5 Reasons Why Surfers Touch Waves

If you’re new to surfing, chances are you’ll be amazed to see surfers stretch their hand that’s next to the wave right into the wave while they ride it. It might look cool, and you may think that they do it to add charm to the sport and show off. But that is not at all what they’re going after. In fact, all their tactics and methods are pretty much in line with making sure they kill it out there.

While they score massive points for appeal and completely captivate their audience, there’s much more to touching the wave than this. So, why do they do it? 

The science behind wave touching

Believe it or not, it’s all science, and in the process, they end up looking super attractive. While surfers are the least aware of why they surf better when they drag their hand across a wave as they travel, the move is quite instinctive to them and just feels like the right thing to do. 

This is similar to when Formula 1 racers have to turn around tight corners. At what angle and at what speed they make the turn is done automatically based on what feels right at the moment. They don’t have to actively think about it or make conscious scientific calculations to plan out precisely their turn.

But even if we talk about our everyday experiences, from the way we walk to how we cut vegetables, everything is done instinctively, and yet there’s science behind all the decisions we make.   

Here are a few reasons why they do it and how science helps:

1. It helps lower the center of gravity

When surfers touch the wave as they surf, their position on their board changes. They slightly lower themselves by crouching. This lowers the center of gravity and helps surfers increase their stability by improving their stance. This is the point where they’ll need the most balance and traction so that they don’t wipe out.

A good stance and positioning will make sure that you aren’t knocked off your board easily, even if the wave you are tackling is a difficult one. Waves can sometimes be unpredictable, and if you want to be able to ride big ones like pros, you should observe this strategy in surfers the next time you are out at the seashore. Notice details like how they bend, what the shape of their body is, and how they’ve positioned themselves with respect to their board. 

2. It helps control speed

It’s important to maintain proper speed while surfing so that you remain in control of your board and the wave. Letting your hand flow inside the wave as you travel helps adjust your speed because of the friction this movement creates.

You can then control your speed by planning how much friction you want to cause with partial or full hand submerging at a 180-degree angle to the wave. With slight speed adjustments along the way, surfers are able to remain steady and stay on the board for longer to help them make it out just in time.

3. It helps perform maneuvers 

Timing is everything when you are riding a wave. If you don’t make it out of the barrel in time, you’ll be wiped out. Waves can be used as anchors to help control speed and time maneuvers to achieve perfection when it comes to aerials and turns. Professional surfers don’t just ride a wave to be done with it.

Their intention is to make the most of every single wave experience and make sure that they keep improving their strategy to become better at this game. Their end goal is to be able to be in complete control instead of letting the wave dominate them. Everyone aims for a perfect ride and detests a wipeout. 

4. It gives surfers an idea of the wave pattern

While in the tube, surfers have to navigate their way intelligently to ensure a smooth exit. Touching the wave helps them get a sense of when the wave is going to break so that they can increase or decrease their speed accordingly.

This maneuver also helps them get an idea of how long the tube is. knowing your environment and for how long you would have to travel is important to make sure you make an exit at the right time without a wipeout. It also makes you aware beforehand if you are going to succeed in exiting or not. This knowledge helps you mentally prepare beforehand for whatever fate lies before you.   

5. It adds style

There’s no doubt that touching the wave while surfing makes surfers look cool and makes them look all the more professional. Even intermediate surfers can use this technique not only to enhance their skill but also to make others think that they are far more talented than they really are.

There’s no doubt that wave touching helps to navigate a wave far better than otherwise, but the added charisma helps you become one of the most sought-after surfers in town. Before you know it, everyone will be talking about you. 


While you may think that this strategy is an ideal way to appear more attractive or to up your surfing game, remember that it is still a technique that you will have to practice before perfecting it. Newbies certainly have a long way to go before they can fully master this art because there are many things that you will have to learn before reaching this stage.

But, once you learn to paddle and start taking on waves, you will soon find wave-touching a natural process, and you won’t be able to surf without this technique. 

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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