How to: Ride Surf Tunnels!

Want the keys to making it out of the tube? Step inside…

We can’t all live somewhere where six-second drainers are common. I mean, what’s the Gold Coast got to offer when y’rinse off? Ice in your veins? A job as a hooker or a waiter? What are you going to do in Namibia… fish? Start a hunting biz?

Still, we can still maximise our barrel time wherever, whenever we surf.

Here’s what you gotta do, at least according to the pro surfers I ask whenever I’m chasing tips…

Bend at the knees, not the waist

Actually, this tip applies to all surfing at all times. Waist-bending is stylistic cancer that you have to consciously fight and unlearn — especially with barrels. Picture the awkwardly squat-stanced surfer with his legs locked stiff, his ass high in the air, bent in half with his head down at hip-level trying to poke his face into a two-foot tube. And then claiming his “cover-up” later. Don’t be him. Bend at the knees.

Square your shoulders 

Keeping your shoulders open and square to the exit will keep you moving in the right direction. You shouldn’t find them closed and parallel to shore, facing out to sea (frontside) or toward the beach (backside). There are exceptions, of course — watch any surf video — but while you’re still getting comfortable in the barrel, square shoulders will help you keep the right line. The one that takes you back out of the tube. That is, after all, the point here.

Keep your eyes open

This seems obvious but tube novices are prone to shutting their eyes at the first sign of a pitching lip — as though they’re bracing for something bad. Don’t brace. You wouldn’t close your eyes at the plate right when the pitcher winds up, so don’t do it here. Stay calm — or at least capable of seeing.


Another “duh” tip but its value can’t be overstated. A week or two in good, hollow waves is like boot camp for barrel riding. Your surfing will transform. You’ll progress so much further in a few days abroad than you would in years of hunting the odd lucky head-dip at home (unless home is Hawaii). Among its many other benefits, a surf trip will fast-track your tube skills, so book one and skip a few levels. Sumatra’s nice, but you don’t have to go that far:

Pull-in on closeouts

Closeouts are your driving range, your batting cage, your practice field. For decades low-rung surfers at Pipe and Backdoor have gained respect and experience by forcing themselves into closeouts nobody wants. The same will work for you. Use closeouts to get familiar with the tube, with getting in and travelling. The exit can come later.

Psychological warfare 

Guys in the Momentum Generation used to use “You won’t go” on each other as a little reverse psychological nudge in heavy waves. The natural human response to “You won’t go” is an emboldened, “Oh yeah? Watch this.” You may have to use this trick on yourself to maximize tube opportunities, because a lot of the best ones will look like closeouts. Too ledgy. Too deep. Too shallow. Unmakeable. But you have to be in it to win it. Silence your doubts with an imaginary friend taunting, “You won’t go,” then show that punk he’s wrong.

Stay low on the face

…Particularly on small waves with small barrels. They’re hard to fit into, so the tendency is to hug the face, stall hard and lean into the wave, trying to squeeze under a tight lip. But this pulls you up the face of the wave. You cease forward motion, get sucked upward and pitched. Done. Instead, stay low on the face and as compact as possible (see: bend at the knees). If you have to try that hard to fit in the tube, it’s probably not worth it.

Plan to come out

One of the simplest barrel-riding mistakes is that surfers put all their focus on getting in — but forget that the real goal is to come out afterward. When you set your line and pull in, do so with full intention to make a clean exit. There should be no question in your mind that you’ll come out. It sounds simplistic but this makes a giant difference.

Don’t be surprised

Beginners, or anyone rarely tubed, are often so shocked at finally finding themselves in a barrel that they freeze up. They get stage fright. They don’t want to blow it and waste their shot, so of course they do, and that’s frustrating. But avoidable! Don’t be surprised when tubes happen. Relax. It’s just like being on the open face, but with a ceiling.

Don’t claim.

Mask your private awe at having successfully come out of your little barrel. Nothing will ruin it faster than a self-serving fist pump or two arms in the air. Don’t even look at the beach. Be cool. Yawn if possible. Actually, fuck it, shotgun that claim! Bring a little theatre!


We are the first surf adventurers on earth, all of us. We are the first and we are beautiful because we keep the fires of discovery alive. | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Parker: 10 Things I Love About Surfing

I love being afraid, I love failing, I love knowing we're pointless and preening… 

….how about a straight, non-ironic piece. Ten things I love about surfing,” Derek says.  “Surprise ’em”

Harder than it looks, ten things.

