely be challenging, especially when your working full time and need to switch from work mode to creative mode. I was so greatful to be working with such an amazing producer. 

Are there more musical aspirations that you want to achieve?

I would love to keep producing music and use it as an opportunity to travel and play music with all kinds of different people from different places. Little,local, outdoor gigs are my favourite kind of gigs.

Do you have a magic formula that you use to get an inspired space to write music? 

I definitely don’t have a recipe for songwriting. The music usually comes first for me and then I find lyrics that fit into the melody. A lot of the time I don’t even have a theme or an idea for a song. I just write whatever lyrics pop into my head! Sometimes it takes me a while to even figure out what a song is about. It’s quite funny when I think about it. 

Who inspires you in the surf? 

John John Florence, Steph Gilmore, Rob Machado….pretty much anyone who’s all style.

Who inspires you musically?

I love old school soul like Ray Charles and artist who are bringing back that kind of vibe with a modern twist (Leon Bridges, Lianna La Havas) mixed in with some funky percussian sounds. It’s always a bit of fun playing around with claps and bongo sounds.

A day spent jaming with Ben Harper vs a day at Kelly Slaters surf ranch?

Haha that’s a very tricky question. I think Kelly plays guitar so maybe I’ll surf with Kelly at the Ranch and then we can have a jam session.

Where are some of the best places surfing has taken you?

I feel there’s a whole world of surfing to experience. I had love/ hate experience with Samoa. It was definitely challenging surfing those kinds of waves. Quite ledgey and on shallow coral reef. It’s not fun falling off and I fell off a lot….However I did manage to find a few diamonds in the rough and they make it totally worth it! I am just about to head to South/ Central America for 6 months so I’m looking forward exploring waves there.

In 3 words tell us your surfing philosophy

Surfing is addictive

What has been your best surfing experience?

Hard to narrow it down to one. Probably would be taking my boyfriends boat up the coast and surfing a perfect reef. Hollow waves but so much time to get into them. Just a few of us out. That was pretty special.

What has been your biggest challenge that you have faced in the surf?

I have had a few challenges. Lots of hold downs when I’ve just had to tell myself to relax. One time my hair actually got tangled on my leash. I was trying to duck dive a solid set that came through. I ended up getting pulled through the water by my hair and some of it ripped out and I couldn’t get my head above the water. Two guys had to paddle over and untangle me, then pull me back up to my board. That was pretty scary. 

Do you have any secrets about overcoming fear in the water?

I think it’s always good to surf with people who are better than you and have a lot of experience in the water. They will always push you but also make you feel comfortable- like its no big deal. Then you just get used to surfing bigger waves and grow in confidence to go out by yourself. If you have a hold down that gives you a fright, try to paddle out and catch another wave as soon as you can to keep your confidence up.

“If you have a hold down that gives you a fright, try to paddle out and catch another wave as soon as you can to keep your confidence up.”

Can you imagine life without your guitar or surfboard? What would you do? 

I have thought about this quite a bit. It’s definitely hard to imagine. I think I could find a way to still be involved. I’d probably take up surf photography and get involved in producing music from the desk.

Learner’s Boards

a longboard is your best friend

When you are learning to surf a longboard is essential. It provides you with the volume and stability that you need to get going. Soft Top boards and Foam longboards give you protection against bumps and bruises and the rubber fins on a foam board cope with being ridden into the sand.

Longboards are technically classified as surfboards over 9 feet which are wider than a shortboard and they have a big rounded nose. There is such as thing as longboards under 9 feet. But they are referred to as mini mals and are good for smaller bodies to learn to surf on.

There are also a whole variety of what is often called ‘fun boards’. Fun boards are between 6 – 8 feet in length and have a slightly rounded nose.

Use the table below to get an idea of a suitable longboard length/volume for your weight range as a beginning surfer. Surfboards are measured in feet and inches and their volume is measured in litres. 

If you’ve found yourself a beaten up old board to borrow, embrace it. In this modern era of machine shaped surfboards, those well-loved hand crafted, beaten up old gems are quickly becoming valued. Make sure the leash attached to the board is reliable. See the setting up the basics module for more about leashes.

There are a lot of variables out there to the classic surfboard shape. When you are looking to hire or buy a surfboard you will more that likely find yourself having a conversation about different board dimensions / litre-age /volume / your weight / surfing ability etc. Always be honest with the information you pass onto whoever is helping you. The needs of a learner are simple compared to than those of an advanced surfer, therefore shop assistants or surfboard hire staff should be pretty good at matching you with a good fit surfboard.

Use the above table as your guide. If you find that you are directed to a surfboard that is a long way off the above guidelines, shop around and seek a second and third opinion.

Surfboard anatomy

Below are the basics of a surfboard’s anatomy and it applies to both long and short boards. This is as about as much as you need to know as a beginner.

Go to the module on Setting Up The Basics to find out how to set up all the equipment for your board including putting on wax, attaching a leash, putting in and taking out removable fins.

Setting up the basics

The Essentials Checklist

The equipment that you will need before you head off for your first surf… & how to set it all up

Optional Extras

The need for a wetsuit depends on the temperature of the water where you are surfing. Wearing a swimsuit underneath makes getting changed in and out of your wetsuit in the carpark a lot easier.

For some female surfers, they can get a bit of a bruise on their hip bones from lying on their board (unless you use a soft top or foam board). But this is usually only if you are surfing back to back days on end. Wetsuits offer a little extra padding.

The foam on the deck of soft tops and foam boards can sometimes be a little irritating on bare skin. The only solution is to cover your skin.

There a few variations of surf wax available and, basically any wax will do. Don’t worry if you don’t have the correct temperature match.

The Leash

Always check that the leash you are using is in good order. Your leash is vital. It attaches to your back ankle and is what keeps your board in arms reach. It is a hassle having to swim in for your surfboard if your leash breaks and it is a hazard for others in the water. An old leash may have lost it’s strength and integrity. If the fabric has frayed a lot it might be time for an upgrade. They cost around NZ$70 and is money well spent.

A longboard requires a long leash. There are some whopping long 12ft leashes out there, which are usually reserved for SUPs. Your leash should equal the length (or be slightly longer) than your board. When you are surfing it is important to consider other people in the water and the ‘knock out’ radius a longer leash has when letting go of you board.

The thickness of the leash cord is something to consider too. Beginners put their leash to good use (think about how many times you fall off compared to an accomplished surfer) and benefit from a thicker leash. Steer clear of what is referred to as competition leashes as they are thinner and short.

Every surfboard has a leash plug and the leash string needs to be attached securely to the plug. The leash string must be set to the correct length once threaded through the plug. Watch the video demonstration (below) to see this vital step.

The leash string attached to the leash plug

A leash attached correctly and ready to go. Note the leash string is set to a length that has the rail saver in the correct spot.

The following video shows you everything you need to know about setting up all your surf equipment