Ask any self-help guru what the best way to improve performance in any aspect of your life and they'll give you the same answer: Surround yourself with people doing it better than you. In surfing, it really is that simple. And while a lot of surfers tend to measure their growth by the amount of moves they can pull off, the world's best are more concerned about how they're linking those moves together. Ultimately, it's not just the moves, but everything in between that forges a surfer's style. So here are a few basic tips on how to refine yours.
1. Quiet the Upper Body
Surfing is a lot like the old swimming duck metaphor. Above the surface, you're calm and cool. Below, you're kicking like crazy. Stylish surfing is very similar, with the dividing line being your hips. The most fundamentally sound surfers aren't wildly swinging their arms around while trying to get down the line. In fact, their front arm is usually quite still, pointing in the direction they're heading. Only during redirection moves should you focus on upper body rotation.
2. Master Your Coil
Think of your body as a spring. When you're surfing, that spring is constantly being compressed and released -- coiled and uncoiled. A proper coil position is the foundation of good form. It's where all your power is stored. To coil properly bend your knees before your back, just as you would if you're lifting something heavy, and never put your arms between your knees (they stay outside). Heading into any turn, your objective is to be low and coiled. The faster you're going, the more compressed your coil should be.
3. Eyes on the Target
What's directly below your feet is of no concern, so there's no point looking. Good style is all about knowing where you're going next, and finding the best path to get there. Your eyes should always be radar locked on the next target. Once certain that you'll be reaching your mark with the intended amount of force then it's time to move your eyes (and head) on to the next prize, or two. But it's important to note that your head movement should be limited.
4. Rotate Your Eight
Whether you know it or not, the classic figure eight line is the foundation of your surfing. Getting down the line and being able to cut back into the waves power pocked are the two most basic functions of completing a ride. Every wave has its own speed and rhythm, and it's up to you to figure out how tight those loops need to be. The more you get it wired, the smoother your redirection turns will be, and the proper body rotation is a key factor. The sequence is always: Head, shoulders, hips, knees, toes. Imagine spinning the top half of that compressed coil first (think of a Slinky). That rotational tension builds up even more energy, and depending on the arc of your turn, you're either releasing the tension slowly or quickly, both horizontally and vertically, as your body rotates and your legs and arms extend.
5. Find Your Flair
If you focus on mastering tips 1 through 4 the big payoff will be an increase in your average speed. By being more efficient with your body movements, you're not only conserving energy, you're creating more of it, and that extra speed means extra options. This is where the fun stuff comes in. When you watch the world's best, you'll notice how every move they do is grounded in these fundamentals. And whether they're unleashing layback snaps, blow-tail off the tops or huge aerial reverses, each one, when executed properly, is a natural extension of their underlying figure-eight flow that makes their surfing so fun to watch.