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Who has priority ? Wave manners and Peak rules #2

Last we talked about who is right with priority  and who is wrong ( dropping in ).


But what about at a beach break or reef break that has a Right and Left breaking wave ?

Black rashguard surfer is going Left.

Light skin surfer is (trying) to go Right.

Surfer just pushing up is Dropping in on the Right shoulder.   Easy to understand.


But here surfer with the hat is at the PEAK, in the middle of two other surfers.  Here he IS going Left so the funboard guy is dropping in.  BUT if the hat surfer did go Right, the other shortboard guy would be dropping in.  Not so easy to understand for beginners trying their best to just paddle hard and stand up.


Okay, here's a easy one.  White board rider is already trimming down the line.  Blue board rider drops in.  He has to drop down with gravity and momentum.  


He might have seen the other rider and tried to pull back, but too late.  He gets pitched and blows the wave for the other rider who had priority, who is going to get crushed on the head because he lost all his speed.  


Okay four guys here. 

1) "A' pulls up and puts on the brakes seeing three paddlers in front of him.  Even if he could beat "B", he probably couldn't get around "C" and "D". 

2) "B" finished paddling and is pushing up to pop up.  

3) "C" is focused on "D".

4) "D' is focused on "B". 


"B" gets blocked/smashed by kooks paddling up the face.

"D" pulls up

"C" gets the wave and probably will never know what happened behind him.  


"A" did have priority, but he knew it wasn't worth it to go.  


Another thing to look out when you are sitting at the peak, ( other than guys wearing hats and boots ) is what leg the LEASH cord is on.  If the leash is on the Right leg, the surfer is a Regular footer.  If the leash is on his Left foot, he/she is a Goofy footer.  Most beginners have a difficult time going backside.  


If the rider dropping in is going frontside like yourself, you might be okay.  BUT if the rider is the opposite foot and not a capable surfer, most likely he will unconsciously lean back to avoid you and SHOOT the board into your legs/chest.  


So either give up and not go for your safety.  Or be proactive and get to the other side of the "kook", it may seem you gave up priority, but no, you just paddled around to clear your path.  


Surfing is hard just to paddle and work with the ocean itself.  Now you also have to deal with other surfers who just want the thrill of riding the waves ( be it their very 1st one or your 10,000th wave ).   Just try to be safe,  and even if you have "Priority", sometimes it's not worth it to get hurt.  And remember the golden rule, "treat others as you hope they treat you".  But it still sucks when some kook on a longboard goes straight on you as you're flying down the line.  


Please check out  Hope Cheng and Philippines Surf Report on FB.  





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Who has priority ? Wave manners and Peak rules #1

Surfing is getting more and more popular.  Meaning surf breaks are getting more crowded.  So "Who has Priority ?"


The "simple" explanation is :   THE RIDER CLOSEST TO THE PEAK AND UP FIRST HAS PRIORITY.  Rider A is already standing up and riding and also closest to the breaking curl of the wave.  Rider B is dropping in on the shoulder.


Easy to understand when there are just two riders going the same direction.   Rider B DOES NOT have priority.  He is in the way of rider A.  


Rider A is already coming up from his bottom turn, while rider B is still going down.  Rider A has priority.  


In a pefect world, everyone shows proper manners and etiquette.  They wait in line for their turn.  


But some people DON'T play by the rules.  They cut in line in front of others.  DROPPING IN is the same.  


Things get even more difficult to understand as surf spots have more than two surfers and waves (most times) have a right and a left.


Here IF the longboarder took off, either the rider on the left or right would be dropping in on him.  But the wave is too steep or the longboarder is too inexperienced to go. So he loses priority.  


Sometimes the board you're riding determines where is best to take off.  If you wipe out on the take off too many times,  other surfers will notice that and take priority away from you.   


Also if you SHOULD go Left but chose to go Right instead, you are coming from behind the peak.  Riders may not know you are there. Plus you will probably get hit by the lip anyways if you are not that advanced.  


More worse is when one rider is going Left and the other rider is going Right right into each other.  Who has Priority here ?  Hard to say.  Both riders look like beginners and can't control their boards anyways.  


At a surf break where there is Lessons, surf instructors, Longboards, Shortboards, Locals and Tourist all mixed together, the rules of Priority kind of go out the door.  It's every man (woman) for themselves.  


If you sitting for waves and you know someone is waiting closer to the peak, make sure to check or glance to your side when paddling to see if it's okay to take off.  Here the rider on the red board has "blinders" on.  


