Hey, you — tall person! Yeah, the one who could ride all the roller coasters in elementary school, often gets yelled at for blocking the view during concerts, and can never get comfortable on planes… have you ever tried surfing? Well, as a bona fide member of the Tall People Club at 6’6 (and Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s tallest intern ever), I made my surfing debut during last week’s surf and yoga camp and I had an absolute blast! Along the way, I learned three valuable lessons that I would like to share in an effort to ease your journey toward shredding the gnar.
1. Get low on your surfboard
We will start our lesson with wise words from the esteemed poet Lil’ Jon: “Get low”! As a tall person, it is of the utmost importance that you lower your center of gravity to normal-person-levels. Focus on maintaining an athletic stance with knees bent and arms out. The crucial moment for getting low is during the transition from your belly to your feet, also known as the “pop up”. If you pop up into a straight-legged stance, you will be much more affected by the movements of the ocean and more easily knocked off balance. If you can master the transition from laying on your board to getting into a low, centered, and athletic stance, you will be prepared to adjust as needed and ride your wave!
STEP TO PREP: Burpees. Train with burpees to acclimate to going from a face-down position to a strong and athletic stance. Although your foot placement will differ for surfing, gaining comfort with the pop up motion will accelerate your learning. Also, the pushups will help build defined pecs — always a plus!
2. Fall with grace
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall”. The phrase is popular because it’s so true, as many of you can attest. As a beginner surfer, falling is inevitable, and as a tall surfer, you will be further from the water than most and your impact will carry more momentum. Because of this, it is worthwhile to dedicate extra attention to the art of falling.
Your instinct may be to cushion your fall with your arms, land directly on your feet, or to dive forward into the water — but don’t do it! Your extended limbs are especially susceptible to injury during a fall, and it is difficult to tell how shallow the water is or what is on the ground beneath it.
Instead, aim to fall backwards onto your bottom, where there is extra cushioning and your momentum will be effectively slowed. Falling onto your bottom will distribute the impact of the fall versus concentrating it on a single arm or leg. Falling backwards also keeps you from getting hit by your surfboard in the aftermath of the fall. If you do fall ahead of your board, be sure to keep your arms up to shield yourself and locate the board before bringing your head above water.
STEP TO PREP: Stand-up paddle boarding. Among the myriad benefits of stand-up paddle boarding is the opportunity to practice falling with grace. Take a board into a controlled environment with deep water, and when you feel yourself losing balance, focus on falling backwards, away from your board, and meeting the water surface with your bottom. If you can build this muscle memory prior to your surfing lessons, you’ll minimize your risk of injury.
So now you’re staying low and athletic on your board and falling with grace… the next step is to under-correct. When you’re standing on your board, your height can be a gift and a curse — the result of every movement is multiplied and you can alter your ride with the slightest shift. A common rookie mistake is to over-correct, drastically moving your weight forward, backward, or to a side in an attempt to guide your ride. As you will learn, this often backfires and throws you off balance.
Instead, focus on making micro-movements on your board, slightly adjusting your weight and then patiently waiting for this change to take effect. When you do feel yourself losing balance in a certain direction, under-correct yourself back to center — a little change will make a big difference. Mastering these under-corrections will help you get longer and more controlled rides.
STEP TO PREP: Yoga. Practicing yoga will emphasize the importance and impact of micro-movements. A slight change in where you place your weight or what muscles you engage can totally transform a pose. Increasing your familiarity with your own body on the yoga mat will prepare you to under-correct on the surfboard and control your ride. Read more about the complementary nature of surfing and yoga here.
Bonus tip for people of all sizes: Costa Rican handshake
Not entirely related, but still extremely important: if you want to make any friends in Costa Rica, you need to master the local greeting. If you initiate a normal handshake, dap, hug, or high-five, you risk being immediately labelled as a lame outsider (who probably doesn’t even keep up with the Bodhi blog). If you want to be cool, you’ll do the following:
- Extend your hand in a sideways high-five motion, meeting your partner squarely in the palm
- Glide your hand back along your partner’s and pull away
- Reach back in with a fist bump
- Say Pura Vida and smile
If you follow these steps precisely, I guarantee you will make friends in Costa Rica and potentially get signed to a record deal or modeling contract on the spot.
In surfing, your height can be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. If you follow these tips and diligently take the steps to prep, you will set yourself up for success! We hope to see you at Bodhi soon!
Written by Mike Agrippina
Mike is Bodhi’s newest intern (and as we just discovered, its tallest). Since arriving at Bodhi, he’s touched his toes several times, stood on a surf board, and achieved 14% fluency in Spanish on his language learning app. In the spirit of cultural immersion, he is on a mission to try every flavor of ice cream and margarita in Bahia Ballena.