How to Catch an Unbroken Wave


Catching clean and unbroken waves feels completely different from when you’re catching broken or whitewater waves. Catching whitewater waves surely would give you turbulence and bumps, not to mention your surfboard sinking as you try to pop up. Meanwhile, a smoother ride is expected when you catch unbroken waves. If you’re lucky enough, you might even get the drop, which is the feeling you get when you ride from the wave’s crest and then scooting downwards.

Catching an unbroken wave allows a more solid ride and it might also surprise you that popping up actually is a lot easier. In this post, we will be talking about how to catch an unbroken wave, along with some tips on how to execute the maneuver properly. Catching unbroken waves would likely require you to incorporate several skills at once. And if you’re curious about the whole process, then let’s proceed with the discussions.

How to Catch an Unbroken Wave

As mentioned, you are required to bring in several skills when trying to catch an unbroken wave, some of which include paddling, popping up, duck diving, and positioning. Proficiency in paddling is required for you to be able to get past the breaking waves. 

The pop up technique is also vital, as this maneuver actually lets you surf. Learning duck diving, on the other hand, helps a lot with getting you in the lineup hassle-free. In addition, it also increases your chances of getting into position a lot quicker. After all, getting into the correct position is key to catching an unbroken wave. Here’s what you need to do:

  • The first thing that you need to accomplish is paddling out way past the breaking waves and get into the lineup position. This might seem like an exhausting process, especially if you are a beginner. So, if you feel a bit out of breath or tired, you can definitely take it easy and relax, until you recover.
  • Catching an unbroken wave requires you to be physically ready. So, if you feel as if you can sit on your board, you may certainly do so. In fact, the position is likely to provide you with a better view of what’s ahead.
  • Timing is key when paddling. While this requires much more practice, you can watch more experienced surfers and see when they start paddling. Doing so allows you to have a better idea when the best time to paddle is.
  • When a wave is approaching, ensure that you’re facing the shore, like what you would do when catching whitewater waves.
  • Start paddling. It may also be beneficial for you if you look behind you, just so you can judge how much more paddling is required. Keep in mind that when the wave finally reaches you, you should also be paddling at the maximum speed. With this, you’ll also feel that your speed increases as the waves pick you up.
  • Then, start to angle your surfboard towards the unbroken wave, preventing you to nose dive and sending you pitching forward.
  • You may continue paddling just until you’re very sure that the wave has picked you up. In case you’re not sure even though you have enough speed, try pushing the surfboard as you would do when you’re popping up. This time, however, straighten up while arching your back.
  • Lastly, pop up. Keep in mind that timing is essential to catch an unbroken wave. In addition, we’re sure that you’ll get this right with tons of practice.

The Different Stages of a Wave

Understanding how a wave is formed is important, so you know how to find the correct position to catch an unbroken wave. Here are the four different stages of a wave:

Stage A

This is where the wave only appears as a bump on the water. At this stage, it is certainly impossible to catch a wave. After all, the lump indicates that there is a much bigger wave to come.

Stage B

Stage B is where you can catch a green or unbroken wave. In case you didn’t know, this stage features a shape that has excellent power, as well as the steepness that allows you to paddle through it. This is the perfect stage because stage A would not be powerful and steep enough while Stage C might seem too vertical for you to be able to make the drop.

Stage C

Stage C is where the wave starts to break. You’ll notice that the wave’s lip starts to crash down on flat water. In addition, this stage might be too powerful and steep for you to catch a wave. This fact also holds true, especially for novice surfers.

Stage D

Stage D is where the wave has already broken and has finally become a whitewater wave.

Tips on How to Catch an Unbroken Wave

  • As mentioned earlier, it might be advantageous for you to look behind you when you’re paddling. Taking a peak would be the only way you can know whether you need to paddle less or more, depending on the shape of the wave.
  • Not looking back only makes you mistime your paddling. It may also cause the wave to crash over you, with you ending up catching a whitewater wave instead.
  • The bigger your surfboard is, the easier it would be for you to catch an unbroken wave. Catching broken waves is all about paddling, which hopefully matches the wave’s speed. The sooner you get the wave’s momentum, the sooner you would be able to pop up then surf. It is common knowledge that bigger boards are a lot faster than smaller boards, as they make it very easy for you to catch the broken waves.
  • More experienced surfers tend to catch more unbroken waves because of their multiple movements. Once you see a lump, you should ask yourself this very question: will this be a bigger wave that will break out down the line? Or a smaller wave that is likely to break a lot closer to the shore? When you get enough experience reading waves, you get to be more proactive, allowing you to easily paddle and position yourself to catch the unbroken waves.


Catching unbroken waves is such an amazing experience, as you’ll feel that you’ve taken surfing to the next level. With this post, we hope that you get to apply the new knowledge and that there’s nothing to hold you back now. If you ever feel in doubt, you can simply refer to this post and understand which area needs improvement.

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