Lesson Number 4 (April 24-30): Catching Whitewater

The whitewater, or the soup, is where beginners starts their surfing experience. You want to spend enough time in the whitewater to learn how to pop up on your board and land in the sweet spot so you can ride. The whitewater wave pushes the board across the flat water. This gives beginners as much time as is necessary to get up on their feet. This is a good thing at first. Later on, after figuring out the landing in the whitewater, you can try the more exciting green wave on the outside. The green wave is far more challenging because of its slope, and should only be attempted after meeting success in the whitewater.

When catching and riding whitewater waves, try to be selective. You want a wave that has enough power to move you along for a good distance. Choose waves that look organized and are moving straight in toward the beach. Many whitewater waves come in from odd angles and have more of a confused look, or are in the process of overtaking the wave in front of them. These unorganized waves do not lend themselves to a good surfing experience. 

Walk out holding on to your surfboard near the nose, with most of the board training behind you. The less board that sticks out in front of you the better. Try to always keep your board pointed straight out as you head out, or straight in as you get ready to go on the wave. Avoid letting your surfboard swing around sideways or the next onrushing wave may return your board into you in an unfriendly manner. Whenever possible, lift your board higher than the onrushing wave as you walk out or you will be losing more ground as you go. Walk out just past your waist and then see if you have enough time to turn your board around. If so, lift your board in the middle using two hands and point it straight toward the beach. 

Now you're ready to go dude!! Oooppps, not just yet. Before you just go, check this out. The only three things that matter in catching the whitewater are... the board and the wave must be perpendicular to one another, the body must be centered properly on the board, and the board must be already moving into the beach when the wave hits you. So, as your wave approaches you, line up the board so it is pointed straight towards the beach, and when the wave is about 10 yards away, jump onto your board and begin to paddle. As you go you must keep your board perpendicular and flat. Too much angle to the beach will cause the board to flip over. You must also have your body centered correctly. If the wave hits you and you are too far forward on your surfboard, you will pearl or nosedive. Too far back on the board and you won't catch the wave. Now that you are perpendicular and centered, its time to start paddling. 

You will need 7 or 8 strokes to get up enough speed to catch the wave. As the whitewater wave rushes onto the back of the board, stop paddling and hold on tight to the rails about where your chest or ribcage is. At first the wave will engulf you and shake the board so hold on tight. A second later you will feel the wave shoot you out and give you a burst of speed. Now is when you want to pop up, land in the middle and shout hooya all the way in to the beach..

Timing and wave judgement are crucial and your success rate will increase as your timing improves. Most beginners will spend anywhere from three to five days learning the hop-up and figuring out how to balance on the board in the whitewater before they are ready to attempt paddling out and riding the unbroken waves.