How to improve your take off for Intermediate Level Surfers



Photo by Melissa Wolf

Taking off on steeper and heavier waves is a challenge every aspiring surfer will have to face. If you want to improve and push further and beyond surfing on the inside, you will need to learn how to take off on waves that may seem slightly outside your comfort zone. This skill may seem frightening at first, but with the right attitude and enough time in the water, challenging take off's will become an unconscious motion, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your surfing. Read on to find out how to improve your take off's and move your surfing to the next level.

Read the waves and first watch others

Every time you surf, the conditions will be different. It is highly worth your while to spend just a few minutes, quietly observing others to see how they are responding to the conditions on the day. Are they paddling very hard? How far over are they sitting? Are many surfers going over the falls? It is often helpful to look at the most experienced surfer, and the least experienced surfer and pick up on what they are doing differently.

Paddle hard, and harder some more

A lot of surfers highly underestimate how much effort you actually have to put in to catch the wave. To catch a wave (unless it is very steep and sucky) you have to gather momentum. This requires quite a lot of effort and generally speaking, the more momentum you have, the easier the wave will be to catch. If you are wanting to turn that wave into a smooth slope, rather than a kamikaze style drop, focus on building up momentum before you stand up. Remember, every second counts.

Paddle in on an angle

Paddling into the wave on a slight angle is going to assist you to move along the wave and maintain a higher level of speed. Creating and maintaining speed should be a top priority for all surfers at every level, however until you have a larger range of manoeuvres up your sleeve to work with, using the waves initial speed to your advantage is the top way to go.

Watch your pop up

A bit of a no brainer this one, if you are getting up slowly, you will make the take off 10 times harder for yourself. By popping up instantly you give yourself time to asses the waves next move and act accordingly. If you are struggling with the pop up, I would suggest focussing your energy on this. Practice on land, practice at sea. The more you practice, the better surfing will be!

Lean forward

Again, this may seem counter intuitive but hear me out. Often when catching a more sizeable and scary wave, we want to haul the brakes on and lean back. Though this seems like the right thing to do, it actually puts us off balance and causes us to flail our arms around like nobody is watching and bail with a smack. Putting slight pressure on your front foot will lessen your chances of getting caught up in the lip, making the drop a lot smoother and easier.


If you really want to make your take off you are going to have to show it. It is much more likely that you will wipe out if you are only half committed, as you are more likely to hesitate and make mistakes. If you want to catch the wave, decide as soon as possible, and put all of your energy into this one task. This can seem scary and may go against your instincts but once you try it, you will understand the meaning behind this. Remember however, before you commit, check there is no-one else on the wave you are going for.

The saying “get back on the horse” applies to many things in life, including surfing. It is important to remember that the only way to really fail is to not try at all. Attempting trickier take off's will only be beneficial to your surfing in the long run. Even if you fall 10 times and make it only once, you have more knowledge and understanding than you initially had, and experience is worth its weight in gold.

Article by Ruby at

Ruby is a high performance female surf coach, hailing from the well known surfing town of Raglan, New Zealand. Ruby has completed both her Sports science degree and Teaching degree focusing on biomechanics, nutrition, exercise physiology and technical coaching pedagogy.

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