Making the leap from an intermediate surfer who can catch waves on their own, cleanly ride down the line, and turn, to an advanced surfer who is comfortable in most conditions, can ride a variety of boards, and maneuver with ease on the waves face, is one of the most difficult transitions to make in surfing. The instructors and guides at our Nosara surf school, Safari Surf School, want to make that transition as seamless as possible, so we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help intermediate surfers progress in the water. While there’s no replacement for time in the water, these tips are a step in the right direction for intermediate surfers looking to improve. To learn Tips for Intermediate Surfers from Our Nosara Surf School, continue reading below.
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Spend adequate time on each board length

Just like beginner surfers often want to ride shorter boards than their skill level requires, intermediate surfers tend to want to do the same. Surfers are drawn to boards they see pros riding, even though the dimensions aren’t conducive to progression. For intermediate surfers, even those already riding shortboards, volume and length are vital board components to consider when choosing a board. The more volume a board has, the more it floats. The more a board floats, the easier it will be to paddle and catch waves. There are a variety of high-volume short boards on the market. Fortunately for intermediate surfers, the current trend in board design is shorter high volume boards versus the longer, thinner, more leaned-out boards of the last two decades. The knowledgeable guides and instructors at our Nosara surf school will make sure you’re riding the correct board for your skill level.
Look down the line while riding
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We mentioned this tip in our recent post about beginner surf mistakes. Not looking down the line is an issue that plagues intermediate surfers as well. For most intermediate surfers, it’s easy to ride effectively down the line going front side, but riding backside is a different story. Fortunately, the same principles apply. Your body and board will follow the direction your head turns. To ride backside effectively, you’ll need to exaggerate that turn by turning your shoulders down the line. Once your shoulders are squared up facing down the line, you’ll be cruising down an open-faced back side wave.
Generate speed with your whole body
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To successfully bridge the gap between intermediate and advanced surfing, you’ll need to learn to generate speed effectively on a wave’s face. On a shortboard, this is done by pumping. At our Nosara surf school, we see a lot of surfers pumping down the line, only using their front foot to control the board. To generate the most speed possible, utilize your whole body. As you drop down the wave’s face, lean into the wave and elongate your body towards the top of the wave, throwing your arms forward as you do. This motion will naturally change your momentum upwards. As you reach the top of the wave’s face, compress your body and put pressure on your front foot to move down the wave, and gravity will do the rest. Use the whole face of the wave to move, but don’t venture too far down into the flats and lose your momentum. Pumping is all about finding speed along the wave’s face to reposition yourself in the pocket or set up a maneuver.
Surf from rail to rail
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As you pump, you’ll want to use your rails (the sides of the board) to give you hold and release on the faces of the wave. As your rising up the wave, engage your inside rail into the waves face. As you drop, release your inside rail and use that downward pressure on your front foot to engage your outside rail.
Lead your turns
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In surfing, turning is a stylish way to get you back in the pocket (the most powerful part of the way). If you watch an advanced surfer turn, you’ll see that they begin their turn with their front hand and then follow through with their shoulders, head, and hips. As we mentioned above, where your head and shoulders go, your hips and body will follow.
If you feel like you’re an intermediate surfer and want to continue your progression under the watchful guidance of our world-class surf coaches at our Nosara surf school, head to our website to book your stay and lessons. If you’re interested in booking a guided surf tour, check out Safari Surf Adventures!