Improve your surfing with the new style of surf skateboards
How I pushed past my fear of skateboarding with the new style of surf skateboards with the help of Tiny Whale Surf Lodge in Portugal.
Skateboarding has always filled me with terror. I wish it hadn’t. I often watch people cruise by so carefree, so at ease, so relaxed gliding by on their concrete waves. I have always admired, often yearned to be fearless enough to try it.
A few weeks ago, on the concrete gravel streets of a tranquil, sleepy Portuguese town, I was terrified as my turn to plant my feet firmly on the deck neared. Having surfed for almost 8 years, you’d think I’d feel at ease on a skateboard; the feel of the motions apparently so similar to that of surfing. The style and nature of it intertwining. Yet unfortunately this hasn’t been the case for me; a mighty, slightly embarrassing shame. However, over the years I have come to the realisation that fear is a thing to be embraced and confronted, despite how hard that is to do (It’s taken me 20+ years to finally try skateboarding!). Grab it by the horns, dance with it and twirl it around until it no longer grips hold on you. Remain at its side until that fear transcends into joy, fun, and laughter.
I was skeptical about the concept of the new surf skateboards, believing it to be yet another toy to sell to surfers. Another marketing tool to forge money out of surf culture. I failed to understand how it could aid in my surf style and technique. Gradually, from the gentle nudges and subtle convictions of my surf instructors, I gave way. My fingernails bore into their trusting, relaxed shoulders, digging in deep as the fear clasped on tight. They held me every step of the way, taking time to ensure I was safe at every moment and assuring me they had been just as scared the first time they skated (the instructors who started a little later in life, that was. The others had all been skating as soon as they could walk it seemed!).
I was barely able to stand up for the first half-hour. Yet after repeated words of encouragement and arms there to catch me if I looked a little unsteady, I finally had two feet on the deck. A fairly huge milestone for myself. The sensation of the hot, hard tarmac sliding beneath me felt odd, but I could feel something shifting inside. I was coming round to the idea, albeit incredibly slowly. After a few attempts of the instructors dragging me along as stiff and rigid as the deck itself, I ever so slowly began to relax; bending my legs as my instructor had been repeatedly and incredibly patiently, encouraging. Lowering my centre of gravity, eyes fixed on my intended direction, not down to the floor they hastened to add!
“Never look down, or that’s where you’ll go!”. This rule goes hand in hand with surfing (have a read of many other surf tips here); if we look directly down to the bottom of the wave instead of down the line, we’ll find ourselves repeatedly plummeting into the base of the wave, where we’ll lose power, maneuverability and control… wave over. When using one of the new style of surf skateboards (I was testing out the brand SurfSkate from the UK), and when we’re surfing, we must follow the path of our eyes in conjunction with the use of our arms. Suddenly I realised where I’d been going wrong; I hadn’t been using my legs enough, and in no way at all had I been using my arms to help anywhere near as much as I should have! These motions didn’t feel so strange after all. I could now picture myself on a left-hander (a regular footer), sinking into the board, bending my knees, bending the back knee more, eyes fixated on the crest of the wave, leading arm pointing in the intended direction and then once at the top extend the knees and then compress once again, with eyes locked on the bottom and arms pointing down. One top turn completed… It felt good!
We stuck with these drills for another hour or so on the hot sun-drenched streets of Sagres; a favourite town of mine. I’ve returned to Sagres’ cobbled streets quite a few times now, but this was the first time I found myself surf skating round. We sought shade and iced coffees on the opposite side of the road with smiles beaming and thighs burning. My body was slowly relaxing, slowly giving way to the surf-skate. We gazed over through a glaring heat haze back to the skate park where the excitable instructors demonstrated their stylish flow and perfected techniques. After witnessing the fun and style emanating from their relaxed demeanors, we raced back to join. It was rapidly working its magic!
We resumed our practice, deepening into the movements, relaxing, slowly gaining more confidence. Now we were comfortable enough to stand on the decks without assistance (something I thought would take years, yet took less than an hour with the guidance from the instructors at Tiny Whale).
