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How to Surf- Barrel riding

How to Surf- Barrel riding

  1. Read the wave.
  2. Positioning is key.
  3. Trust your decision!
  4. Set your line.
  5. Stay loose.
  6. Upon exit, be decisive!


I won’t go into the explanation to all the bits of equipment in this article (see How to surf broken waves), but this is what you’ll need:
Foam surf board
Billabong Foil wetsuit
Ripcurl Flashbomb
Surfing leash
Soft board rack
Tail Pad

How to Surf- Barrel riding

Getting barrelled is one if the greatest feelings a surfer can experience, but it requires perfect conditions, good positioning, and skill. We show you how.

If you haven’t already, first learn how to surf broken waves and then how to surf unbroken waves.

Photo Credit: Designlazy.com


1- Read the wave. Anticipating a barrelling section takes much experience. Watch how the waves are breaking and understand the effect that the tide has on this particular spot. Work out whether it will be the larger waves that will barrel, or will it be the medium sized ones that come from a slightly different angle that will hit the sea bed in just the right way to throw a lip?

2- Positioning is key. Whether back-dooring a section (taking off behind the peak of the wave so to have the wave break over your head as you get to your feet), or setting up for an oncoming barrelling section, being in the right place at the right time is crucial. Anticipating and appreciating the shape of a wave just before it barrels takes experience and good judgement. To set up for an oncoming barrel section you may need to pump down the line to pick up speed, or kill your speed  by performing a mini bottom turn and then jamming in a top-turn-esque manoeuvre half way up the face of the wave. If you’re setting up from a barrel straight after take-off, you need to be taking off at more of an angle so to not drop too low on the wave. Be sure to put in an extra couple of paddles than normal on a hollower wave as the water moves up the face much quicker- if you don’t put in the extra strokes, you may find yourself being pitched with the lip. Whether on forehand or backhand on take-off, you will need to have slightly more weight on your back foot and to have jammed your front hand into the face of the wave to keep you relatively high. If on your back hand, you can ‘pig dog’ (rear hand holding onto your outside rail, leading hand pushed into the face of the wave) straight off of take-off, to help you hold a high line. 

3- Trust your decision! Once you’ve decided that the section before you will barrel, stick to your decision. It can be quite scary to see a lip start to curl 20 feet ahead of you on a large wave (especially when, 20 feet closer to the shore, are exposed coral heads awaiting to impale you). Be brave!

4- Set your line. Once in the barrel it can be particularly hard to adjust your line, especially when on your back hand. If you’re surfing on a big gaping barrel, you will need to be lower down the face of the wave with the nose of your board pointing more towards the bottom of the wave (to account for the water being sucked up the face at speed) than if you were being barrelled on a tighter, higher barrel, when you’d need to be positioned higher up the face of the wave.

5- Stay loose. It’s far too easy to tense up in either fear or excitement. Tensing up will make it impossible to perform the thousands of micro manoeuvres required to stay on your feet inside the barrel.

6- Upon exit, be decisive! Either pull immediately off of the top of the wave, or drop towards the bottom. Doing neither will result in you getting awkwardly sucked up the face of the wave without having your fins engaged- result being a goofy looking wipe-out!


Keep your eyes open! Keeping your eyes open, even when you think you’re about to fall, makes it much easier to balance. Keeping your eyes open can mean the difference between heroically making it out of a closing barrel, or just being another ‘pull in but never come out’ expert.

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