He blocks the rider who had priority and makes him straighten out and lose the wave.  Very bad !


Just because you can catch a wave doesn't mean you SHOULD catch the wave.  Wait your turn !


So be aware of your surroundings and who is closers to the peak.  The rider who is up to his feet and closest to the curl has priority ( usually, that is the rule, but we'll explain more next week )


please check out Hope Cheng and Philippine Surf Report on FB to see more. 







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Off the RIP

Other than teaching surfing technique, I also teach English in Japan.  


For Japanese speakers sometimes the R and the L gets mixed up when they try to speak in English.  


So when they say "Off the Lip", it may sound like "Off the Rip".   But that's okay and actually a good practice.  


When you're turning off the top, you WANT TO RIP your front hand back down thru the turn.  

Notice the upper body torque and twist ahead of the waist and legs.  


Even longboarders need to RIP that front hand down to get the nose to come back down.  


Surfer sites the point to turn. Front hand is in a Neutral position.


Coming off the bottom turn, he brings the front arm/hand forward. 


Then before the top, he RIPS it back down.  


Especially in small waves, you need to time and execute the movement of your arms/body perfectly.

Surfer's hand semi-neutral moving slightly forward.


Then RIPS it back, floating over the crumbly section and bringing the board back down.  


So next time you want to go "Off the Lip", remember to RIP it back down.  


Off the RIP, easy to remember isn't it ? 


please check out Matsunosuke Kugenuma on FB to see more daily surf photos



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Front side come back

To get better at Turning your surfboard and Cut Backs, think Come Back.   


A Cut back is a turn back to the curl.  Directional change is almost 180 degrees.   

( notice the technique to face the back hand palm outwards ) 


Coming off the bottom turn, the rider targets the point he wants to turn off of.  Body inline with the angle of the board.  ( notice the back hand back ) 


Before the top, he rips the back hand forward to twist the torso and thus the board back down.  Hand switch it's position oppositely. 


1) eyes sight the apex point

2) front arm goes forward

3) here, the back arm is acting as a pivot point ( not holding an invisible wall ) 

4) body is not bent over, but leaning inline with the board


Board comes around with the nose facing back to the wave.  Closed body to Open body.  Back hand acts as a pivot point again.  


1) Front hand leads through the turn opening the chest.

2) Eyes looking to the future.

3) Torso twisting counter clockwise.

4) Bodyline strong with the angle of the board.


But after he cuts / comes back, what will he do ?


Bang off the on-coming curl of the wave.  The meeting of energy sling shots the rider back out.  Then he can drop down and do another bottom turn. ( so you get the trill of taking off again )


Cutting back or Coming back is a tool to utilize the whole wave from shoulder to curl.  Good surfing is using the whole wave and whole board.  Inside rail to outside rail and back to the inside rail.  Good cutbacks use extreme angles and spray.  Spray is the by product of speed and water displacement.  Keep practicing / thinking come back to the wave, each time with more speed and harder angles and soon you'll be ripping those Cutbacks.  


please check out Hope Cheng on FB to see more.  




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Kooks and Beginners

I don't like KOOKS.  But I love Beginners.   "Wait a minute, aren't they the same thing ?", you might say.  NO, they're not. 


A first time surfing Beginner or "newbie" is eager to learn. They are also wary to not get hurt and stay out of others way.   They try to have good surfing ettiquite.  


The best time ever surfing was when you were a Beginner.  The pure smile and enjoyment catching your first waves. 


After that things get harder and more frustrating.   Crowds, trying to catch "Green" open faces rather than catching white water,  trying to turn,  trying to be part of the crew at the local break.  


When you are a beginner, you are allowed ( and expected ) to make mistakes.  You are just learning.  If you drop in on some by mistake, as a beginner they might say it's okay.   As a intermediate surfer, they might get mad.  


The word Kook is not a bad derogatory word.  It's the same thing in others sports, golf, soccer, cycling, bowling, if some would call someone " Dangerous ".   "I don't want to play next to him, he's dangerous".   That guys a Kook, he shoots out his board all the time and almost hit me !"


