How to avoid getting Caught Inside in Surfing!

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How to avoid getting Caught Inside in Surfing!

Caught inside surfing

A surfer is Caught Inside and can't duck dive properly

If you are learning to surf I’m sure you’ve got caught inside more than once and you might have been obliged to get out the water, breathe safely and calm your pumping heart. So what is it to get Caught Inside in Surfing and How can we avoid getting caught inside, if possible?

♦  “When a surfer is paddling out and cannot get past the breaking surf to the safer part of the ocean (the outside) in order to find a wave to ride”

To hell with it! My board goes up and I’m going down !

How can we avoid getting caught inside? Take these things into consideration:

  1. Is the surf break normally packed with people? If you know the beach or surf break is normally packed with people and suddenly you realize there is nobody there… ask yourself why even if you can’t see big waves (there can be strong currents that might not be visible).
  2. Is there a red flag? Study the Lifeguards laws in the country. Are lifeguards obliged to save you when red flags ?
  3. Wait to see the biggest waves of the swell (Set Waves): Don’t go rushing-in until you see the biggest waves of the swell. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to contemplate and study the waves at stake.
  4. Where is the perfect entering channel ? Take a look at the other surfers inside, get to know where they usually go to paddle-out. What part of the break is safer to paddle out to Line Up?
  5. Are waves closing-out? A wave is “closed-out” when it breaks at every position along the face at once, and therefore can’t be properly surfed.
  6. How many seconds does a surfer take to get to the surface after a wipe-out or a shameful duck dive? I usually take a look at the surfers inside to see if they are suffering or not. Are they having a good time or are they literally working out and trying to beat their own fears ? Can you see anyone in trouble? How many seconds do they take to get to the surface after a duck dive? If they take more than 15 seconds to start paddling out again after a duck dive, and you are a Noob (Beginner, Rookie), Forget about it, don’t get in or you will suffer (unless you are a professional swimmer or diver). Professional surfers, especially big wave surfers, need to train until they get to 4 minutes under water.
  7. Are you fit? Yes, you’ve got to be honest to yourself, are you fit enough to get in there? How many seconds can you stay underwater under pressure? How many minutes can you resist without stopping paddling out with your arms? Remember boxing rounds are 3 minutes for a reason. Well sometimes set waves take more than 3 minutes to dissapear.

Personal Experience: Particularly at El Socorro let me tell you no matter if it is Summer or Winter, the beach is absolutely crowded when conditions are good for surfing or for swimming, either. It’s nearly impossible to get a parking space unless you park at the beginning of the road going down, having to walk for 10 minutes to get to the sand.

So, if you arrive at El Socorro or any other beach that is normally crowded and you realize there’s nobody there, hang on tight, Danger is very near. It happened to me the other day, I dont know how I was that naive, I know how it is there and I went on November and as I found lots of parking spaces I said, hey, this is my day of surfing. I parked, I saw a red flag and only 4 guys in the water.

Only 4 guys in the water at El Socorro? Weird, why? I said… Why? I started looking for big waves, contemplating the break to see where the danger was… I even counted how many seconds a surfer took to paddle out to the Line up after finishing a wave: 1 minute aprox. I said. I thought it wasn’t too much given the spot. I stood there for more than 20 minutes contemplating and I didn’t see any big waves to fear. I get ready and jump in with my bodyboard and flippers.

I could see that the guys were all at the same spot, at the right hand side of the beach, they preferred to be together instead of catching their own waves freely, and again I say why? I mus’t get to them. I jump in and start paddling-out at full speed towards them given that I couldn’t see any big waves approaching. Suddenly, in the middle of everything and after paddling for like 20 meters in, the set waves appeared (Racha in Spanish, biggest waves of the swell) and started braking just in front of me. Like in the picture above but I was out of my depth, I couldn’t stand on my feet. 

They weren’t as big as I’ve seen before at El Socorro, but they were strong as hell, and I was just about to notice something else: There was an East to West powerful current that didn’t let me reach the lads up front. Between the waves crashing in front of me (making me have to make like 10 duck dives per minute) and the strong current taking me to the west side part of the break, I couldn’t reach the Line Up. Mission Impossible.

And then is when you realize you are in trouble. Lifeguard? Lifeguards in Tenerife and in the whole Spain aren’t obliged to save you if you have entered the water when there is a Red Flag. Swimming is literally forbidden so it’s at your own risk. I understand it’s my fault and I have to get out of this. You have two options: Fight against currents and waves by using your hands and good old duck dives until the set waves go and you reach the Line Up or, turn back, catch a shameful wave and get the hell outta there praying that nobody has seen you !

What did I do? LOL. I must admit that this time I didn’t surrender. I’ve experienced getting caught-inside many times in my life and I knew this could happen. But nevertheless I didn’t reach the Line Up either ! I was struggling to get to the Line Up and I had a surfer on my left paddling-out next to me as he had already finished a wave. We both got caught inside by set waves and current. We both fighted against it, we must’ve done more than 30 duck dives on a row and suddenly, I hear some screaming behind me: ¡Salgan del Agua Coooo..! (“Get the hell out of the water!”) . I looked back and I saw the Lifeguard ! I couldn’t believe it! I know the man has to be like 50 years old but he is strong and fit like hell. And there he was… with a Red Flag and working… worried for us or perhaps bored to death but there he was yelling at us to get out of the water and quickly !

To be honest, as I said I started paddling out from the right hand side of the beach, where the 4 surfers where. Well the lifeguard was right, he only went for us when he saw we were heading to the other side of the beach, on the left, because every time we duck-dived we went like 2 meters to the left, you can’t realize that in the water unless you are constantly looking back to compare to your initial position. So if you really want to learn all about surfing and surfing experiences come and visit us at Atlantik Surf, your Surf School in Tenerife. With a little bit of luck, you’ll be better and fitter than me and you won’t have to struggle to get to the Line-Up. 😉

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