Beach breaks in less than ideal conditions can be brutal. Here are a few good reasons paddle out anyway, and one not to.
Sometimes it takes a little motivation to paddle out. If the water is cold or the conditions at the beach break look strenuous it’s easy to opt to sit that session out. But do you really only regret the waves you don’t go on?
Epic conditions are always a rare and special occurrence. Even with a world class beach break in your front yard, a lot of days the waves are not great. Most days are just rehearsal for the day you wake up to those perfect little peaks and barrels. So the next time you are watching the beach cam from your warm cozy bed, trying to psych yourself up to surf, here are five reasons to consider paddling out even when it doesn’t look great.
#1 Improve timing
Reaction time will improve when your options are, 1) get to your feet quickly or, 2) get pitched. After a few thrashing your body will adjust. Muscle memory will get quicker. You will pull the trigger at exactly the right moment.
Beach breaks don’t typically have an open channel. That means after each wave you may have to fight your way back to the line up. Also, the peak is shifty. If you’re committed to your wave count, you’ll find yourself hunting down the peak at top speed more frequently than you would in an easy-to-line-up reef or point break. This makes for great conditioning.
#3 Improve confidence
There will be those moments when you get pitched over the lip, drilled to the bottom and held there for longer than you want to be. But when you finally surface only to realize you’re no worse for the wear — those are some of the best moments for increasing confidence. Often beach breaks can be a the safest arena for pushing your edge. With a soft sand bottom and no chance of getting washed up on the rocks you can take chances you wouldn’t otherwise take. If I’m stuck in my head and my confidence is lacking on a big day I often give myself permission to wipe out. I do it just to get it over with and realize it wasn’t that bad, and actually kind of fun!
#4 Practice duck diving
If your duck diving skills could use some work you probably don’t want to risk getting caught inside at a shallow reef or a near a cliff face. Your local beach break might be the best place to work on your duck dives. Mistakes will wear you out but at least they won’t leave you with a reef tattoo.
#5 Get barreled
Getting smashed inside a sandy closeout isn’t technically getting barreled but it’s still a blast! Many beach breaks provide barrels on the correct swell. Unfortunately, not all of those barrels leave you an exit, especially if you are not an expert barrel rider. To be rewarded with a tunnel vision might be worth taking a beating. Even if it is just for a split second before getting smashed.
Or maybe not?
Or maybe you just don’t feel like putting your body thought all that? How is your energy/stoke level? Some days, especially for women depending on where we are in our cycle, we just don’t have it in us to exert that much energy. Do you need to honor your body with rest? Are you willing to risk breaking a board? Can you make the swim in unassisted if you lose your board? How is the current? Could it drag you into a dangerous situation? Surfing is supposed to be fun. There are a million conditions in which it just isn’t fun anymore. There is no point in putting yourself through that.
Honoring the Body
Keep in mind the long term health of your body. Injury Sucks! Those big wipeouts and brutal beat downs add up over time. Even as I write this I am recovering from a surf related injury that kept me out of the water this entire winter on the North Shore. Only you know when to push and when to hold back. Learning the ability to listen to my body in the surf is helping me honor it in all areas of my life. Such is the nature of surfing.
For more on how hormones might affect your surfing check out this post on surfing as a middle aged female
Is it fear is holding you back or healthy respect? Bottom line, be safe and if you’re not having fun surfing then what’s the point? Get out of the water and go do something more fun until your stoke comes back. Your body will tell you when you are ready to charge again!