Imagine, you’re a top-tier sponsored grom on a major brand label or stoked to have really good connections here, you would get right off the plane and go to your main sponsor’s team house (most located directly on the big stage shown above) that houses all different kinds of international and local shredders.
You’re surrounded by big wave chargers, tube specialists, WQS & WCT’ers, and the like.
You’d learn directly or indirectly from all of them and in most cases, one would take you under their wing and show you the ropes, teach you about the different breaks, help you dial in your quiver, and answer questions you have along the way.
The fast track.
My learning curve has been different, which for me is a blessing because I have to really be on my game.
From watching and surfing the lineups for hours, studying the best guys every move, overhearing conversations in the lineup, asking questions, trial and error, discussing my sessions and experiences with Jessica (aka the realest person on my team), and anything I can do to scratch and claw for knowledge to improve and not only stay safe myself but also to show respect by not having to endanger other surfers in any way.
There are a few things that don’t get much attention I’d like to highlight from my own experience and observations that I believe every surfer on the North Shore (or any big waves for that matter) will have to master.
Stand on your board and jump off to avoid getting lipped.
I realized how important this technique is after I did it wrong a couple of times and got pinned down.
The purpose of this maneuver is to give yourself the ability to get either, as deep underwater as possible, and/or as much distance away from a crashing lip, all in a split second. Also getting as far away from your board so it doesn’t hit you underwater.
By standing and jumping you give yourself a radius of about 5 feet in any direction to avoid the leading edge of the lip.
Just try not to shoot your board back if someone is directly behind you. There are usually a few moments prior to a bail where you can look around and position yourself so you’re not directly in front of or directly behind another surfer to avoid this.
The tricky part to doing this correctly: pushing off with just enough force that you don’t just sink on your board and not get a good jump.
This move must become automatic.
Getting cleaned up goes hand-in-hand with getting good waves and sometimes it’s the poundings that really get your blood pumping.
The drop, delay, and drive.
The depth in which the lip is out in front of you determines when and how hard you need to spring off the bottom and drive laterally down the line in an effort to get as deep as possible and still exit the tube.
Slater is the master at this and I can picture him dropping in at backdoor super crouched off the bottom, waiting until the last moment, and then throwing his arms down the line and pushing off with his legs to drive through the barrel (Like pictured above).
In certain situations, without that delay and drive you might not get that deep and outrun the barrel.
The exaggerated fade into the flats and pivot up and under the lip.
I thought I had a pretty firm grip on this technique before I got here. Then I realized when it’s a thick Pacific lip throwing onto the reef a few feet below, I better re-evaluate my comfort level with this maneuver. In addition to the pic above, I have a video of Andy Irons (below with time stamps) for those who want to check it out.
On a roll-in drop, or for a certain section of a wave, to lock into the tube you may need to let the wave setup and the classic exaggerated bottom turn to snap up under the lip is a thing of absolute beauty when executed properly.
Dump off too much speed and you’ll get swallowed, don’t go deep enough into the flats and you might not get barreled, or come in too hot and you might go up the face and over the falls. This move also has a backside variation, which is just as technical.
Sinking your backhand into the wave face creates a pivot point that you can swing around into position on a frontside tube. A textbook one of these bad boys would be so that you almost come to a complete stop after the mid-face snap and then re-engage in the barrel and go from ‘zero to 100’ real quick.
You don’t have to be in huge surf to practice these moves and it will pay off when the time comes.
A.I. demonstrating variations of the drop and drive at 2:03, 2:10 & the pivot under the lip at 7:30, 7:55
If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.