Because it’s just one thing. All that other shit is peripheral, inconsequential.

I love watching the ocean. Seeing how the water moves through rocks, currents form, how depth is reflected in surface conditions. Knowing how peaks can shift, when to stand my ground as a set feathers outside. Knowing that it’s nothing magic, it all makes sense, a powerful pattern that’s crystal clear if you just know how to look.

I love knowing how to move through the water. That off rhythm paddle beat on a windy choppy day. Reaching and tucking during a freedive freefall, feeling the water move past you, able to swoop and soar with a subtle flex. Hiding in the reef with a speargun, anticipating a surge and bracing in advance. Swimming with minimal effort, surging flowing forward. Never fight it, use it.  Kicking for the surface with a heaving diaphragm and tingling fingers and toes. Bright scattered spots at the surface, deep breathes and poor motor control.

I love watching the ocean. Seeing how the water moves through rocks, currents form, how depth is reflected in surface conditions. Knowing how peaks can shift, when to stand my ground as a set feathers outside. Knowing that it’s nothing magic, it all makes sense, a powerful pattern that’s crystal clear if you just know how to look.

I love being afraid. Timing a set on a big day, finding a keyhole, sliding right out. Getting taught again and again that it doesn’t hurt as much as you think. Always a challenge until you stop looking.

I love failing a million times and hating myself for it. The frustration and humiliation, over-amping off the bottom on the wave of the day, ass over teakettle into the flats. Stalling too hard and getting eaten, taking a rail to the shins on your way over the falls.

I love that no matter how hard you try, how talented you are, you’re never good enough.

I love hooting someone in far over their heads, watching the fear in their eyes on the way to destruction.  I love laughing and clapping as they surface and sputter.

I love the meaninglessness, the sheer absurdity of being a grown man playing. I love looking down my nose at the tragically unhip, the ones who think they’re onto something special. I love being jaded and cutting and cruel because it all began when I was a child and whatever magic there was is long gone.

I love knowing that we’re pointless and preening and immature and conservative and sheltered and privileged and self-destructive and selfish and wasteful and irresponsible and never ever satisfied.

I love that the people with whom I share the most in common are those whose company I enjoy the least.

I love that surf art is terrible and uninspired and we pretend it isn’t.

I love the countless times my sinuses’ve drained salt water onto my wife’s face while we’re making love.

I love that moment when your ankle stops pulling and you don’t know if it’s your leash or board that’s broken.

I love the countless scars. Putting your forearm through the deck of your board and leaving flesh in the fiberglass. Getting your arms over your head just in time to leave skin on the reef. Razor-thin slices on the bottoms of your feet after getting caught inside at Rocky Rights. I love walking up the beach with blood running down my leg or arm or face or chest. Diluted by salt water, only a scratch, but you look so damn tough.

I love surfing until your arms are limp, then stretching out the pain when those muscles tighten hours later.

I love that I’m an ungainly lumbering ogre on land, but in the water I can move like a dancer.

I love watching a guy on a rental take the beating of his life ten feet from the shore on a head-high day.

I love the smell of a fresh bar of Sticky Bumps.

There.  That’s gotta be ten, at least.

If you were CEO of the WSL you'd be smirking too!

Wow: Is Paul Speaker crazy rich?

Does the CEO of the WSL make 34 million dollars a year? Should he?

It was disclosed today that commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, made 34.something million dollars last year pushing his nine year total to 180.something million dollars and wow! Who knew sports were so lucrative? I should have gone to commissioning school instead of getting a graduate degree in Applied Linguistics!

Which brings us to our own commissioner. No not Kieren Perrow silly goose! Our own version of Roger Goodell, WSL CEO Paul Speaker! It is no secret that our league models itself directly after the NFL. CEO Speaker compares the two, regularly, when he decides to chat with the non-endemic media. So what do you think he makes? Do you think he clears 1.something million dollars a year? Do you think his salary is performance-based? Do you think he is worth every penny? Do you think when he goes to dinner parties he unbuttons the top button of his pants, after dinner of course, sits back and says, “What do I do? Funny you should ask. I am the CEO of the WSL.” Do you think the other guests whisper “What the hell is a WSL?” in each other’s ears?

