Why should we never take the first wave of the set?

Wave sets: let the other ride the first wave | Photo: Bengt E Nyman/Creative Commons

It has happened to us many times. When we get to the beach, we watch the swell lines on the horizon, and anxiety starts kicking in. Everything seems to stop. So, from here on out, just promise yourself you won't take the first wave of the set. Ever.

Those who love surfing know it. The surf simply takes control of our brain. And it is always the same old game: the perfect wave lines are breaking smoothly as you put your wetsuit on and, by the time your waxing down your surfboard, your heart is already pumping to the sound of waves. Check.

"Must get out-the-back before it gets too bad to surf", we think. Check. So, when we let emotions take over our brain, we frequently end up making the worst choices. At least in surfing. That is why, sometimes, you have to stop for a while and use the grey matter.

Quite often, we paddle out, reach the line-up and assume everyone else out there has already caught all waves, and worse, the best waves of the day. Actually, that isn't true. The best is yet to come. Relax.

Now that you've caught your breath, and you're ready for a joyful surf session, you have to tell your inner self that you shall not take the first wave of the set. Here's why it is worth the wait:

1. The first wave of the set is the most hotly contested: everyone tends to catch the first wave, after a long waiting period.

2. The first wave of the set is rarely the best wave: a long wait pays off because the first wave will kind of sweep the excess water out.

3. The first wave of the set is always the worst pick in big wave conditions: if you catch the first wave and wipe out, you will have to survive the entire set.

4. The first wave of the set does not give you enough information about the way the set is breaking: let the first wave pass by and gather valuable data for riding the upcoming rollers.

5. The first wave of the set does not allow you to adjust your positioning: put the triangulation in practice and you'll always be in the right spot.

Next time you go out surfing, try to control the natural impulse to always ride the first wave of the set. The moment you're able to let the first pass by, stop for a moment and ask yourself what did you learn from making that decision. From that moment on, you're a better surfer.

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