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Line literacy.

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Line literacy separates competent surfers from those whohave all but become surfing.

…Dane Reynolds using every scrap of the buffalo as he intentionally goes right on a left, decimates the oncoming lip, then shows that it was all mere prelude for a mirror-image touch of ultraviolence on the now-encroaching right.

…Skip Frye mowing across 50 yards of foam seam, stock still, perfectly timing an upcoming reform only he could have seen coming.

…Koa Smith lining up eight tube rides on the same wave at Skeleton Bay.

…Derek Hynd’s use of an “oversized” Parrish gun’s gearbox to deal with J-Bay’s sectional speed variances.

These examples leverage name brands who have used athletic prowess to earn their bread, but feel free to scale it down—or up, depending on the import you place on star power.

Conjure instead, if you will, an unknown local master with time-honed, effortless spot mastery. A surfer who knows when to fade, when to stall, how to time a double-up section. It goes well beyond just looking for lips to hit or ramps to measure. It’s holistic, and leads to the house of flow.

It comes down to time at the helm, but line literacy is about creative awareness, knowing that there are opportunities afoot, and making sure one is open-minded enough to use them to one’s advantage.

In the hoary beginnings, the focus was on length of ride. This point-A-to-point-B approach initially favored sheer waterline.

Think Duke Kahanamoku’s Castle Surf ride on his 16-foot finless from out near the Steamer Lane until his eventual sand step-off near Canoe Surf.

We’ve since discovered that small planing craft can cover almost as much water as their lengthy uncles. Line literacy is equipment agnostic. It requires only a shift in one’s performance metric. The old longboard waddies in the 60s had a maxim for this: “Utilize it.”

With an achievable timeline and some good reads, your line choices can come to define you. Your signature, rough as it may seem, realized.

[Feature image by Kevin Voegtlin]