I would ask CEO Speaker himself but he hasn’t granted my multiple requests for an interview yet. Maybe you can help! What do you think?

Watch: a new film from Octopus!

Octopus has quietly become the biggest surf company in the world. What is? Come find out!

Did you imagine that when you woke up in February of 2016 that a traction brand would be the biggest surf company in the world?

In case you don’t have cool friends, let me tell you, Octopus, the brain child of Dion Agius, Nate Tyler, Chippa Wilson and Joe G has very much taken over. Shops can’t keep the pads in stock. I’ve seen kids in Newport Beach trying to peel one off a surfboard while its unsuspecting owner was chatting up a cute girl.

And why? Why traction? Why now? Maybe because so much of the surf industry has moved so far from the actual surf that to make something for actual surfboards is straight up rebellion. Is it a giant conspiracy? Nefarious hands pulling levers behind a black curtain? A pathway to perdition? Will you crave a t-shirt or socks from Octopus once you try the traction? Is the company slingshotting off your addiction? Maybe.

And the first clip. Does your heart soar when the drone crashes? Do you wish for a return to simpler times?


Slate: “Hipsters are Ruining Surfing!”

And, “Mobs of newbies are polluting the soul of the sport”….

I don’t think anything, except maybe plucking the flower of a delectable lover, gives me as much a thrill as reading a new surfer’s complaints about the game.

You know these pests in the surf: oblivious to nuance, barking “but I was on the inside”, rigorously paddling for every single wave, maybe dressed head to know in some kind of lycra suit, with hat secured to head via chinstrap.

Today at Slate, for instance, Sarah Gold, a veteran of six years, throws close to 1500 words at her complaint that too many people surf in her piece, “Hipsters are Ruining Surfing”.

Let’s examine.

“…when I finally hefted my first hulking, foamy soft-top board into the waves, I plunged immediately back into my old love affair with the ocean. And I’ve tried since then to arrange my spare time around it: driving out of town to surf on weekends, planning holidays in spots with good beach breaks. Since I learned to surf, though, I feel like I’ve been mainly chasing—and hardly ever finding—that elusive sense of solo communion with the sea. The reason is simple: increasingly thick hordes of other surfers.

“As a relative newbie myself, I recognize the hypocrisy of my complaint, which certainly isn’t a new one. After all, surfing veterans have been grousing for decades about the ever-growing ranks of “kooks”—clueless rookies—invading their home breaks. But even a fledgling surfer can see that overcrowding on the waves these days is real—and posing a threat to what many long-timers call the “soul” of the sport.”

The risks to surf spots have become so critical, in fact—and the desire to standardize waves for surf tournaments so fierce—that in the past decade, at least eight attempts have been made to engineer artificial breaks. These have all, thus far, been unsuccessful—but the latest, a much hyped inland wave pool unveiled in December by legendary surf champion Kelly Slater, has yet to prove itself one way or another.”

Why are so many people surfing? This is where the story slips from its hinges.

The reasons are listed: because GQ and other sexy fashion mags are doing stories on it; the “steep increase in competitive surf tournaments” … surf spots are disappearing!

Did you know? Let me throw back to the author.

“The risks to surf spots have become so critical, in fact—and the desire to standardize waves for surf tournaments so fierce—that in the past decade, at least eight attempts have been made to engineer artificial breaks. These have all, thus far, been unsuccessful—but the latest, a much hyped inland wave pool unveiled in December by legendary surf champion Kelly Slater, has yet to prove itself one way or another.”

Online democracy is the great equaliser, of course. And the comments below the story tee off on the author.

Summon the Whaaaaaaa-mbulance! Would you like some cheese with your Whine?”

“You know, once you get past being a teenager, you are supposed to grow past the whole “ugh, people who wanna do the same things as me are so lame”. 

“Jesus. Full of yourself much? Devoting one sentence to saying “this may be kind of hypocritical” does not mean you’ve addressed the issue. This sounds like an incredibly dull and meaningless non-issue. You did not help it become more interesting but my eye-rolling did increase.”

“This reads like a midwest transplant whining that Brooklyn used to be great before all the outsiders ruined it. “

“This article could have been written at any time from the 1950’s onward. It will probably be written again 50 years from now.”

Maybe you agree with the author’s sentiment? Do you? Or are you similarly haunted by these mouth-y pests?