Surfing’s Essential Sensations

Jon Coen talks us through five essential feelings of surfing, the shared ecstatic experiences and sensations that surfers all over the globe can relate to.

Getting Shacked

Maybe it was that quick, sandy, cover up that you doggy-doored this morning at your local beach break. Maybe it’s a long, overhead, crystal tube you navigated on the trip of a lifetime to that remote reef pass. Barrels stick with us.
Yeah, surfing has a corny side. Just look at the millions of megs of GoPro footage on Facebook. It understandably sounds a bit lame when we describe that barrel as being “encased in nature,” but that’s really what it is. Wave energy travels thousands of miles and we sneak into the very vortex at their crescendo.
“The view is obviously the best thing about getting barreled. Everything seems to slow down when you’re in there. Then, once you come out, it speeds back up. Getting spit out is one of the best feelings in life, like getting shot out of a cannon,” says the ASP’s 2014 Rookie of the Year, Nat Young. “It’s actually impossible to describe getting a barrel. I think the only way to understand is to experience it yourself.”


Matz Ginman-Trout enjoying a summer cover-up somewhere in Cornwall. Photo Luke Gartside


Airs are not in everyone’s repertoire, but most agree that they’re both stylish and functional. The air revo is bread and butter for professional free surfers, but what about the rest of us? Well, we’re not talking about sticking 4-foot slobs every session. Your flyaways, credit cards, and chops hops are all part of the exhilaration of attempting to leave the wave face.
“It’s just so fun,” says Brad Gerlach, who has played a role in every part of surfing from expanding pro surfing beyond the ASP parameters to big wave pioneering. Now at the age of 48, he’s writing a book on surf coaching.
“I really started doing airs when I was 15, but I decided I needed to concentrate on turning. I’m writing about doing airs now for the book, so I had to start learning more about them. I still have a hard time wasting a good turn section, but it’s certainly functional, especially landing a good air and going directly into your next turn.”


Toby Donachie is one of those surfers who can throw air reverses in his sleep. Photo Luke Gartside

Log Trim

It’s somewhat understandable to resist riding one, because let’s face it, an overwhelming percentage of bigger sticks are owned by people who occasionally put their leash on the wrong leg. But that doesn’t mean that noseriding, cross-stepping, drop-knee turns, and stylish trim, aren’t timeless skills.
Those of us who primarily ride shortboards spend the majority of our time trying to generate momentum – pumping, gyrating and wiggling to go faster. Hence, the sensation of attaining greater speed by merely shifting our weight is a novel one.
“It’s all positioning, knowing when there’s a section in front of you, and seeing how the wave is drawing off the bottom. Depending on how strong that rising feeling is, you adjust your positioning so that your board will draw the perfect line across the oncoming wall,” says the extremely versatile DIY hero, and award winning documentarian, Cyrus Sutton, “Sometimes it’s a shift forward, sometimes it’s a shift back, and usually a shift to your heels to counteract the rising inertia of the waves as it stands up.”


Ryan Burch- king of the stylish trim. Photo James Parry

Hooting Your Friend Into a Wave

Yes, surfing is, at its core, an individual sport, bordering on selfish. We evaluate our performance by how many waves we get and how well we ride them, yet waves are a somewhat limited resource. But like unconditional love for your own family, sometimes that “Yeeeeoooooowww,” from the shoulder is all your mate needs to give one more stroke.
“Some surfers have learned that surfing, like life, is improved when shared with special people,” explains psychologist, Bill ‘Doc,’ Rosenblatt, who was recently invited to the Legends Surf Classic in Rincon, Puerto Rico.
“To get to the level of surfing where you are capable of getting a good wave requires commitment. Life is better when we surf and few clear minded surfers would argue that a session alone is better than a session with someone to share the experience with.”
Unless your friend is on a SUP. Don’t encourage that shite.


Devon Howard on the nose. Photo by James Parry

Bottom Turn

A good bottom turn is a thing of beauty. This simple arc is among the most basic things in all of surfing. So why do we value it so much? It could be that like pitching barrels or rippable lines, we don’t get the opportunity to do this one all the time.
For most of us, the majority of the waves we catch, are not ideal. More often than not, we are taking some kind of angle into the face of a wave to either beat the section of a closed out wave, or to generate immediate speed on a lackluster face.
Bottom turns slow you down, but therein lies the beauty. When taking off on a wave that has enough juice and shape, we can afford to go straight to the bottom. We can lift that inside rail, stomp on the tail and use that force to put ourselves in just the right spot. And that will never get old.


Matt Cuddihy combining function and style in the perfect bottom turn. Photo James Parry



Cover photo by Luke Gartside