6 Tips For Surfing Clean Waves (Improve Your Surfing)

surfing clean waves 101

Surfing crystal clear waves with a light offshore is a surfer’s holy grail. Whether it’s a beach break, reef or point break there’s nothing better than a long wall stretching out in front of you without a single drop of water out of place.

But surfing clean waves come with its own set of challenges, from a bustling crowd of other surfers to long waits between set waves.

So we’ve used years of surfing experience to create a list of the best tips for surfing perfect waves

In this guide, you’ll learn how to make the most of clean conditions from picking the right surf equipment to escaping the crowd and more.

Don’t miss our tips for surfing choppy waves for other great ways you can improve your surfing skills in and out of the water.

Be patient and wait for set waves

As offshore winds groom the surface of the ocean they organise the waves into neat sets that arrive periodically at the takeoff zone.

Because every surfer loves clean, offshore surf you’ll probably be dealing with a busy lineup which can tempt you into trying to paddle for anything just to catch a wave.

Unfortunately, the same waves that groom the larger set waves flatten other smaller waves meaning that insiders and waves between sets won’t have anywhere near the same wave quality.

If you want to catch a great wave it really is best to patiently wait your turn in the lineup while other surfers ahead of you catch their waves. Do this until you are perfectly positioned for a prime pick the next time the set waves roll in.

Use the white water to identify the peak/takeoff zone

Unlike surfing in messy or choppy conditions, the takeoff zone and peak of the wave are easily identifiable when you’re surfing clean waves.

Look for the triangle of white water left by breaking waves to get a good idea of where the crest of the wave is first breaking and more specifically the channel you can use to paddle around the peak.

Pick the right surfboard

Picking the right type of board for clean conditions is key to helping you get the most from your surf session.

Clean waves mean clean faces so it’s much easier to set your rail to pump and carve your surfboard.

This allows you to ride a surfboard with less volume that’s more performance-focused than you would in average or poor surf.

If you’re surfing clean waves any of the following types of surfboard would be suitable:

  • Shortboards
  • Hybrids
  • Performance Longboards
  • Mini Mals
  • Foamies
  • Twin Fins

You can use boards with sharper rails and more concave because clean surf tends to be steeper and more powerful in the pocket of the wave.

Clean surf is great on a thruster set up and you can opt for medium fins if you normally surf a large fin in day-to-day waves giving you an extra touch of manoeuvrability.

Prepare for a long surf

Clean surf and a busy lineup can mean long waits between waves. If you still want to reach your normal wave count you’ll probably need to stay out for a longer session than normal.

Make sure to pack lots of water to hydrate pre and post surf and make sure to liberally apply reef-safe sunscreen, sunblock or zinc.

Head to quieter surf spots or peaks

Perfect, clean surf draws a large crowd, particularly at the weekend.

This is the ideal time to start exploring some new surf spots that may not be as accessible or commonly surfed.

Use local maps to try and identify other potential surf spots in your local area, spots with longer distances between the parking and the waves tend to be quieter.

Surf in the early morning and late afternoon

Surfing early and late is a great way to avoid the worst of the crowds, particularly at the weekend.

We know peeling yourself out of bed at dawn isn’t too appealing but the groomed quiet waves you’ll find first thing in the morning make it well worth the wait.

Watch out for phantom onshore winds and sea breezes

Even if the surf report is showing offshore winds all day long it doesn’t mean some sneaky onshore winds can start to appear as the air temperature rises.

As the land starts to warm up an onshore sea breeze that blows from the ocean onto the land can start to develop.

It’s caused by the differences in air pressure between the warm land where the air is rising and the cold sea. This rising motion of warm air effectively draws air from the sea onto the land, creating a light onshore breeze.

Surfing in the early morning and later in the day when it cools off will be the best best way to avoid these pesky unwanted winds.

Common questions about surfing clean waves

Let’s look at some common questions about surfing clean, offshore waves.

What does clean surf mean?

Clean surf is created either by offshore wind blowing from the land to the sea or from little to no wind at all. Both of these conditions will help groom the ocean’s surface and the face of incoming waves.

Are clean surf and offshore surf the same thing?

Not exactly. While offshore winds do produce clean surf you’ll also find clean surf when winds are lower than 10mph.

Head over to our guide on offshore vs onshore wind in surfing to learn more about how winds affect the waves we surf.

Is surfing clean waves better for beginners?

Yes, clean waves tend to be more forgiving and uniform. They also provide beginners with helpful gaps between set waves to allow them to paddle out to the takeoff zone and catch their breath.