Surfing a new spot is the very essence of surf travel. New pastures, new thrills, unknown stokey heights to be reached… surfing a new spot promises much. The allure of surfing unfamiliar territory is what made legends go out and explore back in the day. And aren’t we glad they did? But surfing a new spot can be tricky, troublesome, or just plain dangerous. Here are a few tips…

Pipeline’s infamous gnarl will probably require more than one surf to get dialled… Photo: Timo

Consider the quality of anecdotal evidence. If your nan says it looks ‘dangerous’, it might not be. If a buddy who surfs similar to you says it’s fun/easy/ tricky, etc, it probably is. If you hear Shane Dorian say it’s heavy, it definitely is.

In and out. Usually much, much easier to get in than get out. i.e. quite straight forward to jump off a pier, much harder to leap from the water back up onto it. Always have an exit figured, especially when the tide is coming in under cliffs. If the tide is coming in, and it’s getting dark and the swell is picking up, be sure to have your exit strategy figured out.

Assuming you’re not alone…watch others. What boards are they on, where are they taking off? How’s their level compared to yours? Peep this stuff before you paddle out. Are they letting sets go and getting medium ones? This is probably happening for a reason.
Same from the lineup, continue observing others. Where are they kicking out? Is there a super shallow spot? Is nobody air revin’ the closeout over the protruding rusty shipwreck hull? Hmmm…

If alone at a reef, start wide and work your way gradually deeper. Now, we would never counsel shoulder hopping (much), but there is nothing worse than taking off too deep first wave and getting flogged all the way down the reef by the ensuing fifteen wave set, breathless, bedraggled, bebroken boarded.

Don’t look down too much while you’re actually riding the wave… keep your head up and focused on reading the wave as she breaks, not looking for boils.

If it’s pumping/heavy/dangerous, once you are in and have done your observations, try and get one reasonably early on. Don’t spend an hour shitting it in the channel. Get one, wipeout, realize you’re not dead, get many more.

Top Tips:

1. Figure out your exit before you enter
2. Start wide work deeper
3. Wipe out, realize you’re not dead… carry on!