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River Surfing 101: Five Tips to Get You Surfing Quicker

Five Tips to Get You Surfing Quicker

River surfing is great fun, but it can be made much more fun when you are actually good. To that end, getting a lesson or two is a very good idea. Photo: West of 105

Like most outdoor activities, getting some tips from the experts is, at a minimum, a good idea. Rental shops usually have someone on staff that can give lessons or they will know someone in the area that can. All of the outfitters listed in our story on Five River Surfing Spots West of 105 will be able to help. Although there is no substitute for practical experience and a great teacher, a few pointers definitely won’t hurt, so here are five tips to help get you up and surfing quicker.

Here are a few tips from Hollis Brake, the manager at Montrose Surf & Cycle in Montrose.

Five Tips to Get You Surfing Quicker

1. The key to surfing is balance, and so if you are a decent snowboarder, skier or skateboarder, you will have an advantage but it isn't necessary. Similarly, ocean surfers will also have an advantage, but maybe not as much as you'd think as the momentum and weight transfer is a bit different. Staying low when you do manage to get up on the board will help keep you up longer.

2. Start with a fairly large board while you learn. All river waves are different but wider boards with more volume typically help new river surfers learn proper techniques for catching waves and it's more fun to surf a large board than to swim with a cool looking small board.

3. Trying to pop up straight into an upright position like you see ocean surfers isn't necessary and is not encouraged for beginners. Getting on your knees and then to a standing position is frowned upon in the ocean, but it’s an easier, tried and tested method for rivers. Take your time at each step of the "pop up", the wave isn't going anywhere.

4. Positioning your front foot on the centerline of the board when you get up is critical. Too far forward and you’ll “pearl” which means pointing the nose of the board into the water which leads to burying the board; if you’re too far back on the board the wave will wash you right out the back.

5. Be aware of what's around you—debris, other surfers, and very cold water can cause problems. Don't wear an ankle leash or try to stand in the current as leg entrapment is a real risk. It is, however, easily avoidable by staying aware and using detachable leashes that attach to your PDF (personal flotation device). Wearing a wetsuit, a helmet, and surfing with a buddy are also strongly recommended.

Want to put these tips into practice? Montrose Surf & Cycle’s annual river surfing demo days are Wednesday nights from July 5th through August 9th between 6-8 pm. All gear included, first come first served. Participants must be 14 and older and minors will need an adult present.


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