How To Catch Waves In Surfing


With summer just around the corner, many water sports lovers think about all the water sport adventures waiting to happen in the next few months. One of those adventures surely is surfing. If you’re a seasoned veteran, this article will help you go through some of the most basic things regarding how to catch a wave, and if you’re a newbie, it will serve you as a how-to catch a wave surfing guide, so once you find yourself in waters, waiting for it to roll, you’ll know exactly what and when to do.

Wave Stages

Waves have four different stages and learning them will help you identify the moment to react much better.

Stage 1

In this stage, the wave is just a bump and can’t be caught, but it does mean the wave is on its way.

Stage 2

So-called “green wave” means the wave has fully formed but not yet broken, and it is the best time to paddle into it. It has just the perfect amount of power and sharpness and it is a crucial part of a successful wave breaking.

Stage 3

Once the wave starts to break, it has entered stage 3. The lip of the wave is already crashing down into the flat water, and it has gained its peak in its power and it has become really steep, making it really hard to catch during this stage.

Stage 4

Once the wave has broken and becomes the white water on the flat water, it means the final, fourth stage has started and the wave has reached its end.

Proper Positioning

The proper place to start catching your wave will most often mean the difference between successful wave catching and roaming around without any effect. For instance, if you sit at the area where the waves are breaking, there is a great chance you’ll be catching a white water wave instead of the developing one, or, in a worse scenario, it will break above you and you could end up getting injured. Check out our tips on how to prevent surf injuries.

How To Position Yourself?

Start by observing. If there are other, more experienced surfers, see where they are and follow a similar path. Of course, you shouldn’t steal their waves (always follow surfing etiquette), but using their knowledge in getting the best outcome for yourself will help you learn faster.

If there are no other surfers, then you’re on your own, but don’t worry, this way you’ll learn how to recognize the best place to sit and wait by yourself.  Start by locating the area where most of the waves are breaking and move about 4 to 5 meters (15 feet) behind it. There may be a wave or two breakings sooner or later, but if 8 out of 10 waves break at some point, that point should be the starting one.

Another common mistake among newbies it going too far out than the more experienced surfers, The first reason why many experienced surfers are not going there is the lack of breaking waves over there, and the second one is the fact that, even if it does happen, waves breaking there are extremely rare and they may be bigger than you’d like, especially if you’re a beginner.

Catching A Wave

Now when you know how to identify wave stages and where to position yourself, it is time to learn how to catch a wave.

Look at the water and locate the lumps that look like the beginning of the wave formation.  Once you spot it, try to position yourself the best you can. The ideal positioning means the wave will start developing from Stage 1 to Stage 2 between 3 and 5 meters behind you.

When you’ve picked the wave, turn your board around and start paddling. The key is to match your paddling speed with the speed of the wave as it goes from Stage 1 to Stage 2. Most of the time it should take about 8 strong paddle strokes to achieve it.

Here you’ll need to focus. Take a look behind your back. Not only you’ll avoid dropping in on someone else’s wave, but you’ll also learn what you have to do and act accordingly. Sometimes you’ll have to paddle more, sometimes you’ll have to slow down, there will be cases where you’ll have to completely stop paddling, and you’ll also be in a position to see if the wave you’re trying to catch is in Stage 2, or still in Stage 1, or it has become too steep and it has reached Stage 3.

If you skip this step, there is a chance you’ll miss-paddle the wave so it breaks over you or you end up catching a white water wave.

The Bigger Board The Better

The best surfboard for beginners for catching unbroken waves is the biggest one available.  Big surfboards move through the water much faster compared to smaller boards, so it is much easier to catch on to the wave rhythm.

Reading The Waves

You may have figured out that some surfers are more successful in catching waves than others. The reason is their ability to “read” the wave and learn its behavior. Learning to read the wave will help you know will it break sooner or later so you can position yourself better and improve your chances to catch it easily.

Sticking To The Wave

When you catch the wave’s rhythm, don’t change your stroke. Most of the time long and deep strokes with strong push will keep you up with the wave pace,

Surf Board Body Positioning

To keep your balance you’ll have to, besides learning the best paddling technique, know how to position yourself on your best surfboard. Your chest should be centered on the surfboard width at the right height. Your body should be high enough to keep the nose about 3 to 6 centimeters (1-2 inches) above the water when you keep your head up high.

Potential Problems


There are some obstacles you may run into during your session.

You’ve Been Thrown Off

If this happens, the reason probably lays in one of the following:

  • You’ve placed yourself too far forward. Move back slightly.
  • When you start to catch on the wave, put extra weight on your legs by arching your back.
  • Skip the wave that has started to break

You Can’t Catch The Wave

In case you miss waves regularly and can’t catch one, the problem may be:

  • Sitting too far back. The nose of your board should be a few inches out of the water, so move your body up.
  • Paddle early to gain more speed.
  • Paddle faster and don’t stop

Things You Shouldn’t Do

For a successful wave-catching, there are some things you should avoid doing.

  • Don’t paddle using short and fast strokes.
  • Avoid paddling at a big angle. The easiest way to catch green waves is to paddle perpendicular to the wave, and once you learn to do it properly, add a small angle to determine the side you’ll be going.

Things You Should Do

  • Before you go up if you’re not sure you’ve paddled enough, add two or three additional strokes.
  • Nose diving will eventually occur, so don’t be afraid of it and be ready for it.
  • Listen to and observe your coach! Try to understand why you should position yourself the way your coach is telling you to so you can catch the wave easier.


The key to perfection and knowledge in practice. The theory is alright and you should know what to do, but it has no point unless you put it to use. Some things, like reading the waves and learning their stages require you to be in the water, so put on your surfing wetsuit and don’t wait to try it all out.

Globo Surf Overview

Learning how to catch a wave surfing is not as hard as it may seem. It does require a bit of patience and a lot of work, but once you figure it out, it won’t be long before you start bragging about those impressive waves you’ve caught. And this article is a great first step on the road to it. Not to mention all the surfing health benefits.

More Surf Reviews:


  1. How To Find And Catch Unbroken Waves, Barefoot Travel
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!