How to Improve Your Surfing Skills: Techniques for Intermediate Surfers

April 21, 2023
How to Improve Your Surfing Skills

So, you’ve mastered the basics of surfing and can ride waves with confidence, but you’re now eager to progress and elevate your skills to the next level. Becoming an advanced surfer requires dedication, patience, and continuous practice. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into various techniques and tips that intermediate surfers can use to level up their surfing game. From refining fundamental skills to learning new maneuvers, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

Master the Art of Paddling

Master the Art of Paddling

Paddling is the foundation of your surfing skills; mastering it can significantly enhance your overall performance. Here are a few tips to improve your paddling:

Extend Your Reach

When paddling, reach as far forward as possible to maximize the length of your stroke. This enables you to catch more waves with less effort and maintain better control over your surfboard.

Maintain an Efficient Body Position

Your body should be parallel to your surfboard, with your chest slightly raised. This position helps distribute your body weight evenly and reduces drag, allowing for faster and more efficient paddling.

Enhance Your Upper Body Strength

Strong shoulders and upper back muscles contribute to powerful paddling. Incorporate strength training exercises, like push-ups, pull-ups, and seated rows, into your fitness routine to build upper body strength.

Find Your Rhythm

Develop a steady paddling rhythm to conserve energy and maintain a consistent pace. Focus on alternating your arms smoothly without splashing excessively.

Improve Your Wave Selection and Positioning​

Improve Your Wave Selection and Positioning

Choosing the right waves and positioning yourself correctly can dramatically impact your surfing performance. Here are some tips to optimize your wave selection:

Learn to Read Waves

Understanding wave types and how they break will enable you to make better decisions. Look for steady waves with clean lines and an open face that allow room for maneuvering.

Prioritize Timing and Positioning

Ensure you’re in the correct position to catch the wave by paddling towards its peak. This optimal position will make it easier to catch and ride the wave.

Be Patient

Quality over quantity is crucial. Wait for waves that suit your skillset and provide opportunities for growth. Patience will ultimately result in more rewarding surf sessions.

Improve Your Pop-Up Technique​

Improve Your Pop-Up Technique

A swift and smooth pop-up is crucial for intermediate surfers to transition seamlessly from paddling to standing. Use these tips to perfect your pop-up:

Practice on Land

Repeatedly practice your pop-up on solid ground to develop muscle memory. This will help you perform the movement quickly and efficiently when you’re in the water.

Hone Your Foot Placement

Ensure your back foot lands over the tail pad and your front foot is centered on the board. Proper foot placement enables better balance and control while riding waves.

Engage Your Core

A strong core is critical for a powerful pop-up. Train your core muscles with exercises like planks, leg raises, and bicycle crunches to improve stability and control during the pop-up process.

Visualize Success

Mentally rehearsing your pop-up can help reinforce the correct technique. Visualize yourself executing a smooth, fluid pop-up on the perfect wave.

Master the Art of Paddling

Develop Your Turning Skills

Executing turns with precision and finesse will significantly enhance your surfing experience. Here are some pointers for improving your turns:

Shift Your Weight

When turning, shift your weight onto your back foot and use your front foot to guide the board. This weight distribution allows you to pivot smoothly and maintain control.

Use Your Arms

Utilize your arms to help initiate turns by extending the arm in the direction you want to go. This helps maintain balance and facilitates rotation.

Practice Different Turns

Experiment with various types of turns, such as bottom turns, top turns, cutbacks, and roundhouse cutbacks. This diversity will help you become a more versatile surfer and enable you to tackle a wider range of waves.

Learn Advanced Maneuvers​

Learn Advanced Maneuvers

Progressing as an intermediate surfer involves pushing your limits and learning new maneuvers. Here are a few to try:


A floater involves riding the breaking wave’s lip, enabling you to maintain speed and connect sections of a wave.

Roundhouse Cutback

This powerful turn allows you to change direction and return to the wave’s power source to regain speed.


A snap is a sharp, fast turn performed on the wave’s face, allowing you to maintain speed and generate spray.


Aerials involve launching your surfboard off the wave’s lip and performing aerial tricks before landing back on the wave.

Enhance Your Surfing Fitness​

Enhance Your Surfing Fitness

Physical fitness is an essential component of improving your surfing skills. Incorporate these elements into your fitness routine:

Cardiovascular Endurance

Surfing demands high levels of cardiovascular endurance. Regular aerobic exercises such as swimming, running, and cycling will help you maintain stamina during long surf sessions.

Strength Training

Strong muscles are required for effective paddling, powerful turns, and stability on the surfboard. Incorporate whole-body strength training exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups into your workout routine.


Greater flexibility allows for improved balance, increased range of motion, and reduced risk of injury. Incorporate stretching and yoga into your routine to enhance your flexibility.

Balance Training

Surfing requires exceptional balance. Incorporate balance exercises, such as standing on one leg, using a balance board, or practicing yoga, to improve your stability on a surfboard.

Improving your surfing skills as an intermediate surfer may seem challenging, but with dedication, patience, and the right approach, you’ll be riding waves like a pro in no time. Focus on refining your paddling, wave selection, pop-up technique, turning skills, and learning advanced maneuvers while also enhancing your surfing fitness. Implement these techniques, and you’ll soon experience the true exhilaration of surfing at its best. Now, grab your board and ride those waves!