The SurfSkate helped me come to terms with the correct stance. Personally, I have a tendency to pop up with my feet too close together, a longboarding style which isn’t ideal for shortboards. If I didn’t place my back foot on the tail pad, I couldn’t control the board. This, I was informed by Tariq, the head instructor at Tiny Whale, was the perfect way to build muscle memory when back on a board in the water. Maintaining your back foot on the tail pad helps generate speed, improves control and maneuverability as your foot is sitting directly on top of your fins. Replicating and repeating these techniques on land has limitless benefits; especially when there’s a flat spell.
Immediately I felt more connected to the motions, neural pathways and muscle memory were building and becoming stronger. I had a lightbulb moment there and then in the middle of Sagres. All this time spent in the water attempting to execute that cutback had been to no avail due to movements my instructors had instantly recognised. My arms were placid, pointless noodles lying at my side, futile in generating any power and speed needed to execute those cutbacks and top turns I had been longing to accomplish.
For a while now, I’ve been plateauing in my surfing, stuck in a rut and clueless on how I can further progress. I’ve longed to nail that cutback, roundhouse and off the lip but with the majority of attempts, I’d either lose my balance or lose all speed. Thanks to the guys at Tiny Whale, with a few of their simple tips, a whole lot of patience and the most insanely fun surf skate at hand, they have successfully ignited a whole new reason for me to jump back into the surf.
The next surf we delved back into the Atlantic. As I took off on my first wave I heard the instructor’s voices echoing in the back of my head “COMPRESS!!! USE YOUR EYES! DON’T FORGET THE ARMS”. I found myself compressing, bending my knees and lowering the back knee more. I set my eyes on the lip and hit it with more power and more control than I had the morning prior. My eyes and arms were leading me in the right direction and my bent knees were creating so much more power into my turn than I’ve felt before. After only a few hours on the surf skate, I felt a clear distinction in my technique; more power, more precision, more confidence; a heightened understanding.
Now, as I recall all those smooth tarmac roads I’ve driven down on road trips past, I wish I’d had one of these surf skateboards like the SurfSkate with me. I’m hooked. Since coming back to the UK from Portugal the waves have been non-existent. We have been graced with the most beautiful sunshine and blue sky days with not a ripple in the water. The flat spell has driven even the unlikeliest of souls to rowing, kayaking, sea swimming, even paddleboarding! But alas, the surf skateboard has saved the day. It has been the perfect accompaniment to those flat days allowing me to continue practicing those techniques. Thank you to all of those responsible at Tiny Whale Surf Lodge for all your assistance, guidance and most of all patience. You have yourself a fully-fledged surf skate addict.
Now, where are those waves?
Tiny Whale Surf Lodge offers intensive week surf coaching courses with a ratio of one instructor to three students. The team carry out in-depth and insightful video analysis on the beach and back at the chilled out surf lodge, with follow up advice on training you can undertake once you leave to further enhance your performance. The intensive coaching set alongside the stunning chilled out surf lodge is the idyllic combination. Tiny Whale Surf Lodge comes complete with all sorts of activities; Indo boards, surf skateboards, yoga classes in the garden, a swimming pool to cool off in, a slackline to practice those balancing skills, delicious food and drink, friendly staff and like-minded travellers; all make for an incredible week of new experiences.
If you’re keen to drastically improve your surfing ability and boost your confidence in and out the water on a short time scale, whether a beginner or intermediate, I cannot recommend the experience at Tiny Whale Surf Lodge enough.
If you’re interested in purchasing one of the surf skateboards like the SurfSkate and would like to see for yourself how great they are in enhancing surf style, technique, and performance, then feel free to use my discount code to get yourself some money off your very first SurfSkate order!
Use the code Forshethesea10 to receive 10% off basket total (Not inclusive of sale items & pre-orders).
Use the code Forshethesea5 to receive 5% off basket total (For pre-orders & sale items).
*Images by Clare James Photography