The tube ride is probably responsible for more air-miles than any other aspect of surfing. Chasing barrels has surfers scouring the globe, searching for hollow waves and the ethereal feeling of being in the green room. Many surfers measure their success on whether they are getting regularly pitted or not, but in reality getting a good tube is not as evasive as you might think, as long as the waves are right.
Above is a sequence of our resident surf star John-John Florence getting shacked out of his melon on the North Shore. This is pretty much a text book tube ride so we’ll go through it step by step:
1. Take off on the peak. The wave will be steep and fast, if you attempt taking off further down the line it will be zipping by you and you’ll effectively be taking off into a close out. Angle your board so you can engage a rail and fin now – there won’t be time later!
2. Set a higher line than you might be used to. You can practise this on non-tubing waves so it feels more familiar when things hot up. Keep your head looking forward, knees articulated to pump the board a little for a burst of speed.
3. Right, now you need to control that speed. The most instinctive way is to trail your back hand in the wave face. Putting more back foot pressure on your board will also stall you a little…and here you are in the liquid cathedral! Rejoice in the moment.
4. The exit is starting to appear, time to get some weight on the front foot to speed up again, get your hand off of the wave face.
5. Rather than just zipping straight out onto the shoulder, aim to set up another bottom turn which gives you options to…
6. Throw a blazing cutback, or throw both arms above your head and claim your barrel!
What to look for when choosing a barrelling wave:
It stands to reason that you need to pick a spot with the right ocean topography i.e. an abrupt change in water depth. For better or for worse, many of the great barrelling waves around the world are firmly under the spotlight so the research is already done for you, but it’s not as simple as just rocking up and going for it.
If you’ve turned up to a spot for the first time in the hope of scoring some kegs, you’ll need to watch it for a while as there will usually be two swell directions hitting the reef or sandbar, one of them serving up tasty tubes and the other one dishing out bitter close-outs. Watch the sets coming in and see what waves the hotties are going for, and which ones they let go through.
Then you must consider the crowd factor. Barrelling waves tend to have a focussed take off spot and rely on high levels of etiquette to keep everyone safe. There will be surfers there who have the place completely wired, let them set the tempo and ease your way into things.
One neat tip I can give you for finding tubing waves away from the crowds is to think about sand-grain size. Yep, it’s rather critical – the larger the grains of sand, the more steeply shelving the beach, the greater the chance of a pronounced sandbar, and the higher your chances of getting slotted…