Why Do Surfers Touch The Wave?

Why do surfers touch the wave in a barrel?

Ah, the coveted barrel, the holy grail of surfing. As a surfer drops down the face of the wave and enters the tube, time seems to slow down and everything else fades away.

And just as they’re about to disappear into the wave’s depths, they reach out and touch the wall of water.

It’s like they’re sealing the deal on the perfect ride, or maybe giving the wave a little pat on the back for being so kind.

But have you ever wondered why surfers touch the wave when they are inside a barrel? It may seem like a strange thing to do but there is actually an important reason for it.

You would be surprised but for experienced surfers, touching the wave can mean the difference between a great ride and wiping out!

Read on as we’ll dive into the reasons behind this wave-touching phenomenon.

Why Do Surfers Drag Their Hand In The Wave

If you had the chance to watch barrels at your local spot or just online, you must have seen this phenomenon of surfers touching the wave.

Contrary to what some people might think, this act is not a show-off, in fact, touching the wave is an integral part of a surfing technique as it helps surfers maintain their balance and gives them better control over their ride.

And yes, of course, it looks gnarly as hell.

How Touching The Wave Helps Surfers

When it comes to surfing, it’s all about style and control. And what better way to achieve both than by touching the wave? This is how touching the wave actually benefits surfers:

Speed Control

First and foremost, touching the wave helps surfers to control their speed over the wave.

By slightly dragging their hand against the wall of water, they create friction that slows them down and helps them stay inside the barrel longer.

This allows them to make small adjustments in their positioning and keep themselves stable while riding the wave.

Lower Center Of Gravity

Touching the wave also helps surfers to stay in control and by reaching out and making contact with the wave, you’ll naturally lower your body position on your board and maintain a lower center of gravity.

By slightly crouching and dragging your hand along the wave’s wall, you effectively shift the balance point of their body and keep yourself more stable on your board.

At the same time, surfers also get a better sense of their balance so that they can avoid losing it and taking a wipeout.

This can be especially important when surfing big waves or in powerful ocean currents that are more difficult to predict.

Feedback With Feelings

The act of touching the wave also allows surfers to “feel” the wave, giving them a better idea of how it is going to move and break.

Therefore, touching the wave provides surfers with feedback. When a surfer is in the tube, they can’t see what’s outside and all their focus is on riding the wave.

By lightly reaching out and feeling the wall of water as they travel through it, they get an idea of where they are in relation to the lip and how close they are to coming out of the barrel.

This small action gives them time to adjust their position accordingly, allowing for a smoother exit from the tube and more control over their ride.


Touching the wave can also help surfers with their timing as they navigate their way through barrels.

By lightly touching the face of the wave, a surfer can use this as an anchor to keep them in control and help them time their maneuvers perfectly.

This makes it easier for them to carve through turns, mostly to perform bottom turns or aerials.

And as any surfer knows, the bottom turn is the backbone of great surfing – it’s the cornerstone of all successful rides and sets the stage for the rest of the wave.

This will also help you turn harder and faster, sending you back up the wave face on a more vertical trajectory.

When executed correctly, it can provide the speed and power needed to make the most of the wave.

On the other hand, if it’s not executed well, it can mean the difference between a great ride and a wipeout.


Finally, reaching out and touching the wave looks pretty cool too, no wonder you have a this pictured in your head and recognize it so well.

To be honest, there is no denying that this simple action can look rather impressive and adds a unique aesthetic to the whole surfing experience.

Not only does it demonstrate a surfer’s skill and control over their board, but it adds an extra layer of style to each ride – making every session look that much cooler when viewed from shore or on video.

And of course, with some spiritual touch added, this can also be considered as a farewell gesture and appreciating nature for the amazing ride.


Touching the wave is gnarly, no doubt about that, it looks pretty badass, adding an extra layer of coolness to each ride.

But the next time you see a surfer reach out and touch that wave while in a barrel, don’t think they’re just showing off.

They’re actually using this technique to improve their ride. Touching the wave helps surfers to slow down and control their speed, maintain position, feel the wave and carry out their maneuvers correctly.

So the next time you go surfing, try reaching out and touching the wave – you might be surprised at how much difference it can make to your ride