Wave Riding:

Sitting on top of the world

by: Dean Karnazes

Wave sailing is the ultimate windsurfing experience. It is an opportunity to magically fuse bird and fish into one. The landscape is continually changing and to successfully adapt to the situation one must make the appropriate accommodations to these changes. If you have a basic understanding of wave riding and the wind/wave interaction you can learn to master the landscape. If you don't, you'll probably leave the water with both broken equipment and broken pride.

Let's start with wind direction. Basically, the wind can blow on-shore, side-shore, or off-shore. When standing on the beach facing the water, an on-shore breeze will be blowing directly into your face. A side-shore breeze will be blowing directly toward your profile. And an off-shore wind will be blowing against the back of your head. The wind direction will dictate what type of wave riding you can perform.

Now let's take a look at the waves. When standing on the beach facing the water, a wave that breaks and moves toward your right is called a left (that's because from the perspective of looking toward the shore from in the water beyond the wave, the wave is actually moving to the left). A right is just the opposite. Waves can either peel, which means they break at one point and continue to unfold for a distance, or close-out, which means the entire wave breaks at once. And waves can either be rolling, meaning that it folds over very near the crest and does not contain much power, or pounding, meaning that is crashes near the bottom of the wave and contains quite a bit of force.

Riding a wave is referred to as going down-the-line. This means that you are traversing the wave in the direction that the wave is peeling (as opposed to going straight in toward the beach). The wind direction will dictate how you can ride the wave. If the wind is on-shore you will be riding the wave with your back toward the wave. This is referred to as back-side. If the wind is off-shore you will be going down-the-line while facing the wave. This is referred to as front-side.

When the wind is on-shore there is generally a lot of chop on the wave. This is because the prevailing wind generates its own chop. When the wind is off-shore the waves are much smoother because there is not much distance for the wind to generate chop. In general, side-off (meaning slightly side-shore and slightly off-shore) conditions are the most ideal for wave riding.