(June 28, 2019) I offer surf lessons at the shop. It’s pretty low key and done upon request and by appointment.
The only visible evidence is a small sign hung out front combined with some other services as in “rentals, lessons and repairs.”
My good-hearted wife recently surprised me with a well-done book from the library entitled, “Secrets to Progressive Surfing,” by Didier Piter with photography by Bernard Testemale.
In her quest for reading material, she’ll often bring home something that she feels will interest me.
In the first section or chapter of the book there is a segment called understanding the spot.
Surf spots are areas where waves are known to break and will frequently be tagged with names such as North Side or 48th Street or Secret Spot or even Punta Dalkiewicz!
Understanding the spot reminded me of a surf lesson. The first portion of a lesson will be an emphasis on observing the conditions that are presented.
The ocean is an ever-changing entity and there are many and various reasons why waves will break the way that they do.
Granted, there is no substitute for time spent in the water, but a bit of time devoted to studying the area around which the budding surfer is to enter can pay rich rewards in return.
In this immediate locale, all of the surf breaks are due to collected sand on the bottom and is known as beach break.
This collected sand can be augmented by piers, groins, jetties and inlets and is constantly changing.
Sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, just as the wind changes the complexion of the sand on the beach the movement of the water will change the sand on the bottom of the ocean near the shoreline.
Many factors will be involved with how and why waves break.
Swell direction, swell intensity, tide, both high, low and levels of each, amount of drift with the accompanying swell all will affect how the waves break.
These issues and more will directly influence a surf session and should be observed and studied.
In other areas which are subject to different bottoms and particular indigenous topography, rock and coral reef on the bottom will become a huge factor. Staying off the bottom will be particularly important in areas such as these.
In some of my experiences, Northern California comes to mind. That part of the West Coast of the United States is known for its redwood trees, some of which can be huge.
At this one particular surf break I had to be aware of various stumps and large pieces of redwood littering the beach.
Damage to a surfboard would be bad enough, never mind to body parts or even worse to get hit in the head and knocked out. Thus, the point of study and observation.
A surfer can become so enthused and excited that any period of time spent in just looking can seem to be a waste.
This book that I’ve mentioned speaks of a rule of three. For every foot of wave height spend three minutes in observation.
If it’s three feet spend nine minutes. If it’s 10 feet spend 30 minutes or there abouts, and so on.
If it’s 20 feet spend an hour and then maybe decide to not go out.
This time spent will not only help in the realm of safety but will also enhance the session with more quality time spent on the water. More and better waves ridden with less energy expended.
A healthy fear of the water is good but a profound respect is essential.
— Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in Ocean City.