The legendary Kelly Slater grew up in Cocoa Beach, FL, an area known for its small to middling waves. Rather than attacking skyscraper waves every weekend, the GOAT cut his teeth on tiny waves that would make most pros glower in disappointment.
It’s proof, if you needed it, that you can learn a lot from surfing small waves. Just look at all of the things that small wave surfing can teach you:
How to Generate Speed
Riding a shortboard on small surf is a challenge. If you’re not moving, you’re sinking, and it can be hard to get the speed that you need.
Small waves might not seem like much of a challenge initially, but once you’re on the water trying to maintain enough speed, you’ll realize just how tough it can be.
The lessons that you learn generating speed on small waves will stay with you as you move to larger and more challenging ones.
How to Ride Properly
When you first learn to do a deadlift or bench press, you use light weights and concentrate on the range of motion, as opposed to just lifting as much as you can. When you’re taught soccer, you learn how to pass with the side of your foot, shoot with your laces, and open your body when receiving a pass, as opposed to being thrust into an 11-on-11 game.
To learn proper form, you start small and focus on the basics, and the same is true for surfing. Surfing smaller waves will give you time to focus on your form and your style. If you can’t get it right over weak waves, what hope do you have of nailing perfect form over perfect waves?
How to Think Fast and Turn Faster
You don’t have much time to stop, think, and admire your handiwork when you surf small waves. If you don’t hit the next section, it will disappear before you know it.
For an eventful surf session, you must move quickly and keep moving.
How to Find Lines
Strategies are key when you’re surfing small waves. You need to know how to read the wave and find the right line, and that skill will be a massive help. Tackling those tiny waves will implant essential techniques into your muscle memory, making you a much better surfer.
Expand Your Surfboard Experience
It’s always a good idea to try your shortboard on those small waves. As noted above, it’s a huge challenge and it will test your mettle and prepare you for bigger waves and tougher challenges. However, surfing small waves also gives you a chance to expand your quiver and try some different board styles.
Longboards are perfect for small wave surfing, and you can also try out a fishboard and a groveller.
How to Appreciate Good Waves
When you spend most of your time ripping tiny waves and struggling over those little humps, you’ll have more appreciation for good waves.
As soon as the weather picks up and those waves get bigger and stronger, you’ll be ready for them. Catching big waves is what it’s all about as a surfer, and you can’t beat the thrill of riding big waves after spending weeks ripping tiny ones.
Maintain Muscle Memory
The more you do something, the better you will become. It’s true for playing guitar, playing pool, and even riding a bike. It’s also true for surfing, and by riding smaller waves, you could be building on your muscle memory and improving your surfing.
If you’re only interested in the big waves, it means you’ll be spending a lot of time relaxing on the beach or checking the surf reports without actually surfing. If you’re happy to rip tiny waves and make a habit out of it, you’ll build on your skillset and will become a much better surfer as a result.
How to Have Fun and Take it Easy
You can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re surfing small waves. Those tiny waves will destroy your ego very quickly, and if you don’t have a relaxed attitude about everything, you’re going to get very frustrated very quickly.
Surfing is supposed to be fun. It’s a laidback sport. Sure, it’s also competitive and surfers are always trying to go bigger and better, but unless you’re hitting up those contests every weekend, you can afford to take it easy every now and then.
How to Make Good Friends!
Okay, so you probably don’t need help making friends and you definitely don’t need to limit yourself to small surf to meet new people. But as an experienced surfer, you can become a mentor of sorts to all the newbie surfers and a hero to all the awed onlookers. You can teach them new tricks, help them to improve, and make new friends in the process.
There is also much less congestion around tiny wave spots. Surfers will flock to catch good waves at popular beaches, but they aren’t really interested in flat spots.
Summary: Riding Small Waves
If it’s good enough for the GOAT, then it’s good enough for you!
As the above guide shows, you can learn a lot by tackling those small waves, so stop turning your back on the surf when it’s looking a little flat and grab your board!
You might not be the next Kelly Slater, but at the very least, you’ll learn some tricks and techniques that will help you to improve as a surfer.