"When you're in the pit of a monster wave looking up at a vicious lip feathering ominously, this will be the only set of skills you wished you knew!" 

Glyn Brackenbury, England Team Rider and Coach


People often assume that exiting a wave is simple, "You just get off". This statement is perfectly true, if you assume that surfing is just "doing some turns". The ways outlined below make getting off the wave infinitely easier, less painful and more skilful.

One of the essential skills in exiting a wave is actually to do with your wave selection. This is a whole new page but, put simply, if you select the right kind of waves, i.e. ones with an obvious shoulder and aren't closing out, then exiting is simple. Think about the type of waves you ride: 

  • Where are you riding in relation to the shoulder?
  • When you paddle for the wave to take off can you see an exit?
  • Is it going to close out?
  • How long is the wave staying green for?

Start getting used to asking yourself these questions before, during, and after your sessions, and you'll find it easier to exit from the wave.

Dan Green needing an exit. Santa Cruz Portugal 

The White Water Exit

This exit is really commonly used and is normally the first exit we learn, given that our first waves are normally broken ones. The ability to do this exit well can seriously reduce the chances of a long hard paddle out against the white water. Core principles for this exit are:

  • Always turn towards where the wave broke first.
  • If the boat is pointing to the right exit to the left and vice versa.
  • The more perpendicular to the wave you can get your boat the easier the exit is.

Sequence below shows the set up for an exit.

  • The rider has been riding right and the wave has closed out in front of him so the boat has been straightened out, as in the cut and run exit explained below.
  • The exit begins. Once the boat has surfed out in front of the white water, turn the boat back towards where the wave broke first. Leaving the turn late allows the rider to get the boat more perpendicular to the wave.
  • Continue with the turn maintaining as much speed as possible. 
  • You can clearly see the benefit of turning back towards where the wave broke first. If the rider had continued to the right the exit would have been impossible. 

If the boat is being held by the wave in a sideways surf don't try to exit in the direction you are currently facing, it's much easier if you carve around 180 degrees and surf out using the speed you've just generated with your carve. The most important aspect of this is to get the boat pointing straight at the beach so you surf out in front of the wave, then carve the boat round for the exit. As shown in the sequence below.

  • Boat straightened out in front of the wave.
  •  Big bottom turn initiated.
  • As the nose of the boat hits the white water, the weight is thrown forwards to punch through the break.
  •  Finish off with a sprint to clear the break.

The Clean Exit

This would be the type of exit you would always choose to use. It requires you to be in the right place on the wave arriving at the right time. These exits become second nature as your riding progresses. The sequence below shows the rider simply surfing out the back of a green unbroken section of wave.

  • Coming out of the Bottom turn, but instead of neutralising the edge, it remains engaged to continue the turning arc of the boat. Notice where the rider is looking.
  • Continue the turn towards the lip. The body weight remains neutral and upright, with the paddle in a dynamic braced position. 
  • Arrive at the lip, maintaining the brace position should it be required. Look over the  back of the wave which will maintain a good body position.
  •  Up and over the back of the wave, prior to it breaking. Practically keeping your hair dry!

The Late Clean Exit

The following sequence shows the same skill, but the wave size has been amplified significantly resulting in the timing being later. The core skills remain the same with a slight tweak at the end to ensure the escape to victory!  

  • Coming out of the bottom turn deep at the base of the wave. 
  • Body weight forwards to maintain as much speed as possible and boat angled toward the lip, maintaining the arc of the turn.  
  • Given the lip is about to throw over, the rider has put in a large beachside power stroke. This serves two purposes: firstly it helps the boat accelerate towards the lip at a time when the boat will be slowing rapidly, and secondly, it turns the boat towards the wave encouraging it to exit earlier. 
  • Through the lip and safely out the back, the timing of this exit could not have been left any later! 

The Punch Out

The punch out is a really useful technique when you don't have sufficient time to exit over the top of the wave. It can be achieved on almost any type of wave, however it's generally avoided when the wave height exceeds 10 foot! In situations like that you would be more inclined to use the cut and run as outlined below.

  • Coming out of a hard bottom turn, notice the upper body twisting and leaning to gain the maximum amount of turn from the boat. 
  • Lean forwards, and try to tuck the paddle close to the body, lengthways to the boat - as if you were setting up for a roll. This wil help the boat punch through the wall unimpeded. 
  • As you pass through the wall, using the front paddle blade, take as large a sweep as you can to pull you through the wall - this is the same technique as in the late clean exit, just this time you're underwater! As you make this stroke, transfer your weight from front to back to further push the boat through. 
  • As you come out the other side, flatten the boat off and do some sharp sprint strokes to move yourself away from the back of the wave. 

The Cut & Run 

It's not always possible to use one of the exits listed above. It could be that the wave suddenly and unexpectedly jacks up, not leaving you enough time to exit via the top of the wave. It could be that you're not carrying enough speed to be able to do a punch out. It could be you're just terrified of the wave! It's these types of scenarios where you would use the cut & run. Not strictly an exit, it allows the rider to manage the impact zone to make exiting the wave infinitely easier.

  • Rider engaging a bottom turn, looking down the line at what the wave is likely to do ahead of him. 
  • Edge neutralised once you realise you won't be able to reach the lip of the wave in time. 
  • Leaving the turn until the last possible moment, in case it's possible to go round the section and continue riding the wave. 
  • Nowhere to run! Turn engaged to move the boat away from the wave. You need to get the boat pointing straight at the beach, this allows the wave to explode behind you. Once the wave has broken you can get off it using a white white water exit.

When it all goes wrong!

2011 British Champion, Glyn Brackenbury leaves it too late for a clean exit, with expensive consequences! Photo sequence shot by Pete Copp.









This page has been possible through the kind donations of:

Lucy O'Brien

David Agnew

Denzil Pearce

Jack Barker

Thank you

This page was suggested by:

Lucy O'Brien


Photos by

Pete Copp

John Watson