I had the pleasure of being able to stop by the Ottawa River the other day on my way from central Ontario to Maine. I had visited this esteemed surfing wonderland once before and lusted to return ever since. I brought along my boyfriend, a relatively new but enthusiastic surfer who recently acquired his first playboat ( 2016 M Rockstar) and is stoked on it. I was anxious not only to maximize the short amount of time we had to stop through, but also to ensure that his enthusiasm for surfing continued to grow and that he didn’t get too in over his head, so that he would be just as excited to come back next time too! My strategy was to provide the right amount of support and encouragement highlighted with a few tips here and there, while also letting him get the feel on his own.
In the end we had a super successful 24 hour stop over. We started up at Baby Face for the first afternoon, a friendly but foamy and relatively fast wave just below McCoys rapid where he could get the feel of a bigger surf wave for the first time. The next morning we headed downstream to Garberator, a very fast and even bigger wave, host to the 2015 ICF World Championship that definitely has some intimidation factor. After watching me for a bit, unsure of whether he would go for it or not, he got on the wave his first try and held on with control and style! Lastly we headed to Push Button, a set of friendly glassy and foamy waves just downstream from Garb, for a little cool down. After the progress from upstream it was wonderful to see his even greater comfort and ease back at a smaller feature.
So I wanted to share with you a few of the tips that he said were particularly helpful as he learned to play with standing whitewater features and paddle in some bigger whitewater. While this is not intended to be a comprehensive lesson, hopefully these tips can help other beginner surfers too.
o Look where you want to go- this will help your body, and in turn your boat, tilt and turn there too.
o When in a playboat especially, you need to think not only about your tilt edge to edge, but your balance forward and aft. If you are hitting a big wave moving downstream – lean forward into it, or in other words check it before it checks you so it does not knock you over backwards. (This analogy worked well for my hockey playing boyfriend). Or if your bow is purling (going under the water) tilt your hips back just slightly on to your seat bones until it surfaces, then re-center your weight.
o Your lower body always needs to be engaged. Steer with your knees and hips more than you think!
o If it feels munchy and swirly right when you flip over in a feature, wait just a second before you roll, there is probably slightly calmer water just downstream.
o Keep your elbows in. No chicken wings. This helps protect your shoulders especially in faster moving features!
o Spins: Plant your paddle, move the boat.
o Spins: Look upstream. It is your fixed point to look at – like a ballerina doing a twirl.
o Use stern draws to keep your angle as you ferry out to waves and as tempting as it can be, try not to pry. Then once you are on the wave you can rudder.
I am pleased to report that my handsome tag along picked up surfing and progressed impressively quickly during our brief visit to the Ottawa and I am stoked to bring him along to future surfing adventures. Successful mission! Where will you take your boyfriend paddling next?!