What Do You Do Before You Paddle Out?

What Do You Do Before You Paddle Out?

4 Tips to Enhance Each Surf Session


I spend a lot of time sitting on the beach and watching the comings and goings of people. Being a surfer and surf instructor, many of my observations have to do with the behaviors of other surfers. One thing that I’ve noticed is how little the average surfer prepares themselves before paddling out. Both physically and mentally. I find that the time spent on the beach before paddling out is the most underutilized and crucial part of surfing. It can determine the outcome of your entire session. 


Most people simply give the ocean a short glance, grab their stuff and hop in. Those who prepare themselves physically and mentally always seem to have an upper hand in the ocean. Below are four things every surfer can do on land before paddling out to make sure they have a good time in the water. 


1. Survey the Conditions. Most people just rush into the water without taking note of important factors that will impact their session.


  • - Take note of the wind. Wind direction not only affects the texture of the water and waves, but also is a factor in the currents that are in the water and which direction you can expect to drift.
  • - Assess the crowd. See where the highest concentration of people is and then try to find a peak to yourself. Many times there is another wave nearby that is just as good with far less people on it. It will help increase your wave count and keep competition to a minimum.
  • - Take stock of the waves. Not just size, but consistency and swell direction. Do you know if the swell is rising or falling? Are there long lulls or do sets of waves come consistently? By taking all the variables into consideration you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect. It can take 10, 20, 30 minutes or more to have seen enough variations in the waves at a given time to know what’s what.


2. Create a Strategy. Once you understand what is going on in the ocean, create a plan for yourself. Where are you going to paddle out? Where do you want to sit in the lineup? What waves are you looking to catch? By asking yourself these questions and creating a mental outline you give yourself direction and an advantage over most other people in the lineup.


3. Have a Warm Up Routine. Everyone’s seen videos of people doing stretches on the beach and how funny those look. It doesn’t matter. Do it. Create a routine that suits your body’s needs and prepares you to surf. By having a warm up routine you make your body aware of what it is about to do and this will allow you to perform at your highest level from the beginning of your session, and to avoid injury in the short and long term.


4. Protect Your Body.  It’s no secret that surfing is rough on your body but there are things everyone can do to keep the negative effects to a minimum.


  • - Use sunscreen. Apply well and as much as possible throughout the day. Consider the ingredients in your sunscreen and do your homework to find the right product for you.
  • - Get earplugs. Many long term surfers have some sort of hearing issue or have experienced their fair share of ear infections. The human body wasn’t made to be underwater as much as surfers are. Consistently using good earplugs is an easy way to prevent long term damage to your ears, as well as to protect from unknown contaminants in the water.
  • - Avoid rashes. Wear a rashguard, get a cream, Vaseline… anything. At the least, rashes can be a major buzzkill and at the worst can turn to open wounds. Protecting yourself against them beforehand can keep you surfing consistently.
  • - Drink water. We expend a lot of energy surfing and you can never have too much water when you’re doing something as physically demanding as surfing, and with as much exposure to sun and salt.


These four points are things every person can do before every session. It doesn’t take long to accomplish this and will result in a longer, more fulfilling session and all around surf life. Take the time on the beach to better prepare yourself and you will not regret it. In fact, you’ll surf better for longer for your whole life. That’s worth a few minutes on the beach. 

John Angiulo     //