Beginners can be Kooks.  So can a person whose been "surfing" for many years, be a Kook.  I've seen the same Kooks at my local break for over 20 years, when I started as a beginner.   A Kook is someone who doesn't know the rules, doesn't follow the rules, doesn't have wave ettiquite, doesn't care.  They make the same wrong decisions over and over, and expect to be forgiven.   ( this kids is not a kook, this kid is Stoked !! )


It's been said there's no bad students, just bad teachers.   So if someone doesn't teach you early on the rules, you are bound to become a Kook.  ( I don't blame these surfers for breaking their boards and ankles, I blame their teacher )


So Learn the right way to surf.   Learn the rules of the ocean.   Have fun in the ocean, but also have respect for it's power.   Duke Kahanamoku said "the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun".   But if you have fun at others expense ( or pain ), then you'll be a Kook.  


please check out  to see more.   



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Backside surfing notes

One question I often get is " How do I surf better going backside ? "   


Some basics:

1) the more you can look, the more you can twist, the more you twist the easier it is to turn. 

2) back hand comes across the chest with the palm out. 

3) Front hand leads thru the turn

4) initiate the roll from inside rail to flat bottom before you get to the top of the wave. 

( hint:  take a picture of the wave as if there was a camera stuck to your chest )


If you front arm is locked to the body, it restricts the amount your upper body/torso can twist.   You can tell the rider is more just leaning, since the rail line is buried into the wave.  


Good back side surfing utilizes hard angles.  Rider looks like he is leaned over but his head is still inline from deck thru head.  


Good back side surfing also includes using the whole wave from curl to shoulder.  After the rider cutbacks back from the shoulder, he banks off the oncoming curl.  


Lead with the front hand, not the hip.  Here she is leading with her butt.  Back arm is counterbalancing not helping to twist the torso.  She is leaning left, not turning the board.  


Rider may look good here, eyes up and out.  Back arm seems to be coming forward.   But notice his front arm is down.  Board nose is a little too down low.  


When it comes time to go up, the front arm doesn't help to lift the nose. Left arm should be up and right shoulder should be down. Shoulder line is against the action of the board.  He need to hit the white water with the bottom of the board, not the rail.  


Another thing about back side surfing is to pressure the inside rail.......................  but not too much.  You have to know when to resist and when to relax.  


Another reason why to rwist your torso and look ahead, is to see what the wave is doing down the line.  Rider noticed the signs the wave was closing out, so he took steps to straighten out and run away from the crashing lip.  


Work on your backside surfing because it will improve you Frontside surfing.  Surfing is 50/50, you can't only go frontside all the time.  If you can improve you backside bottom turn,  your front side cutbacks will improve because of the similiar body movements.  


Please check out Hope Cheng on FB to see more.   

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Frontside carve to tail slide

A Front Side Carve is not just turn your board left ( if you are a regular footer ).  


The rider comes up out of his Bottom turn. You can see the transition point from inside rail to flat bottom of his board ( pink arrow ).  His Front arm drops to create a pivot point. 


Now he puts the board on the Outside rail ( left rail ) .   He is Turning and Leaning, not just one or the other.  


Fully on rail, he carves around the pivot point. Half the board is out of the water.   Back arm almost acts like a hook hanging onto the sky.


Now he has cutback so far he is facing 180 degrees from the first photo.  Inside fin is broken free of the water.  Rail line is now dug in almost to the nose.  


As the nose picks/digs into the wave, it stalls out the front of the board and lets the back swing around due to momentum.  Now the rider transfers his weight over his front foot and lays the board flat ( not on rail ) , to let the the board/tail slide.  


Sorry, no next photo, but most likely the rider let his butt sit down. Then the curl behind him would help push him ( and his board) back up, engage back on to his inside rail and go to the next move.  


Timing, Position ( on the board and on the wave ), knowing how to use the rails, tail and nose, and most important ...............  Speed and Speed control,  led to a good carve and tail slide.  


please check out Eason's photography on FB to see more great sequence shots.   


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crawl before you walk - Pop Up before you can surf

To get better at surfing, you need a good trim,

but before the trim you need a good bottom turn,

but before the bottom turn is a good Pop up.


Being at the right spot, Paddling correctly, getting into the wave and popping up smoothly..........


Sets up everything after, speed-power-flow.  


You may know HOW to Pop Up, but the WHEN to Pop Up and WHERE to Pop Up is just as important.  Practicing in you flat living room floor won't prepare you for the angles during take-off.  

1) Rider is too centered at the peak.  He is literally caught in the crashing lip.  

2) His knees and toes are flying up, can not push up off the deck to pop up. 


Again the rider needs to have already popped up a second earlier.  He is too far back on his board, and when he does try to pop up the wave angle will be too steep.  


Popping up late or in the white water, there is no speed, so the board bogs down.  Rider looking down and with a locked front arm does not help the situation either.  

