Guides and Tutorials purplesubmarine @ flickr

Published on September 4th, 2012 | by PhilB

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The Very Basics of River Surfing

Almost all newcomers and experienced ocean surfers are usually curious about one particular question: “How similar is river surfing to ocean surfing?”. Some young pups speculate that it may be comparable to long boarding on shoulder-to-overhead ocean waves, others theorise about similarities between (rope aided) river surfing and wakeboarding. The good news is that river surfing offers the best of both worlds.

The fact that river waves are static makes the whole wave catching and standing up a little easier compared to ocean surfing. Also, certain aspects of timing are a bit less crucial in river surfing – you don’t have to worry about watching and waiting for the right time to be next to a shoulder because river waves are more static. If you’ are fancy belly riding for a minute before standing up, not a problem.
Another aspect that makes surfing on river waves a little easier is the lower angle of the wave’s face. River waves are usually less steep than ocean waves and allow river surfers to stand up on a quite mellow face. Let alone their sizes, there are hardly any river waves with scary drops. The great thing about this is, that you are always pretty much on the same plane of the wave and can get relatively long rides, make some good turns and experiment with certain tricks.

As far as boards go, all shapes that allow to catch and rip smaller, mushier waves are good to start with when getting into river surfing. Certain river waves can also be surfed up to 8′ fun boards but the problem with longer boards is usually the increased risk of nose diving. Especially beginners often see their board’s nose pearling into the trough in front of them. More experienced riders surf high performance eggs and shorter fish shapes for that reason. Ideally, ambitious river surfers would look for a short fish board starting at around 5’8″ which handles the slower speed of river waves better and is still short enough to whip around on a smaller wave.

River surfing safety tips

Finally, river surfers must be ware of the specific risks which are inherent to this sport. What cannot be stressed enough, is that it is important to first review the water, the river wave(s), and all associated dangers, both visible (floating on the water surface, ropes) and submerged under the water (rocks). Especially beginners and surfers who a are new to a spot are well advised to review these conditions before heading out to surf. By not doing so, you may put your own life at risk and more importantly the lives of those who may have to rescue or recover you.

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Phil is a passionate riversurfer based in the capital of urban hydro power, Graz / Austria. He graduated from the International University for Riversurfing (IUR) in 2008 before he got married (to PhilK) in 2009. Instead of children, they gave birth to the probably most awesome riversurfing magazine on the planet: Riverbreak.

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