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Waveriding is the windsurfing discipline that attracts me most. Playing with waves power is a magical feeling. In this article, I will gather some basic concepts for those who, like me, want to begin this way of windsurfing.


Windsurf, waveriding: rules and theory


Only the lack of suitable spots near where I live prevents me to devote myself, body and soul, to waveriding. Otherwise, I would have already thrown myself into his assiduous practice. 

The best, in fact, would be to have a spot with regular and smooth (glassy, French riders say) ocean waves, even not that high, in a predominantly sandy bay.

Instead, riders like us, who live near the Mediterranean Sea, must often be satisfied with messy waves, typical of the stormy sea, in bays that frequently have a number of hazards to the shore (rocky plateaus, cliffs).

However, even in the Mediterranean, and in Italy, beautiful waveriding spots (sometimes almost oceanic) abound. First of all, in Italy some Sardinian spots (Funtana Meiga, Capo Mannu, Cala Pischina, Platamona), as well as some Sicilian (Puzziteddu), Puglia (Torre Chianca), Ligurian (Imperia - Spiaggia d'Oro, and Bordighera), and Venetian ones (Sottomarina).



Haakgat foto felice zompanti rider Mariotti


Even the Mediterranean France offers some good spots (Algajola, Corse; Carrò, La Coudouliere, Saint Cyprien, Canet, in Southern France). We don't know Greece and continental Spain yet, but we suppose that there may be some great wave spots there as well (help us to review them here)

Otherwise, you need to migrate at least to the Atlantic sea (eg. to Guincho, Viana do Castelo, Tonel, Costa da Caparica, Portugal; La Torche, or to La Plage de l'Aber, in Brittany; to Gwithian/Carbis bay, Cornwall; Brandon bay, Ireland).

Finally, there are the best and most distant spots: Hawaii, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Morocco, Canary Islands, Australia ......

But I stop here, because, otherwise, you take off with your mind, and you begin to dream ....

Let's go back to the purpose of the article: to introduce Waveriding with some basic concepts.

 Jem hall punta san carlos baja mexico




Ideal wind directions for waveriding 


Wind can come from the same direction of the waves; or with an inclined or perpendicular direction with respect to waves.

Typically, waves reach the shore more or less parallel to it. In this case, side wind (reference is made to the shoreline) will be perpendicular to the direction in which waves are going. These conditions are great for waveriding, as they facilitate the overcoming of the shorebreak, and enable, when going towards the open sea, to perform good jumps, and, for those who are able, to realize some loops (forward and back loop). On the way back, side wind allows to surf both back side and front side (see below for an explanation of these terms). 

In other cases, wind (always with waves parallel to the shore) can be side-off, or side-on. The first case still offers optimal conditions for surfing, pretty much for the same reasons given with sideshore wind. Also side-on wind offers good conditions, until wind direction does not become too onshore. In this case, however, it can be a bit more difficult to overcome the shorebreak, especially if it is significant, because if you point your board bow to the waves, you risk losing too much speed (better, therefore, to bear away first, and to go upwind only when the planing and speed are acquired).


 Jem Hall cape town

Michele Iungo cannes foto gino tumbarello


Finally, the least favorable condition for waveriding is that in which wind comes to the spot onshore (and so it comes from the same direction of the waves): it makes quite difficult, at times, to overcome the shorebreak, and does not allow much fun in jumping, and, above all, limits the possibilities for surfing (and only back side). However, you can do something and have some fun even under these conditions (see, eg., the spot of La Bergerie in Hyeres, with the wind that comes from the East).

Typically, righties will prefer side wind conditions on starboard tack, when going offshore, being more confident in jumping on this way. Lefties will prefer side wind on port tack, for equal reasons.


Front side and back side waveriding


Since we have called attention to these concepts above, we have to explain what it means to ride in back side, and in front side; clarifying that the latter mode, today, is the most practiced (and the most funny). To do this, first we introduce the concepts of "bottom turn" and "cut back". The bottom turn is the change in direction of the board, which until then was descending wave, to return to climb it and re-aim its crest. The cut back is the change in direction of the board that you do at the wave crest, when you go back to ride down the wave, after you ridden up to its lip. 

While surfing in back side, the rider, basically, has its back facing the incoming wave crest, after having done a bottom turn to ride up to it again; the rider is located in the middle between the rig and the crest wave. In this case, the bottom turn is performed with the front of the board that enters into the wind (a sort of half tack).


Mariotti bottom turn frontside la ciaccia Mariotti cutback la ciaccia


In waveriding in the front side, the rider, after the bottom turn, rides up back to the wave lip, facing with his chest (front) the crest of the wave; the rig is interposed between himself and the wave crest. In this case, the bottom turn is made running away from the wind (and performing half a jibe), which invests the board from the stern, and by laying the sail over water, as you, probably happen to see in many videos.

If you want to train at home, or on the beach, doing some useful exercises to improve your skills in frontside bottom turns and cut backs, we really recommend you to watch this precious video tutorial by Getwindsurfing.


