How to maximize tube-time

December 4, 2020 | Surfing
Tube time: stay low, drag your hands, and plan a clean exit | Photo: Red Bull

Getting barreled is not the hardest thing in the world. But what should you do to maximize tube time when riding the perfect blue barreling wave?

The barrel is the holy grail of surfing. The more time you spend inside the green room, the better the experience.

A two-second tube riding experience can be unforgettable, but what if you could extend it for more than six seconds?

Interestingly, surfers tend to describe it as a metaphysical time transformation event that lasts longer than for someone watching from the beach.

The trick - or recipe - to maximizing barrel time is not complicated.

All you need to do is find the right wave and know how and when to put the brakes on in the critical moments of a barreling wave.

That said, maximizing tube time depends on the wave's quality and your wave reading skills.

Unfortunately, there is only one thing you can control, and that is your ability to adapt to an ever-changing liquid cylinder.

Therefore, riding a perfect tube requires real-time analysis, smart decisions, and fine-tuning body movements and interactions with the surfboard.

There are three moments in which you can improve your technique to increase time in the barrel. If you're able to perfect each of the following layers, you will gradually increase your time inside the pit.

Tube riding: maximizing the time spent in the barrel starts in the take-off | Photo: Red Bull

1. Taking Off

There are three ways of getting access to surfing's VIP room. You can backdoor a wave, slow down and stall into it, or drop straight into the pit.

A good take-off is always the best way to enjoy a long barrel.

But at this stage, you'll need already need to make precise adjustments.

The ultimate goal is to align your speed with the early barreling effect so that your body mimics the wave's timing.

So, whether you're taking off from behind the peak or riding along and seeing a section throwing in front of you, use one hand - or even both hands - to adjust your initial speed to the wave's characteristics.

You can also perform a little snap to keep up with the pace of the wave.

Getting barreled: the ability to read the wave and adapt to its speed is critical | Photo: Red Bull

2. Getting Barreled

When the wave starts to barrel, you'll need to make quick decisions and subtle body-and-board adjustments.

Your eyes will transmit precious data to your brain so that you can make board and body adjustments and increase tube time.

So, it's important to stay alert and carefully reading everything around you. Once you're inside the barrel, it's all about keeping up with the wave's speed.

If you're getting pitted on a slow drainer, you will need to reduce your riding speed.

To do so, put your hand(s) - or even arm(s) - on the face of the wave to increase drag and inertia.

Put your open fingers in the water if you only need to slow down a bit, or the whole hand if you're going faster than the barreling wave.

As a general rule of thumb, keeping a relatively low stance and moving your feet slightly forward on the board will ensure you draw a good line and gain enough speed to maximize your time inside the pit.

You may need to pump the board once or twice in large and hollow barrels to accelerate and keep moving along the freight train wave.

If you're going too fast, stalling is always a good option.

But remember to avoid pressing the tail of your board too much - a slight touch is enough to reduce speed substantially.

While inside the barrel, always keep your eyes on the exit.

By being aware of your surroundings, you'll be able to read the wave and the falling lips all the time and avoid surprises.

Barrel riding: keep you eyes open and choose the right moment to exit the pit | Photo: Red Bull

3. Exiting the Tube

Maximizing tube time has its risks.

The more you try to keep yourself inside the barrel, the more chances of wiping out or getting pounded by a closeout section.

So, when you decide it's time to exit the pit, find a way to get shot out onto the shoulder of the wave without getting pinched by the curtain of water.

You can also draw a low line and go for a bottom turn.

The most challenging way - and possibly the option with the lowest success rate - is the doggy door.

Just don't be greedy.

Maximizing tube time is not about making miracles - it's all about getting in sync with what Nature has available for you at that moment.