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Using The Precise Slope to Catch Waves

With this video, you should understand better how to use the proper slope to get enough acceleration due to gravity to catch more unbroken waves.

Paddle Speed Isn’t Everything

The Precise Slope

There are often misconceptions about paddling speed and catching waves at the beginner-intermediate level. One is that paddling for longer, giving more paddle strokes, will increase your speed and help you get into waves. You get close to your maximum speed with only five or six paddle strokes. After six quality paddle strokes, you aren’t gaining that much speed with additional strokes. Therefore paddling for longer isn’t the solution to catching more waves.

Surfers with good paddle technique move at a speed of about 6kph. Another major misconception is to think that you’ve missed a wave because you “didn’t paddle hard enough.”

The Precise Slope-

On smaller days, knee to waist high, waves move at about 10-12kph.

The Precise Slope

On bigger head high and above days, waves move around 15 – 20kph.


Even if someone exercises loads and corrects their paddling technique, they might only gain one kilometre per hour at top speed. This extra speed will undoubtedly help them catch more unbroken waves, but the reality is that they will need to double their paddling speed on small days and triple it on bigger days if they want to match the wave’s speed. Proper paddling is crucial, especially for energy conservation, reducing injuries, and paddling a bit faster.

A good paddling technique can certainly help you catch unbroken waves more easily, but it surely isn’t everything. Think about it. In a typical session, there can be advanced surfers surfing small surfboards and beginner surfers riding big longboards at the same spot. An advanced surfer with good technique on a shortboard will most often paddle slower than a beginner-intermediate with a decent paddling technique on a longboard.

Most of the time, advanced surfers will catch more waves than beginners. This being said, the difference between a beginner and an advanced surfer is rarely their top paddling speed. Most of your body is on top of the water on a big surfboard; therefore, you glide faster and more efficiently, even without a perfect paddling technique.

Positioning In The Precise Slope

Advanced surfers catch more waves even though they potentially paddle slower on a shortboard because they can consistently position themselves to use the wave’s slope and get the correct acceleration due to gravity. If you want to catch more waves, you must position yourself more precisely on the proper slope.

The bigger the ramp, the more speed it provides. Think about a skateboard ramp. The steeper it is, the more acceleration you get. Waves work similarly. The bigger and steeper they are, the more forward momentum they can provide you, which is good because bigger waves move faster in the ocean.

This is extremely important to understand and visualize. You want the wave to “pick you up” at the precise moment when it has the right shape. It’s not about paddling harder or longer. It’s about using the wave and taping into the acceleration provided by gravity. Think of it as trying to harvest sufficient acceleration provided by the wave shape to match its speed.

If you were trying to catch the same wave that moves at 15 kph, but paddling into it at a stage when it’s not steep enough, then you wouldn’t get enough extra speed due to gravity. If you’re paddling at 6kph and trying to catch a wave moving at 15kph, you will need an extra 9kph. This acceleration will mainly be provided to you by the wave’s slope.

With time you might recognize that a wave won’t have the proper shape and avoid wasting energy paddling into waves that you can’t catch. Next time you come close to catching a wave, but you just didn’t make it, you will know that you probably needed a slightly steeper slope to catch it.

Take Glances Over Your Shoulder

The Precise Slop- Take glances over your shoulder

The only way to learn to position yourself better into the precise slope is to look over your shoulder. The biggest mistake a beginner-intermediate can make while learning to catch unbroken waves is not looking back at the wave. This creates two big problems. One, you don’t know if you need to paddle more or less or completely stop for a moment to position yourself into the precise slope of the wave that you need. Two, you’re not building the internal database needed to catch unbroken waves consistently.

In other words, you’re not learning from your mistakes. If you keep catching waves when the shape is too weak or too steep without actually looking back at it over your shoulder, you aren’t training your mind to be able to recognize quickly what a proper wave slope looks like and what it doesn’t.

The Precise Slope

If you take the habit of taking glances, then with time, you will be more proactive and efficient in your positioning, making a massive difference in your wave count. You want to keep taking a few glances over your shoulder until the very last moment. At the moment that you are getting into the wave, don’t look back. You want to keep your head still, and often you need to keep it low near your surfboard.

The way you use your head to get into waves is essential. Check the “Using your Head” video tutorial to learn more.