The trick to surfing in a hole is side surfing. It is often difficult to front surf a hole so instead we sit sideways to the flow to surf and start the set up for our tricks from there.
How to Side Surf
1. Paddle into the feature so your sat sideways in the bottom of the feature with your boat pointing across the main flow.
2. Edge your boat downstream slightly and keep your body upright / slightly learning downstream.
3. With your eyes looking upstream or in the direction you want to go. Use a combination of brace and forward or backwards paddle strokes on the downstream side to help you stay stable and in control.
When sitting still in a hole a low brace support is ideal but depending on the feature you may need to use a high brace at times.
4. To move turn your brace into a forward or backwards power stroke to help you generate momentum and speed
5. To exit a hole work your way towards the weaker (exit) points where the flow is less retentive. This is often the outside edges (shoulders) of the hole. But not always sometimes there may be a break / exit point in other parts of the hole.
6. Take some forward or backward speed depending on the way your facing and be ready to lean forward and put in some strong power strokes to help pull you away from the power of the hole and into the main flow or eddy.
7. If you tired and can’t exit via the sides of the hole flip upside down and let the downstream current catch your body and paddle and pull you free from the hole. Then roll up and actively paddle away from the feature.
NB: Some holes can be extremely retentive (will not let you out) make sure you only paddle friendly holes. Speak to local experienced paddlers to find out which holes are safe to play in.
Conserve energy and stay calm. If you can stay calm you will have a much more enjoyable surfing experience and be in a lot more control.
Keep all your paddle strokes on the downstream side
Try and use low braces rather than high braces. They use a lot less energy, are more stable and are safer on your shoulders.
Always check if it is a friendly hole before surfing. Speak to other more experienced paddlers to find out which features to surf.
If in any doubt at all don’t paddle it. Find a nice friendly hole to learn in.