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How to Angle your Take Off

Learning to go right or left before getting to your feet will dramatically increase your chances of a successful and enjoyable ride on the wave’s face. This video demonstrates the 4 most common steps surfers take to angle their take offs.

Depending on elements like paddling skills, positioning, wave shape and board size, surfers will match the wave’s speed and proceed to angle their take off slightly differently on each wave. The 4 steps that we describe in this tutorial are examples of a typical way surfers angle their take offs. Keep in mind that it doesn’t apply to every angled take off.

#1 Catching the Wave

This might sound obvious, but one of the most common reasons surfers fail to angle their take off doesn’t have to do with the angling technique itself, but how they positioned themselves in the first place.

Often, surfers will start by paddling completely perpendicular to the wave, as this maximizes their chances to match the speed of the wave. Let’s say this surfer was paddling at 5 km/h, but instead of paddling perpendicular to the wave, he would paddle at 45 degrees. This would be the equivalent of paddling only 3.53 km/h in the wave’s direction. The more and the sooner you angle your take off, the harder it is to catch the wave.

#2 Looking & Leaning while Paddling Right or Left

The second step is paddling, looking and leaning towards where you want to go. You can test how this works in calm waters. As you paddle, start to look and lean your upper body towards the left or the right and notice how your direction changes.

As surfers start going up onto the wave’s face, they often turn their head in the direction they want to go to, and paddle in that direction. Surfers frequently adjust their paddling a bit, pulling water towards the inside rail, and pushing water away from the outside rail in order to adjust their trajectory. This usually comes naturally to students when they start looking towards their target. They don’t think about changing their paddling; they frequently just do it unconsciously.

#3 Cobra Pose & Inside Rail Engagement

The last step before taking off is what we call the “Cobra Pose Lean”. The surfer has now caught the wave, and it is steep enough for him/her to stop paddling, put both hands on the deck beneath the pectorals and lift the upper body up into the cobra pose position, pointing his/her chest towards where he/she wants to go to.

So many surfers see it as two steps: you paddle into a wave, and then you pop up. But most often, there’s a hidden step in between those. In reality, you paddle into a wave, you trim to the right or to the left by leaning in the cobra pose for fractions of seconds or a few seconds, and then you pop up.

As surfers lean in the cobra pose, what they are actually doing is putting extra weight on the hand that’s over the inside rail. This puts the board in a trimming position, as the rail is set underwater. Surfers trim to gain speed when standing up, redirecting the water flow towards the tail. The same happens when trimming on the chest. Surfer can angle to the right or left and accelerate even before standing up.

3 Benefits of the Cobra Pose:

  1. It helps surfers prevent nose dives. When surfers catch a wave and don’t need to paddle anymore, it usually means that the wave is quite steep. In the cobra pose, surfers put less weight towards the nose, helping to avoid potential nose dives.
  2. It helps surfers maneuver the board more efficiently. Much like it is easier to turn a board sharply by putting weight on the back foot, a surfboard is easier to turn while arching the back and straightening the arms, as more weight is transferred backwards.
  3. You need to place your hands beneath your pectorals and arch your back to begin your take off anyways, so you might as well use this step to help you angle your take off.

#4 Take Off: Head & Chest towards Target

When surfers take off, they keep their head and chest pointing towards where they want to go, just like in the cobra pose position. This way, they keep the same line and same inside rail engagement once they’re up. Your angled take off will only be successful if you land on your feet in the proper position for where you need to go on the wave.

For many beginners and intermediates, this is where things go wrong, as there might be a slight moment where their chest doesn’t point in the same direction, which can make the difference in passing a section or not.