1) notice the other rider is out on the clean face, looking down the line.  


1) Looking down

2) knee to the chest

3) one knee down on the deck

4) too small board trying to ride white water soup


Once you Pop Up and get to your feet, there's still more bad habits to work on. 

1) looking down 

2) hands bracing on a invisible wall

3) head past the rail, kicks out the butt

4) front foot pointed to the rail, should be more to the nose. 


That leads to a stiff, side eye posture.  Rider is more trying to hold on and not fall off, than actually "surfing" the board. 


Again........ "WHERE you look is WHERE you go".  Look down = GO down.   When you look at the nose your torso/head automatically leans forward.  That in turn brings up the nose.  The nose coming up stalls the board making you go slower exactly at the moment you need MORE speed.  


And when the nose comes up, you lose speed or you WHEELIE OUT and flip backwards.  You can see unconsciously her back hand reach out to keep from falling. 


If you don't have a good Pop Up  ( and before that a strong paddle ) it doesn't matter what fin set up you have or if your board is Polyester or Epoxy.   To be better at surfing you need a strong foundation of the most BASIC techniques.  Crawl before you walk, walk before you run.   If you're having a problem with speed on the wave, look back two steps to find the problem.  It could be a bad bottom turn due to a bad Pop Up.  


please check out to see more

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Backside surfing

How to surf better Backside ? Some basic rules:

1) The more you can look, the more you can turn

2) "I" beam effect from the board thru the body thru the shoulders

3) Rolling from Inside rail to Flat bottom to Outside rail AND back to inside rail

4) Work with the wave


Rider cutbacks to the curl.  It looks like he is bent over, but actually his bodyline is strong from deck thru the head. 

Eyes looking to the next move.  He is not reaching out or holding a wall, he is feeling the lean angle, letting his fingers glide over the water surface.  


Coming back out on to the shoulder further down the line, he does a mid face cut.  Again strong bodyline, eyes down the line, arms rotating counter clockwise to twist the torso.  "X" indicates the turnover point went from inside rail (spray going towards the beach, to outside rail ( spray goes out towards the ocean )


Coming up out off the bottom, he eyes the lip further down the line.  He keeps his body centered and strong. Front arm reaching out and back to twist open the chest and to create a pivot point for the board to go around. 


Turn is made BEFORE reaching the top of the lip. He is compact but not hunched over to abosrb the impact.  Shoulders are almost squared to the deck.  He hits the lip as the wave hits him, matching power to power.  Sights his landing spot. 


Wave closes out and there's no where else to go.  He comes down with the lip, keeping the board flat to maximize floatation.  He doesn't go on the inside or outside rail because it would cause him to catch an edge and fall off.  He leans forward just a bit to keep the board driving down with gravity.  If he leaned back, he would lose speed and flip over backwards.  


Look at what is similar,  eyes always looking to the next move, bodyline strong with the angle of the deck,  hands/arms working to maneuver the board not to act as balancing tools, on rail not riding flat.   One thing you can't see is the Speed and Flow.  The more Speed you can utilize the easier it will be to turn your board.  The more Flow you have, the easier it will be to link your moves and cover more area on the wave.  


please check out  to see more.  




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Surfing is Life

Luckily for Spring Break, me and my wife got to go back to Hawaii ............. and surf in Waikiki.


But before you surf, you have to pay your respects to those who have left the break. 

These Puakenikeni flowers are for Terence and Soyu who surfed Queens'


My wife likes to surf Queens' , the take off is slow, then speeds up on the inside.  The wave is tricky since it's a fade left go right.  


This flower is for Tom at Canoes'.  We always split the waves, he going left and I going right.  


Oahu had a lot of rainy days, you can see Diamond Head in the background covered in green foliage. 


Okay, said bye to our friends, now time to surf !!  


Come to find out we were not alone.


One of the true Waikiki locals was hanging out at the break.


Here he is cruising above Waikiki's reef bottom.


He didn't mind the surfers at all.


He would pop up and go down right between the pack at the peak.  


My wife throwing the "Shaka",  local Hawaiian for Hang Loose / take it easy. 


Surfing is Life.  To me it's not a sport, it's a lifestyle.  And just like in Life, your surfing experience can be 50/50.  Good wave / bad wipe out.  Kook drops in and dings your new board /  Locals sharing waves telling you to go for the big set.  Meeting new friends /  losing good longtime friends.    


Lucky to have a partner in my life that loves surfing as much as I do.

Live to Surf /  Surf to live 





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