Have you experienced the surfer’s cycle?

You know those days when you have an amazing surf? Everything just goes perfectly, you get out back without getting knackered, you score some great waves, you feel like you actually know what you’re doing? And wish you’d had someone on the beach taking pictures to prove it!

Surfers Cycle Mellow Waves good day

Definitely a good surf day!

And then you have those surfs where you miss easy waves, smack yourself in the face with your board, decide you are the worst surfer ever and wonder why on earth you’re wasting your time on something you will never ever be good at…

Yep, I have both of those on a fairly regular basis.

I was talking to one of my mates the other day (who I rate as a really good surfer) about this and was relieved to discover I’m not the only one who regularly has a terrible surf.

On further exploration, turns out pretty much everyone I know who surfs goes through what we’ve now come to call the surfers’ cycle.

I often have a particularly bad surf when I go out in surf that’s just too big for me. I think it’ll be ok, especially if I’ve had a few good surfs recently, then I get my ass handed to me and come out with more sand in my wetsuit that there is on the beach and often more than just a bruised ego.

It also tells me if I’m too tired or not as fit as I’d like. I miss waves that I should get on easily and I start to make stupid mistakes, then I know it’s time to get out before I hurt myself or worse, someone else.

So the cycle’s quite useful for reminding me to respect the ocean.

But sometimes you’re just rubbish for no reason. It makes you think you should give up surfing altogether. And even worse it can stop you from wanting to go again.

But you need to just chalk those bad surfs up as experience and carry on anyway, because according to the surfers’ cycle, it will always get better again.

If you’ve had a particularly bad run of late, it’s time to take stock and make sure your next surf is a good one.

How to come back from a run of bad surfs…

Remember, it might not be you… it could be the board you’re riding, it could be that the waves on the last few surfs were just terrible onshore mush, or it was really busy and you didn’t feel confident enough to paddle for waves. It could be any number of things but it’s like falling off a horse, the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to get back in.

First rule to remember is do not go out in big waves, really messy waves or try to ride a tiny board – it will not help!

Pick a day with small waves. I’m talking waist to chest high, max. If your regular beach is too big find somewhere more sheltered or facing a different direction, or if you can, just wait for a day with mellower waves. If you’re away, ask the locals if there’s somewhere else a bit more suited to learners (I know you’re not learning but believe me it’ll help)

Once you’ve found your mellow waves, get a big, fat board, even a swelly will do, and go out and score as many waves as you can. It will feel like a dream, and you’ll remember why you love surfing so much. It doesn’t matter if everyone else out there is a learner in the whitewater, I promise you it will bring back your stoke and make you feel like an awesome surfer.

We’d love to hear about your surfers’ cycle and what you do to come back from bad run. Let us know in the comments below!


Author: Amy Lambert

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  1. Oh man, so good to here this from someone else!
    I have been surfing for 12months now where I live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia.
    I started on a longboard and after 3 months I got myself a 6’8 JS then a 6’3 and then a 6’1.
    I thought I was ripping as the biggest surf we were getting was 3 foot with nice shoulders to take off on and the occasional peaks that I would take late.

    Just recently we had a massive Cyclone swell, It gave me a HUGE reality check and even scred me a LOT haha.
    I went to the Island which sits a couple of KMs of my local where it was 6-10 foot barrels on a shallow reef all weekend.
    Looked like Indo or cloudbreak.
    A perfect left hander and a dream for me a goofy!.\
    The Saturday was amazing., only a few of us out and I got a huge wave count, most sets were smaller 3 foot ponitbreak lefts so I was stoked.
    The next day we rolled up and there were 20-30 already out, sets were much bigger! I took an inside left straight away, again only a 2-3 footer, turned around to paddle back out and BOOOM! here is the first set wave, Like a fricken 3 story building coming towards me, I tried to paddle inside deeper to avoid cutting off a dude paddling for it, he got caught in the lip and was free falling I ditched my board took a deep breath and went unde. I copped the biggest hiding ever from this 8-10foot sucky wave. got ragdolled and smashed into the reef, the force of the ocean kept sucking me down so I had to pull myself up by my leash until I could get my board.
    I copped another 3 and was then washed down to this white water where the right hander meets the left hander (Foam)
    I was scared and suddenly felt like a total noob kook!
    These perfect looking waves I got yesterday with ease had stepped up overnight as the Cyclone swell kept building.
    I paddled the long way to the line up out wide and stayed out wide to catch a breath.

