Pumping: Line, Compression/Extension & Timing
“Pumping” refers to surfing up & down the face in a smooth motion to reposition yourself near the “pocket” and get propelled forward. Surfers don’t do this too low on the wave but they don’t just wiggle mid-face either.
Watch at 5:24
What line to draw?
Surfers use lots of the wave’s face when pumping, and they usually come back up to the top 3rds. If they need speed, they don’t ride further down the bottom of the wave in the flats as they know they can easily lose momentum there. Also, they don’t just wiggle in the middle.
Another important thing to notice is that the line they draw is close to the pocket, also called the “curl”. Because the wave is steeper in this area they can get more acceleration. Experienced surfers don’t pump far out on the shoulder or very low down in the flats.
Pumping & Rail Engagement
Shortboarders often surf from top to bottom when generating speed.
This is partially because they can gain speed with gravitational energy, by going back downwards, where the wave is steep.
Another reason they go up and down is that they can increase the water flow hitting beneath their surfboard during their bottom turn.
Once riding towards the top part of the wave, the surfer doesn’t need to burry the rail. Because he’s riding high on a steep part of the wave, his rail naturally gets engaged in the wave for him to keep generating speed.
Compress & Decompress
The art of generating speed is done by moving to precise parts of the wave while shifting your body’s weight at specific times. It isn’t just about pumping up and down in the right area on the wave. You need to know when to compress, and when to decompress your body to maximize your acceleration.
Look at advanced surfers as they start going back up towards the face. They unbend their knees, stand high, and throw their arms towards the direction they want to go to.
Once they reach the top of the wave, their board starts turning back down towards the bottom of the wave. At this moment, they bend their knees and compress their chest down towards the front knee.
If you skateboard, think of when you want to drop a quarter pipe. You need to lean your upper body down and forwards to let gravity push you down the ramp.
Timing is Key
Pumping is a difficult technique. We teach it to students in our coaching retreats once they reach a level where they have a good stance, can angle their take off, and can trim down the line. Different things might prevent this technique to be efficient, such as the timing of the compression and extension, the upper body’s position, the stance, the positioning on the wave, etc etc. Remember it’s rare that it comes naturally and that it takes quite some practice.