Advanced Surfing Techniques: Timing is Everything

In any sport, timing can mean the difference between a beautiful jump shot for the win or a missed field goal for a crushing loss. Learning specific techniques and maneuvers in a sport is, of course, essential.  But often the aspect of a great athlete that is so mystifying is impeccable timing. Surfing is no different. In fact, as a sport that depends on the natural rhythm of the waves, timing is perhaps even more important in advanced surfing than in many other sports. 

Many beginning and intermediate surfers, as well as surf instructors, express frustration that timing is not something that can necessarily be “taught”. A great teacher wishes he could impart his gift of timing to his student, but timing is actually an ability that matures only with patience and practice. But there are certainly ways to enhance your learning curve when it comes to surf timing.


  • Forecasts– Any available information about your environment will help you fine tune your timing. There are many surfing forecasts available, and forecasts that include wave period, such as the one maintained by the NOAA, can provide the most specific and updated information for your surfing destination, whether in San Diego, California, or beyond.
  • Surf Watches– years of research and development have led to amazing advancements in surf watches. Many reliable manufacturers now provide watches so advanced that they provide real-time information based on your specific location. This up-to-the-minute wave information can help you analyze wave period and wave sets, helping you choose the right wave at the right time. 


Although only water time and experience will give you the expert timing you desire, timing is not just wave judgement. Execution of the bottom turn is another vital aspect of the overall timing of your ride. Navigating through your wave face timing is something you will spend your whole life mastering. According to Surfer Todayhere is the progression of aligning yourself with the wave:

1. Take off steep and late for maximum speed.

2. Delay the bottom turn as long as possible without losing speed.

3. Balance with bent knees in a low stance.

4. Center your feet over the stringer and evenly distribute your weight.

5. Steadily apply pressure so that the rail finds the water’s surface.

6. Once you are climbing, look ahead and prepare for your next move.


The more time you spend in the water, the more you can sharpen your powers of observation and hopefully your overall surf timing. Feedback from an instructor, fellow surfers, or even videos of your own performance can help you analyze minute details and meet your next goal as you take your surfing to the next level.