Last updated on August 14th, 2023 at 01:25 pm
From soul surfing to the high-octane surfing you see on the WSL world tour, there are so many ways you can approach riding fibreglass along the face of a wave.
But what makes surfing stylish, and what draws people to a particular surfing style?
That’s what we will investigate, looking at exactly why one surfer is considered more ‘stylish’ than the other and how you can develop your own surfing style.
*We’re going to be keeping style exclusively to the ocean to keep things simple and won’t be judging anyone on their surf fashion.
So What Exactly Is Your Surfing Style?
Your surfing style is how you choose to surf along the face of a wave. This has so many variables, from the way you move your body, the board you choose to ride, and the tricks and manoeuvres you do as you ride along a wave.
It’s easy to think of longboarding legends like Joel Tudor as the epitome of perfect surfing style, but style isn’t just reserved for boards with lots of float volume.
Modern high-performance surfers like John John Florence and Miguel Pupo are just as stylish as any longboarder in my opinion.
But What Makes Someone’s Style Better Than Anyone Else?
Just like judging a surfing competition, rating surfers on their style is objective and personal to us as spectators.
Still, there do seem to be some obvious similarities between many of the surfers that are widely considered kings and queens of style.
Good surfing style looks undeniable, so let’s uncover the different elements of surfing that come together to make a perfect style.
A huge part of what people look for in great/ stylish surfing is effortless movement when you’re on and off the wave.
Nothing indicates a mastery of the sport like being able to do it without looking like you’re breaking a sweat.
From gliding out to the lineup with carefully placed strokes to effortlessly placing yourself in the perfect position on the face of the wave, style is all-encompassing.
Naturally, this comes with time and practice in and around waves and is one of the key reasons you can never fake a great surfing style.
With great technique and accuracy, comes great power.
No, but on a serious note if you’re placing your board perfectly in the pocket and running your rails through the steepest part of the wave you’ll be surfing with style before you know it.
Surfers like Jordy Smith, William Cardoso and Joel Parkinson were all labelled ‘power surfers’ when they jumped onto the world stage.
For me, this label is almost a style in itself. That’s not to say that these surfers don’t have very different approaches to how they surf.
But the fact that power is enabled by perfect timing and technique really means that style is the precursor to being able to chuck buckets of water.
In this case, fluidity relates to a surfer’s ability to seamlessly link several manoeuvres together on the same wave.
Think surfers like Craig Anderson, Stephanie Gilmore and Dave Rastovich.
This one one of the most essential elements of style, lots of surfers can look stylish 10% of the time but only a very few humans can maintain their style whatever nature throws at them.
This could be gigantic surf, messy or onshore conditions or even competition, the best of the best can maintain their style at any time.
How Can You Develop Your Own Surfing Style?
Now we’ve covered what is considered to be a great surfing style let’s help you start to develop and nurture your own.
Here are some great places to start if you want to take your surfing to the next level and build a unique look in the water.
Emulating other surfers you admire
Before you start to develop a style it’s great to get an idea of how you would like to surf.
Now, this is a hell of a lot of fun because your task is to watch all sorts of surfers and try to imagine how you’d like to look when you’re surfing in the future and all that practice and hard work has paid off.
I found this invaluable when I was younger and trying to find my own style and it’s amazing how much you can enjoy watching one surfer’s approach as opposed to another.
My personal picks were Andy Irons, Dane Reynolds and an Aussie surfer called Matt Banting out of Port Macquarie.
Now your dream team will depend on your surfing craft of choice and how you like to see waves ridden but once you’ve found three or four styles you love you’re all set for the next step.
Focusing on your manoeuvres
Now you know how you want your turns to look you can start to try and replicate your favourite surfers.
Now you’re not going to be able to start nailing radical turns straight away but you can begin by placing your rams in a similar place and trying to copy the same body rotations.
You can even set yourself up mini-training programs where you try and do specific manoeuvres in a surf session.
Far too many surfers try to make frantic movements and this can quickly lead to a bad style.
Taking your time, surfing the wave to its potential and not trying to force turns is going to go a long way to improving your style.
Some of the most stylish surfers look like they have all the time in the world on the face of a wave and a lot of that comes down to letting the wave make a lot of the decisions for them.
Position on your surfboard
Your positioning on your board is critical, especially on smaller boards.
Having your feet too wide apart is affectionately called the ‘crab stance’ and isn’t regarded as particularly great to watch.
This is particularly important for beginner surfers who are just getting on to shorter boards, the tail of your board is your friend and it’s where you’ll find the most manoeuvrability.
Look at where other better surfers place their feet and try to make that your natural position after you’ve popped up.
Changing up what’s under your feet
Having the right board can make or break your style and your progression.
Not even professional surfers can make a board look stylish if it’s massively under or over-volume for the conditions at hand.
Try to make sure you’ve always got enough float to let you easily catch waves but not so much that you can’t try new tricks and manoeuvres.
Personal style will play a big part in this too, some of you will be drawn to big boards and cruisy waves while others get their teeth stuck into the shortboard revolution.
Watch footage of yourself
Video footage is invaluable as your surfing progresses.
From personal experience, I’ve done some omnivores that feel good when you’re out surfing but when you get the opportunity to watch it back the results can be a bit disappointing.
Creating that link between what your surfing feels like and what it looks like is really important.
From there you’ll be able to start making changes to how your surf based on what you did or didn’t like in your footage.
*Useful tip – I find it helpful to try and keep a mental image of my last surf footage so I can try and work on flaws and weaknesses in my surfing.
Don’t forget to focus on paddling and catching waves as well as surfing them
Suring style doesn’t stop when you’ve finished your wave.
How you navigate a busty line-up, position yourself and paddle for waves are all in my opinion very unique styles.
This even extends to being friendly to other surfers no matter what their experience level and just being a good human being in the ocean.
Surf coaching has become more and more popular in recent years.
And it’s not just reserved for advanced surfers, surfers of any ability can get feedback from coaching professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to improving other people surfing.