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  • Bruce Mackie

Why is it so hard to get good at one of the easiest sports to learn in the world?

Ever heard the phrase 1 step forward 2 steps back?

In surfing this is definitely true if you decide to take that step on account of some bad advice (going out in conditions not suitable for you) or simply take that step too soon (equipment size reduction). There are a couple of things you can do wrong that will seriously stunt your progression at surfing.

We live in a time where everyone wants everything to happen right this second, well, you’re in luck! Surfing is one of the easiest sports to learn in the world. Getting yourself to a point where you can stand, ride waves and enjoy a session really only takes one time out with the right instructors (hint Paradise Surf School Barbados) and that’s a fact. So much so that if you don’t stand when surfing with us in your lesson, you won’t be charged for it. That’s right. FREE.

With that being said surfing is without a doubt one of the hardest sports to get good at. The reason is simple really, you could probably estimate that for every 5 mins paddling you spend 5 seconds surfing a wave (not factual just a guesstimation). That’s not a lot of time to practice, so if you really want to excel you’ve gotta make seconds count.

The first mistake people make in surfing, and one of the biggest is wanting to surf a smaller board after they’ve had some success and feel that surfing a big board is easy. There are a couple of reasons this is a mistake.

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Learn to surf Barbados

1. You suck at paddling

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Improve your paddling

You did only just start doing this so don’t be too hard on yourself. Some people are very fit and still struggle with paddling initially. This is something you have to spend time in the water consistently to master. It won’t happen overnight but if you put in the time, you’ll notice big differences in the coming


What happens is, you jump on a smaller board and it makes it way more difficult to catch waves. Less floatation means it’s harder to paddle, harder to paddle means less waves, less waves means less fun and you end up saying “surfing sucks, I’m over it. “ Stay on the big board, slowly build your arm strength in the fun sessions where you catch lots of waves.

2. Sure, you’re good at going straight but you haven’t learned to smoothly draw out turns. The big board helps with this

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Bruce Mackie surfing soup bowl Barbados

Anyone who surfs now has hit the point where they say to themselves “I barely fall anymore, I’m ready!” Until you feel like you have mastered the art of going where you want to on a wave, you should stay put on that big board. Any of the worlds best surfers that you see with smooth styles started as a 4 ft tall grom on a board that was probably their dad’s 7’0 gun and I guarantee they were whipping that thing in every direction before dad said “ok bud time for a grom board.”

Here’s what you should do in checklist form –

· Learn to go “down the line” (surf along the face of the wave ahead of the whitewater)

· Learn to bottom turn

· Learn to pump – S shaped turns from the bottom turn to a mild top turn back down the face of the wave. Once you’re gaining speed attempting this you are well on your way.

· Learn a round house cutback – This is where you take what you’ve learned from pumping and apply it to a wide turn on the open face back to the white water and redirect off the broken part of the wave back down the line towards the open face.

REMEMBER this does not happen overnight, set realistic goals for small amounts of progress each session and you’ll find yourself feeling accomplished and encouraged.

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Paradise Surf School Barbados

3. You want to ride bigger waves too soon

Yes, we all love the thrill of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and that’s not always a bad thing but timing is important. If you struggle with wave selection and cannot perform the items set out in section 2. Don’t push it!

Be realistic about where you’re at, when you rock up to the beach that you never see pros at and all of a sudden, the local crew of rippers are heading out, maybe it’s not the day for you. Take some notes from the beach angle or walk down the beach a bit to where it’s more the size range you’ve been training in.

So here it is:

Surfing in Barbados is mellow, we’ve all been where you are so there’s no judgement on having the "big kooky board." Just keep having fun and smiling, enjoy the accomplishments of conquering the realistic goals you set out for each session and don’t sweat the small stuff. Even the best surfers kook out multiple times per session. You’ve gotta be able to laugh it off.

Be honest with yourself about your skill level or if you’re not sure, check in with a surf instructor from time to time to see how he/she thinks you’re progressing. They’ll also be able to advise you on the best equipment size to step down to when you’re ready. Hoping to go from 9’2” to 7’ be warned you’re not going to like the answer. Lol. Mostly because your surf coach should be considering volume along with length (cover that in a separate blog).

Don’t sell your big board! The last thing you want to do is find yourself in a position where either the board you’ve stepped down to isn’t working out and is your only option or worst yet, there hasn’t been swell for weeks and that 9’2” sure still would’ve been fun at knee high Freights Bay, assuming you live in Barbados.

Final tip – Pay attention to who is giving you advice. Seek out advice from the best surfers regardless of whether or not they are a surf coach. There are many instructors out there who do not have a clue, either because they just recently started out as surfers themselves and see an opportunity to make some cash OR they’ve made the same mistakes mentioned in this blog and have been stuck at the same level for years. If you take kook advice you’ll get kook results. 90% of the time being a kook is completely avoidable, the other 10% is everyones allowance for their own inevitable kooky moments.


See ya in the water! Or not, it’s crowded already haha

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