    Then another set started to come, this time it was pushing out wide where I was sitting, I was the only one out wide so I paddled wider to go for the peak, I had the speed up, was about to take a last paddle and drop down the face when I hesitated, looking left the shoulder was now this massive wall, a vertical face perfect for a ripper but I freaked as all I could see was me going over the falls into the reel again so I pulled off.
    I felt like a looser then as I had a big set wave to myself and I let it go. I knew then that I was out of my depth.
    I didn’t even go for smaller sets as I had to go inside to get them and didn’t want to get caught there when the big sets come through.
    I was also paranoid of what all the other surfers were thinking, made it worse that they are mostly all in my boardriders club.

    I went for a surf this morning to try and redeem myself. Smaller 2 foot beachies at my local, it was an out going tide, I got one left and it closed out. I then kept getting pitched as every wave just kept jacking up. Very sucky and fast takeoffs! now I feel really shit!
    But as I know it only takes One good surf and its all forgotton until the next shitty surf haha.

    Just crazy to think that you can be surfing great for a few weeks, doing carves, cutties, rio’s and then bam! a handful of shit surfs which make you question your ability!
    They destroy your confidance. It had given me a bit of fear which I never had before, I feel that I will have to push my self now to take off deep even on small waves!

    Its just like golf, you can play games where all day you play on par and then the next you are slicing, hooking, over putting etc!

    Fun times

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    • Wow sounds like you got properly worked! But don’t worry, you’ll be back on form in no time! Let me know how you get on 🙂

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    • Keep at it Dan!

      When it gets big like that, it helps to spend some more time looking at it from shore. If its barreling then it might be best to choose another break. If the wave is rolling more, even if its big, it should be makeable if you have a longboard. Also, when its big consider using a bigger board. If youre looking at a huge vertical face when youre about to drop in, its possible you might be too deep or going too late. Try and actively seek a nice corner. Also, when you drop in, you might want to angle the board sideways to make the drop less steep. Keep at it! When you finally get one you’ll realize it looks a lot scarier than it is, considering you chose some nice mellow waves, even if theyre bigger than youre used to. Barrels are a different story though.

      Anyway, good luck!

      Post a Reply
  2. Started trying to learn to surf about 3 months ago at 47. I thought I was making improvements and even told friends I was considering paddling out to the line up at Diamond Head where I have been learning to surf. So the last 3 times I tried doing this I got smashed by every single wave did some nosedives and did not even standup even after giving up trying to catch unbroken waves and going for the whitewater it is veeeery frustrating. But I do have to say after my thrashing was done I still felt better than I would have if I had stayed home. Reading this blog really helped so thanks a million for the stoke.

    Post a Reply
    • Stefan, that’s awesome to hear, thank you! Keep going, every time you miss a wave, nose dive or get smashed, you learn something new that will help you be a better surfer, even if at the time it just makes you feel like the ocean is giving you the finger! Please drop by again, would love to hear how you’re getting on. Sending you good surf karma!

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  3. I’m glad I found this article. I’ve been surfing for two months with a 9ft longboard and everything’s been going well but two days ago I probably had the worst surf so far. I must have riden (if anything) five percent of the waves I tried to catch. Oh man I got wiped out even by the small white wash. So I went back home a bit sad.
    I’m going back tomorrow and I’m sure it’s going to be a great surf!

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