Small Wave Surfing
by Adam Smallwood, Tofino
It seems to me most people around here look forward to surf the winter
months when constant overhead swell hits our coast. Summer is typically
written off as surf deprived and it’s time to work. I would have
to say this is my favourite surf season. It’s the same reason
tourists come here in hoards. It’s warmer, nature is out and
about, and the surfing days are longer. In fact there is double the
surf time. But as we know during this time the Pacific North West lacks
storm activity and we experience either small swells from far off places
or local wind generated surf that can be junky.
Here are a few tips
on how to enjoy your summer surfs and get a little “tech” about
small wave surfing.
Try to get your mind out of the bigger, more powerful
surf and start dreaming about small waves. There is fun to be had out
there and though it may be below the waist, change your attitude to
suit the environment. If you’re into watching surf videos then
it’s a good idea
to find ones with small wave content. Ask at your favourite “Tofino
surf shop”, as the shop geeks will have the vids memorised, play-by
Your board is probably the most important part of your game.
We now have literally hundreds of boards to choose from in this town,
and its not to late to order a custom. What you want is a board that
gives you early entry, picks-up, glides, pumps, and drives off the
start floating over flat sections when you have to.
In a short-board I would go shorter but add more width and volume.
Length in these boards can actually work against you as you try to
pump and turn in a tight transition. Wider tails keep your tail afloat
in slow mushy sections. All this combined with low entry rocker should
equal a good shape for the aspiring ripper. Eggs, fishes, longboards
are great proven designs for summer waves. In the winter it probably
didn’t matter, but a light clean board is crucial. Dry out those
dings and change your wax regularly, keep the bottom clean and consider
wearing a thinner leash for less drag.
Changing your fins will ultimately
change the way your board performs. On bigger boards a smaller trailing
fin will loosen things up. Pulling a longboard fin forward will do
the same. Small, low volume boards need larger fins for drive. This
is one of reasons they made them removable, so take advantage of
If the temperature permits and you have the dough, then get your
self a thinner suit. Wearing a thinner suit will make you more flexible,
period. A fresh new suit always adds stoke to my surfing.
As far as actual surfing advice, I would have to say that speed is
essential. Get your board planning and moving, using the top half
section of that mushy wave before trying any bottom turns. Unless
of course you are riding that magic summer board. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge,
say no more!
Here are some small wave tips: