How to surf small waves. Yes it’s lame, but sometimes we gotta do it

evie johnstone surfer girl
Lets face it, we all know that rocking up to the beach and being confronted with 1-2 foot onshore mush can really kill your surf froth, small waves are lame. However, surfing small conditions can really help you develop and improve all aspects of your surfing. So first things first, we’ve got to change our attitude. This means instead of getting back in the car and driving home dry, we need jump out and attack the water with full energy and positivity. At the end of the day, waves are waves, it could be flat. Let’s not forgot that 80% of the contests we do (especially as girls), we are challenged with small conditions, the worst tide times, and normally mid-day onshores. The main thing to remember about the small days is to stay light on your feet and to really work it. On bigger days the wave does most of the work for you, but on the smaller days, you do. Doesn’t sound fun does it, but here are some useful tips to get you ripping on smaller waves and out there surfing more days of the year.

Paddle hard and attack the take-off
You need to enter a small wave at high speed, so when you chose what wave to go for, go at it hard. Paddle fast, kick your feet, and fully commit. Also think about taking off behind the peak so you get down the line projection.

After take-off
Lift your arms on takeoff to lift the weight off the board and accelerate you forwards. Turn down the line fast with a slightly further forward stance and stay on your toes. Really work using your legs, keep you weight centred over your board, and be as light as a butterfly; you’ll be speeding down the line faster than the longboarders. Remember when you go for a turn manoeuvre to shuffle that stance back again.

Manoeuvres: When. What. And where.
Floaters and cutbacks with re-bounds off the foam are good manoeuvres to maintain speed and flow. Tail slides, 360s, chop-hops, and airs are also great tricks to practise in small waves, but make sure you chose your section wisely as your more than likely to only get once chance to pull it off.

No hopping/bouncing
Rail to rail surfing is key for fluidity and style. My coach drills this into me on a weekly basis. Work using your legs and your back foot to skim through those flat sections, and eliminate the hopping! The other key to gliding through flat spots and connecting waves is having enough foam under your feet (Rob Machado), which leads me onto board selection.

For small waves you want to look for something that has more volume in the tail and through the middle than your standard board. A wider nose can also help increase your paddle speed, and get you into waves easier. Look for a short, fat, flat, wide design with a wide tail, and don’t be afraid to go a good few inches shorter than your standard board. Swallow tails, bat tails and diamond tails are all great designs for surfing the small conditions as they will help you release from turns more quickly and also turn on a tighter radius, which are all key elements to enhance our small wave surfing.

My normal short board is a 5’11, 18 1/4, 2 1/4, but when the conditions are small like they have been recently, I always chose my magic “Diamond Geezer” Quiver. It’s a 5’8, 18 5/8, 2 1/4 wide nose, wide tail magical creation. I love it. Whatever the conditions are like, I still froth to get out there because I know I’m always going to have a good surf on this board. I think it’s really important for the mental side of surfing to love your board :-), so chose something that really works for you.

DiamondGeezerQuiver
So to finish off, what are the benefits of surfing small waves?? You work harder, so you are fitter, you will perform better on the bigger days, you can add another board to your quiver, and you’ll be smashing the contests. Yewwwwwww 🙂

Three days exploring Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Location: Tamarindo
Surf Spots: Langosta, Playa Grande, Tamarindo Bay, Avellanas, Playa Negra
Road Trip Playlist: Clay Marzo Just Add Water Soundtrack
Hostel Accomodation: Oveja Negra (amazing!)
Favourite Bars: Sharkys, The Beach Access
Favourite Breakfast Spot: Kahiki Restaurant
Favourite Dinner: Wok n Roll

On saturday morning last week we set off on a Rica Surf road trip with three girls to go and find waves in the North of Costa Rica up in Guanacaste. The swell was perfect, coming in at 5 feet and 20 seconds, and leaving us dreaming of pealing right hand point breaks and peaky beach breaks. Harriet is visiting from England, and having spent three days getting back into the groove of surfing in Jaco, we thought it would be a nice idea to take her exploring and surfing the northern beaches. The North of the country is stunning with a huge choice of waves. Even at this time of year when you can expect a lot of rain here in Costa Rica, it tends to remain much drier up there and the water is still the gorgeous picture perfect turquoise that you see on the postcards. We drove 5 hours up to Tamarindo from Playa Hermosa, and arrived in time for a super fun sunset surf session in the Tamarindo Bay. It’s a great wave when it works, with fun wedgy lefts and rights breaking off a set of rocks sat in the centre of the bay. It generally needs quite a bit of swell to produce a fun sized wave, so with the predicted forecast we knew we were going to score some good surf. The great thing about the Tamarindo area though is that even with little swell you can always find a wave to surf. In other words if you end up driving up there and being fronted with a flat bay in the middle of town, don’t freak out because there are plenty of other spots where you will be able to find some fun surf :-).


Just North of Tamarindo is Playa Grande, which is a much better facing direction and much more open to picking up swell, so if the main bay looks flat head to Grande to find waves. While we were up there however, because of the size of the swell and the direction, we surfed Langosta on our first morning which is a ten minute drive south of Tamarindo. It was super hollow when we arrived and pretty heavy, breaking on a shallow sand bar, but between the closeouts we scored some fun barrels and had a great session! The next two surf sessions we hit up Avellanas and Playa Negra accompanied by our local surfer boys Beto and Miguel :-). You can find these waves a further 20 minutes South of Tamarindo. We arrived at Avellanas on the low tide and walked down to the rivermouth to find an overhead A-Frame style peak and little crowd. Perfect!The great thing about the Northern beaches of Costa Rica at this time of year is the offshore winds. You can wake up to a glassy surf in the morning, the offshore starts to blow at around 10am/11am, and then you can expect a glassy sunset session. It’s a dreamland. We ventured to Playa Negra after Avellanas, a right hand rocky point break that works well on a mid to high tide. The conditions were great, although we were still a little early for the tide and it was looking really shallow and rocky. We ended up heading back to town for breakfast at our favourite restaurant Kahiki. They do the best and biggest breakfast in town, and its amazing value. We worked our way through the menu over the course of the three days between the five of us. There were burritos as big as your head, amazing local gallo pinto with fried cheese, extra orders of pancakes for only $1, unlimited coffee, granola fruit plates, and my personal favourite; nutella filled strawberry topped cinnamon sprinkled french toast. Oh Yeahhh.
Tamarindo was awesome. We scored amazing waves, ate amazing food and enjoyed amazing company. The town itself is really fun with loads of great bars, clubs and hang outs, and there’s more surf spots than you can count on your fingers and toes. People tend to be turned off by how built up the town is and the reputation it has for being a tourist hotspot, but as a travelling surfer I thought Tamarindo rocked. Everything is reasonably priced, the nightlife is buzzing, the surrounding beaches are gorgeous, and the waves are insane! Thank you for an incredible three days!! We will be back soon 🙂

Lucky to live in the beautiful Costa Rica

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Photos taking from the Iphone, Instagram.

This morning I set out at 6am in search of waves. A new swell hit the Pacific Coast today and all of the beach breaks would be too big and closing out for sure. We hit a couple of my all time favourite waves here around Playa Hermosa which were breaking perfectly with the swell direction. A left hand point break first, followed by a super fun A-frame. It was awesome. I love this time of year here in Costa Rica. We surfers thrive off back to back overhead swells, and everything looks so beautiful. As we drove around this morning I took a couple photos on my iPhone of all of the spots we checked, and it made me realise once again what an amazing country I am lucky enough to live in and enjoy. Costa Rica I love you!

Sunrise Surfing, Santa Teresa

To me there’s nothing better than getting up before sunrise to head out for a surf. At 4.30am we grabbed our boards, still dark, and jumped on the quads to set off on the dirt roads to our favourite point break. The views were breathtaking, with the light rising and dipping ahead of us as we skimmed the top of the mountain, racing to the other side of the peninsula. We made it to our destination just as the sun was rising out of the ocean. And the waves? Perfect, no crowd, priceless.