Why Do Surfers Touch The Wave?

Surfing may look easy at first, but it takes skill, balance, and practice. Surfers have an interesting thing that they do when they’re out on a wave. They swim to and glide up the wave and then back down through the curl of the wave or over and with it, but as they make contact with the peak of the wave you’ll notice that they tend to bend down and touch the wave, or reach over and touch it if it’s big enough to go over their head, but why?

Touching the wave gives surfers a balance as they bend down against the force of the wave and a grounding as they surf. Although touching the wave doesn’t provide a place to hold on to, it does give the surfer a sense of the wave and an extra bit of feeling of control.

Are you a fan of surfing or an aspiring future competitive surfer? Whether you’re a novice or a fan, there’s a lot to know about surfing which can be an extremely rewarding pass-time or a sport that you travel around the world to enjoy. Catching the right wave and using your best cutback can take some serious balancing skills.

Touching The Wave

Surfing is thrilling and addicting to those who love it, but aside from just being thrown off of your board, it can also be dangerous at worst and cause injury if you don’t know what you’re doing. When surfers first start out, they can make some mistakes as they try to gain a feel for their bodyweight on the board under a volatile ocean wave.

Touching the wave helps surfers as they react to the cutback of oncoming waves. Waves can be heavy or hollow so, it helps to react to those situations by leaning into them and touching the wave adds stability.

As surfers are contacting the curl or barrel of the wave, they tend to reach out to steady themselves. It’s similar if you’ve ever gone exploring in the woods and decided to walk across a fallen tree which acts like a bridge over a stream. As you walk over that rounded tree, you’ll grab for anything that could make you feel more stable like a branch, a vine, a twig. Even a small touch with something else helps you feel more stable.

Surfing is really ultimately all about balance and control. If you want to get good, focus on those things.

Mistakes Beginners Make

As previously mentioned, a wave can be treacherous, so we’ll list a few of the mistakes that beginners make as they try to get the swing of it. But first we should talk about how to correctly surf.

To surf properly, you just need to start by walking out to the ocean with your board until you’re waist-deep in water. At this point, you’ll want to jump on the board laying on your stomach and paddle out to the next oncoming wave.

Once you get to your wave, you’ll do something called pop-up which is where you stabilize yourself on the board by placing your arms on the board, lifting your chest up, and placing one leg in front of you as you move into a crouching or standing position as you ride the wave back to shallow water.

Now for some mistakes that those new to the sport make:

Laying Too Far Up or Too Far Back On The Board

When you’re unaccustomed to the feeling of a surfboard below you, you can be tempted to back off of it too far, which creates a sort of speedboat feel and means that your board can be twisted around or up with the waves and wind.

The other thing that novices do is sit too far forward on the board which makes them prone to fall face-forward into the water and also have less control of their board. Because each board is different and not everyone is the same height, it’s just something you’ll have to feel out with practice.

Popping Up at the Wrong Time

This is a super easy mistake to make when you’re first starting out. The momentum of the wave will signal to you when it is time to pop up, but when you’re not used to the momentum of the wave it’s easy to pop up before the wave has reached its curl and loose your balance. It’s easy to fall as well when you popup too late. Those who do this usually choose to just ride the wave on their bellies rather than attempt a standing surf.

Kneeling Instead of a Full Pop-Up

On a normal board, if you pop up by dropping to one knee, it will probably result in a wipeout and could cause damage to the board. If you’re trying this technic on a beginner’s board, it will probably be fine, but there is unfortunately a difference in the board types.

Standing on the Wrong Part of the Board

When you’re attempting to ride the wave as a beginner it can be very difficult to feel the wave while trying to balance and look at where you’re going. Many beginners make the mistake of placing their weight too far back when they stand which leaves them uncentered and helpless when a current pushes their board up and them into the water. ]

The other mistake of misplacing ones weight is leaning forward or to the side too much to offset the board underneath your weight. Bending at the waist can cause this effect too. When you have good posture your stance will help you control your center of gravity. It takes a lot of work, but don’t worry! You’ll get the hang of it!


Often falling correctly can take as much effort as learning to surf. You may fear the wave covering you up more than the board you just came off of, which can smack surfers over their heads as they descend.

A surfing instructor will tell you to always cover head when you’re falling so as to protect yourself from possible injury from your board and the fin that sits under it. Some boards in more boisterous winds can fly up and down, so make sure you protect your cranium and face.

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