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.