Justin West Coaching Surf Coach Portugal Algarve Ericeira Alentejo
Surf Comp Time Hossegor, France

And would i benefit from surf video coaching at my current surfing level?

Back in the late 90´s I was frustrated with my surfng level and super keen to improve. I was a beginners surf instructor, lifeguard and a partner in a surfboard factory in North Cornwall.


I come from a sports family, my father was a professional rugby league player, British Lion and capped for England rugby 6 times. He played London city basketball on the side, a University Physical Education lecturer basketball, squash, tennis and swimming coach. As a kid I remember him talking all the way through international rugby matches, test cricket, boxing and analysing Wimbledon tennis players footwork. Analysis was ingrained. I had noticed golf pros using photograhy to analyse swing and so I bought a terrible little mini tape handycam and with a decent enough tripod I was able to ask people to film me surf, lucky them!


In those days Barry Hall was then Head Coach of the British Surfing Assoication centred in a gleaming new building at Fistral Beach, Newquay. I had done a few courses already with Baz and jumped at the chance for a surf video analysis course. I remember it was winter and howling onshore but we managed to take turns filming each other surf. I was absolutley amazed even with terrible surf conditions how under Bazs guidance, we were able to see very critical technical challenges.


We could see where each of us were going wrong, which waves should of been selected in a set, angle of entry, paddle trim, take off line/angle, compression in bottom turn, front foot or back foot preference, choice of bottom turn, eye line, verticality (or lack of!), hand placement, timing, even analyising performance of certain boards. All this information was there but it took Baz helping us breakdown every detail in time and space before we actually started to "see". We reinforced our understanding by comparing our movements to elite surfing athletes. Video analysis was a huge mind opener.


Scaffolding of Skills


I studied a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and this supported what I had intrinsically learnt over the years, surfing like many sports is all about "scaffolding skills". If you do not have a strong foundation each subsequent "layer" will be built on shakey foundations and you will never improve to your fullest potential. Important points like entry line, take off, foot placement and speed are critical.


Mental Overload


I have also found that "mental overload" is a real thing and as a coach its very important to not overload your student with information as they will never remember to implement all of it on a wave. Drip feed and scaffold each skill with multiple drill repetition, on land or sea. When that skill becomes second nature and stored with in in the muscle memory system its then time to add another layer of complexity. Mister Myagi was a true master and the analogy of "wax on wax off" absolutely brilliant coaching and student management.


If you are a professional surf coach this is not just a wise coaching method but an important business model. I advise professional coaches not to feel pressured into giving out too much knowledge until the athlete or student is "ready" to receive it. As a coach this is your decision and not a paying clients, however much you need them to book another session or leave a positive Google review. Your soul duty is to improve their surfing even if that means they are angry with you. Hve faith in your method and eventually they will fully understand when they feel the improvement in their surfing.


Auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learners


Some of us are very good at listening, some even very good and listening and understanding, some of us prefer to see a demonstration and there are a tribe of stubborn learners that just get out there, fail, repeat, fail and learn slowly and painfully by doing. Most of us thankfully are a percentage share of the above traits. It is up to the coach to quickly identify his students learning strengths and to tailor coaching presentations to them effectively. The larger the group the less efficiently scaleable the coaching and we spend our time giving an average presentation. As soon as I see a client looking out to sea when I am talking I quickly adjust to asking them to participate in a demonstration they are either lost with what I am saying or they have quickly understood and looking to the next task. Being sensitive to your athletes strengths and learning abilities is fundamental. For all clients I now WhatsApp them their surf clips late evening with written out coaching objectives and points to work on supported by screen grabs and diagrams. In our modern "screen time" world we have adapted to become a little more visual in our learning & attention capacity.


Crap Surf Conditions


Another interesting aspect of surf video coaching is surfing "conditions". Many clients will say to me after the first heat of a session" and sometimes are very embarrassed by their performance. Ego is a real problem with self growth, we need it tho propel us to perform but we also need to know when to keep it in check. Of course there are very few surfers that surf worse in good conditions, truly great surfers surf amazing in terrible conditions to the level that it makes terrible conditions look amazing.


A surfer must realise that most of the time we surf in crap waves, wherever you live, its a fact and simply relative to where you surf and your perspective on what are "crap surf conditions". In my experience you impriove by surfing as often as you can and in as many different types of surf conditions as the opportunity presents. Find that inner frothing child that is locked up in a classroom and stoked to surf anything. Video coaching is a benefit in any contestable surf condition and I would go so far as to say if you train in difficult conditions mathematically this means you are training to surf conditions that you are most likely to surf in. Maximise all potential. I have recommended an intermediate investment banking client of mine whose surfing time was very limited to practice his pop up on his SUP in a lake next to his house. The repetitive action of paddling and popping up over and over again improved his agility, paddle balance and endurance. It just comes down to how willing you are to improve and how creative a surf coach can be to feed this ambition. Be warned however, practicing poor technique or ill advised coaching technique will help you to enthusiastically practice to surf even worse.


Justin West Coaching is a surf coach of several WQS and CT elite surfing athletes as well as coaching hundreds of improver, intermediate and advanced level surfers. He has travelled all over the world running surf training camps and is currently living and coaching in Portugal where he has run surf coaching sessions in the Algarve, to Alentejo and as far North as Ericeira for the last 10 years.