Bring On the Barrels: How to Get Your First Barrel Wave

Surfing is zen. And nothing exemplifies this more than riding a barrel wave.

Once you’re inside a barrel, everything is in harmony. You’re in tune with the wave. Your nerves are taut, yet you’re calm.

Everything is about the moment because the moment is fleeting but spectacular. You’re aware that the wave might come crashing down at any time, but you don’t care.

Such is life, such is surfing, such is zen.

Not every surfer has experienced this transcendental state. Not everyone can be enlightened, not everyone can be a Buddha. But with preparation and a little luck, you’ll be riding your first tube all the way to nirvana.

Let’s dive in.


Practice your fundamentals. Follow the stonecutter’s credo. Keep pounding away until your form is impregnable.

This means that you have to train and try to catch as many waves as you can. This is how you prepare yourself for that moment. When the opportunity comes, you’re ready to seize it.


When heading out to a battlefield, you want to have the right tool for the job. You have the perfect wave in your crosshairs but you need the right surfboard to ride it.

This brings up the age-old debate of longboards vs shortboards. While it’s possible to ride the wave barrel with a longboard, control is more difficult due to the length of the board. A shorter board fits snugly inside the small confines, making it easier to maneuver and adjust the speed.


The hardest part of catching a barrel is finding the wave in the first place. This will only come with experience. The more experience you have, the better you’ll be at wave judgment.

Once you can spot and assess waves with regularity, you’re ready to put yourself in position to ride your first tube. Keeping this in mind, you’d want to look for that perfect line.

As with yin and yang, the answer is the middle path or the path of balance. You don’t want to be too high up on the face of the wave because you risk losing speed and falling off. If you’re too low, the lip will smack you in the head.

Ride the middle and think of yourself like a bullet shooting through the rifling of a barrel.


This is where the hours of practice pay off. Once you caught your first tube, you want to stretch the time as much as possible. Every second count.

This trip lasts as long as you can maintain your form.

Bend at the knees and not at the hips. Try to be centered, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Remember the techniques that you practiced for who knows how long. Efficient paddling will propel you so you can get to the wave faster. Stalling will allow you to reduce speed after a bottom turn. Pumping will give you the speed to rush through the barrel exit if you need it.


Some say that it takes a lot of luck to be able to ride through a barrel wave. But with enough preparation, you can make your own luck and enjoy this awesome experience.

Want to know how to perfect your paddling so you can catch up to your barrel without sweating it? Then read this article.