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Veteran surf coach Martin Dunn on the best approach to wave pool training

As a tool, wave pools could realize spectacular results in a shortened time frame for those motivated surfers willing to do the work. But like any tool, the technicians who will be advising the surfers must also be up to the job.

I have seen no evidence one way or the other whether quality coaching is in place to get the most out of the wave pool environment. But this is a critical factor to a wave pool’s effectiveness for real surfer development.

How can wave pools sharpen the learning curve?

Wave pools will allow surfers to train their surfing, or particular aspects of their performance, in a systematic and controlled fashion. Continual refinement of performance will be possible because surfers will be able to set-up and execute the same skill repeatedly for a session, or for multiple sessions.

Importantly, if working with a coach, surfers could receive instant feedback on their performance immediately after each wave ridden, just like a golf coach does correcting a golf swing. This is new to surfing and something that will undoubtedly improve a surfer’s learning curve dramatically.

[Proviso – as long as the wave pool coach can accurately articulate the changes that need to be made and what training needs to be put in place to create better performances]

What are the positives and negatives of using a wave pool?

As stated previously, wave pools will help surfers shorten the learning curve when learning new skills or correcting faulty ones. The ability to surf the same wave, same section, multiple times – will allow consistent training, making for quality training efforts.

On the downside, wave pools won’t teach surfers how to read the ocean in a real beach situation. Nor will they teach surfers how to sort through breaking waves so they can select and ride the good ones, and to say “no” to the bad ones. And wave pools won’t teach surfers how to “read” a wave’s variations in speed, shape, and uniqueness as they surf down the line. When to speed up, when to slow down, when to attack, and when to just make the maneuver, are all decisions that need to be flexible and instantaneous to suit the uniqueness of waves that break in the real world.

When we talk about developing performances, wave pools have an advantage over ocean waves in a development sense, because of the standardized nature of the waves, and consistency of the sections being surfed. This allows a surfer to practice a specific maneuver or a sequence of multiple maneuvers many times over, knowing that that same section to do that specific maneuver will be there on the next wave that breaks.

This standardized nature of wave pool waves has the potential to fast track performance in motivated surfers. And that’s one of the keys to using wave pools to benefit performance – surfers have to be motivated to work on their surfing, rather than just surfing. When a surfer works on their surfing, they have to have a skill/skills to focus-on, set a target to achieve, and have the ability to stay focused on task while in the water.

“What to work on?” is an essential component for surfers wanting to use wave pools to break performance barriers. The thing to understand, when a skill breaks down, it is usually only one part of the skill rather than the whole, that needs to be changed. If you know which part, you can then go and work on that part of the skill with full focus, and with that better performance over time.

The third aspect of changing performance is to realize and accept that change takes effort, and many mistakes will occur. Training surfers have to work through the frustrations of training, to realize a meaningful change in the future. Setting realistic targets regularly (for example, three successful finishes out of six finishes attempted) allows a surfer to achieve success and be realistic and accepting of the inevitable failures along the way.

More about surf coaching with Martin Dunn available here


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