Missing Waves On A Longboard? Learn positioning, equipment and timing.

Have you ever wondered why some surfers effortlessly catch waves while others struggle despite their best efforts? People often tell us that using a longboard will make surfing easier, but this isn’t always true. Let’s explore why you might have trouble catching waves on a longboard and how to fix it.

Let’s break down why you might miss waves on a longboard and how to address each issue:

  1. Being Positioned Too Far Back:
    • Although longboards offer faster paddling, it’s vital to position yourself correctly. If you’re too far back, the board’s tail can sink, creating drag when paddling. Catching a wave while placed too far back makes it difficult to use gravity effectively. It would help if you slid down the wave’s face using gravity, not fight against it.
    • Positioning on a longboard can be tricky because all longboard has different rocker. When lying on the board, you want to be parallel to the water’s surface to minimise the water resistance. Suggestion: When paddling, move up and down the board, and find the spot that makes you go fastest. This is constant trial and error, but keep trying because it will save you lots of energy when you find a sweet spot.
  2. Not Paddling Fast Enough: Paddling is crucial in surfing. Improving your paddling technique and endurance is vital to catch more waves. Read here to improve your paddling.
    • Pro tip: Avoid using excessive energy on a longboard in the initial couple of paddles. A larger board requires more time and effort to get moving initially, so begin with relaxed and easy paddles and then build the speed up.
  3. Staying Too Stationary: Go Wave Hunting:
    • Once your paddling is solid, actively seek out waves instead of just paddling toward the shore. Beginners often mistake: paddling for a wave without considering their position. Keep an eye on the waves to time your approach optimally. Move around to find the wave’s peak, adjust your board’s angle, and paddle hard at the right moment.
  4. Reaching Too Far and Wasting Energy:
    • Paddling on a longboard differs from a shortboard. For a longboard, reaching too far forward doesn’t assist paddling since you are not elongating the body with a long reach. Focus on the catch phase with your hand and go straight into around 30 degrees down from the water’s surface.
  5. Sitting too far out at the back:
    • Beginners often feel like they should sit right out at the back because longboards allow them to catch waves earlier than other surfers. However, this can be a mistake. You may not have enough paddle power yet to catch waves early.
    • Sitting far out also helps you avoid getting waves on your head.
    • But unless the waves are too steep, try to sit with other surfers and stay busy!

Wants to learn more about wave-catching tips? Check out the detailed tips HERE

Are Longboards Better for Small Waves?

Longboards excel at catching and riding small waves. With high in volume, they’re perfect for the lower power and gentle gradient of small waves. This is possible because their buoyancy keeps you on the water’s surface, unlike shortboards that tend to sink and miss waves.

Many beginner surfers would contemplate between longboards and short stubby shortboards. Before committing to buy a board, you need to know this: Even though that small stubby short board is designed for small days, it requires great skills and experience to ride small waves with a small board.

If you must buy a small board, always try a similar volume board before committing to spending large sums of money.

Can You Ride a Longboard on Big Waves?

Using a traditional longboard on big waves depends on the wave’s shape. Not all big waves are the same. Consider waves like Teahupo’o and Nazaré – Teahupo’o has notorious steep with a thick barrel, whereas Nazare has huge waves but does not barrel.

Riding a typical longboard on a steep wave is challenging due to its lack of rocker. Yet, it’s possible, as shown by surfers like Jamie O’Brien on Pipeline.

Jamie O’Brien on his soft top surfboard at Pipeline

However, If you look close enough, you will notice that he cannot take off at the steep zone. Instead, he gets on to waves early and waits for a wave to build up. When the barrel starts to form, he cannot stay in the barrel. Instead, he goes through the barrel as it develops.

He must pick up the slightly less critical part of the waves at other times to make it work. Nevertheless, it is incredibly challenging to do this in Pipeline.

When Should You Pop Up on a Longboard?

Pop up on a longboard when you feel the wave’s momentum. You don’t need to pop up immediately; longboards allow an early catch. Delaying the pop-up slightly can help you to get to the steep part of the waves to gain more speed.

Interestingly, getting to the steep part of the wave also helps you to nose ride.

Pro tip: don’t jump up to the board when popping up. Instead, look where you want to go, then get on your feet. This helps to smooth out your style.

How Do You Sit On A Longboard?

Finding the correct sitting position on a longboard involves understanding your body’s comfort and adjusting accordingly. Maintaining a wide position can be challenging if your hip flexibility is limited. In such cases, opting for a narrower longboard or positioning yourself towards the slightly narrower tail end can be beneficial.

For those who prefer to arch their back, sitting in the middle or slightly forward on the board is recommended. This keeps the board neutral or keeps the nose of the board sink, facilitating a naturally arched back. Conversely, if a slightly bent back is more comfortable, sitting towards the tail end is advised. This elevates the front of the board, causing your knees to rise above your hips and inducing a gentle back bend.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to recognize that sitting positions aren’t fixed, especially on a longboard. Consider scenarios like waiting for a wave while gazing at the horizon. Sitting upright to detect subtle wave movements allows for quicker when the wave approach. When rapid directional changes are necessary, shifting towards the back of the board enables swift pivoting. Adaptability in your sitting posture is vital, enhancing both wave anticipation and maneuverability.


My name is James, the person behind SurifngHeadquaters.com. With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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