tofino surfing - small wave surfing

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 -play.

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 it.
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:

  1. Get your head into small waves
  2. Ride boards with momentum
  3. Try a thinner leash for less drag
  4. Fix those dings
  5. Change your fins

Adam Smallwood is an avid surfer who began riding the waves of Great Lake storms before finding his way to Tofino

Tofino Surfing Articles 

Tofino Time Magazine June 2005

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