I tried surfing for the first time recently on a yellow foam longboard, the type typically used for teaching as it is less likely to damage you if it hits you on the head ;)

I started out just trying to catch waves lying down, to gain familiarity with the balance of the board and paddling it around. I found that even positioned quite far back, as soon as I caught the wave, the nose would dip underwater and I'd somersault over the top of it.

Is this normal, and something that wouldn't happen if I jumped to standing position as I caught the board - you're not supposed to surf these boards lying down after all - or does it indicate some other issue with what I'm trying to do? I didn't see anyone else reporting similar issues when I had a quick look along the beach or on the web... is it just front/back weight distribution or should the board not be pointed completely at 90 degrees to the wave, etc, etc?

2 Answers 2


When learning, lying down on the board is perfectly normal, and you can surf a wave just fine like this (typically with a loss of agility as it's hard to move your body weight) and a board This happens for two reasons:

  • The simple one you have already mentioned is being too far forwards. Especially when launching onto the wave, positioning is critical. You need to be far enough forward that when the wave comes underneath you you move forwards, but then you need to move back enough to stabilise and not nosedive or run out too far forwards.
  • On short waves, this can be exacerbated - a tight curve may be shorter than your board (some surfers on the Isar in Munich actually cut the nose of their board off, as the artificial wave there is so tight - others just use very short boards)

I'd suggest moving further back on your board (as long as you can still catch the wave) and then as soon as you are on the wave hold one rail to turn along the wave. You'll want to be heading along the wave anyway, as otherwise the breaking section will catch you, so just make sure you start this early.

Going along a wave requires more speed than just heading in at 90 degrees, so this is all a balancing act. You can press down with your hands near the front of the board, while your weight is further back, in order to catch the wave, and then moving your hands further back effectively pulls your weight back.


There are three factors that might cause this.

Lack of Paddling Speed If you are moving too slowly, you will be hit by the wave rather than catching it. You should be feeling like you are joining the wave. This will require some time to build up paddling strength and technique. The last three strokes need to be big. Stretch out long in front, submerse your arm nearly to the elbow and pull back all the way. Beginners typically stroke too short, and only with their hands. Lack of speed at takeoff is likely the main problem.

Timing Sometimes you will miss a wave because you are slightly too far from the shore. Other times, you'll be too close. This can cause a nosedive as the wave is too steep at the point you are catching it. Practice by looking at waves and predicting exactly where they will break. You should not be hit by whitewater as you catch the wave, but it needs to be steep enough to move you forward.

Miss it: too far out. Hit by whitewater: too close to shore.

Weight Distribution Your board needs to be horizontal as you paddle. The nose must not be sticking up in the air. If it is, the tail will be dragging too deep in the water. Nearly everyone gets this wrong initially. When your board is angled, you can not obtain enough speed. As a result, you will be almost stationary as the wave tumbles. Instead of picking up speed and sliding down the face, you are rotated forwards by the wave.

Nose in air while paddling: too far back. Nose under water: too far forward.

Nose should be on the surface.

When a surfer jumps to their feet, the weight shifts backwards considerably. But this happens as the board is starting to plane. They are not in that position they catch the wave. You need to be central on the board. Once you feel it start to accelerate, you can slide back and remain lying down.

Each of these things plays a part. Improvement in any factor will increase the number of good waves you catch.

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