Swell, waves period, tides, and currents


For those approaching waveriding, since waves (beyond wind) will become their raw material, it is good to keep in mind some basic concepts.

The swell is the series of waves that reach the shore, due to low pressures and conditions that occur in areas far from the spot. It may or may not be present, depending on the occurrence of these conditions in distant areas.

If it's windy, and the spot is not sheltered in the direction from which the wind comes, the spot will certainly be reached by waves of local origin, which overlap with the swell, if any is formed. The swell may occur and remain even in the absence, or after the wind has stopped, and is much more frequent and significant if the body of water is vast (and, therefore, definitely in the oceans).

Both of wave types are marked by a "period", that is the time value, in seconds, that elapses between the passage of two subsequent waves crests by the same point. It may, of course, be different for the two types of wave, if simultaneously present on the spot. This is a very important piece of information to be acquired, and to be evaluated very carefully. In general, when the period between two ridges drops below 8-10 seconds, the conditions can be challenging. If you fall on a wave, and you need to waterstart to ride again, you only have this short time frame available before another wave will come on your head and will submerge you, or will take your equipment away.


Windsurf wave description


Andrea mariotti Haakgat sud Africa


Waves form currents (if these are not already present for other factors). In fact, in a bay in which the waves enter in the central part (generally, the less sheltered part to wave motion), the mass of water to these associated must come out somewhere. And this usually occurs on the sides of the bay. Even in spots, where you have breakwaters that enter the sea perpendicular to the shore (and which thus define small bays), the phenomenon can be noticeable. Therefore, care must be taken to the fact that, generally, in wave spots, on the sides of the bay, the currents lead off-shore. In some challenging spots, however, the sides of the bay can be an escape route in case of difficulty (eg. equipment failure), to avoid the action of the waves in the middle of the bay, and to avoid the otherwise inevitable and sometimes disastrous wipe out (being swept away by the waves). Obviously, once off, or you are able to return to shore in an area in which there are no currents, or, you must have someone to rescue you.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the importance of the tides in the spots (usually, oceanic ones) where these are important (of the order of meters). For example, reading the reviews of the British spots on, you can see that many spots are more affordable, with the rising tide, or at least near the peak of the high tide. This is for two reasons.

In the first place, because with the falling tide, on the whole spot, strong tidal currents can form and they can lead you off-shore.

Secondly, in some spots, the seabed can remain relatively not deep for a certain distance from the shore line, at the peak of the high tide, to then deepen abruptly. So, with growing tide, waves break further offshore, at the change in slope of the seabed, and to the shoreline only a smaller and easier to overcome shorebreak will arrive. At low tide, waves always will break sharply to the change of slope of the seabed, which can practically coincide with your entry point into the water, with the result that you may find yourself having to overcome a really bad shorebreak, just when you put your feet into the water to perform the beach start. But that's not a general rule, since there some spots where the sudden beach slope change is responsible for a more difficult (or dangerous) shorebreak, in high tide conditions. So get information about the specific spot you are going to ride. 


Waveriding right of way rules


For those who are about to face this discipline, it is a must to know the basic rules of precedence among the waves, to avoid accidents, or, even heated discussions with the other riders in the water. Be warned, however, that especially in the most famous wave spots, local riders may be quite jealous of the spot, and resent the presence of beginners, especially if they forget the basic rules (however, they should remember that they have been beginners too, once upon a time....).


Andrea mariotti frontside


The basic rules of precedence among the waves are four.

  1. The riders that are going offshore, and are heading towards the waves, have priority in relation to those who are already riding the wave.
  2. The wave belongs to the rider who has taken it first, and that, therefore, in general, comes from behind.
  3. If two riders take a wave at the same time, the upwind rider is the one that has priority.
  4. Don't drop in. This is the worst thing you could do. Dropping in is achieved by sailing over the back of a wave that someone else is already riding. In other words, you climb on a wave, and you overpass its crest from behind. You seriously run the risk of landing on top of the person riding the wave, and is thus dangerous.

There are also other rules to follow, and even some rules of courtesy to consider, among which it is worth to remember that, going out, if possible, it's better not to ride right in the area (where maybe best waves break), in which the other riders are already surfing.

But during competions or in some area of the world, special rules may apply. Graham Ezzy, commenting an episode that happened to him during Aloha classic 2018, at Hawaii, explains the question with these words: "In free-sailing, generally it is the first person on the wave who has priority--when 2 people are on the wave at the same time, the person more upwind has priority. But each beach has its own nuances of priority. In some places in Australia, they use a rotation system, or in the Canary Islands it is sometimes about who is closer to the peak that matters most. In the PWA rules, the person first over the crest of the wave has priority for the next wave. By the IWT, it is the first person to be picked up by the swell who has priority for that wave".

Have a nice ride! Fabio

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We thank Andrea Mariotti, Jem Hall, Michele Iungo, Gino Tumbarello, and Michele Ferraina for the kind authorisation to publish their pictures.


Some nice videos about waveriding


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