One of the trickiest things to master in this wonderful world that we live in, is the rock jump. Many waves have no other entry and exit points but over the rocks, and if you want to surf, you have to negotiate them to the best of your ability.
A miss-timed rock jump can result in serious injury to body and to ego, but a perfectly timed jump can result in a dry-hair paddle out with an ear-to-ear grin. Let’s have a look at a few different scenarios to the universal quandary of the rock jump shall we?
WORDS CRAIG JARVIS PHOTOS TIM NUNN
The Slippery As All Hell Jump
Some locations have round rocks, worn smooth by millenniums of waves washing over them. These rocks often have moss or weed growing on them, as their smooth surfaces attract such algae, and they are almost impossible to walk over. Surfers slip and slide over such rocks, damaging feet and losing fins before they hit the water. The best approach for accessing the water over slippery rock, is to use one hand on the rocks as well.
Hold you board under one arm, and use your free hand to make it a third leg, for stability, so to speak. Like a monkey who uses arms and legs similarly, with a third balancing arm you will be able to slowly traverse the rocks, and look like a primate in the process. Not going to win over any girls in bikinis, but that’s the sacrifice you will have to make.
The Big Sets Jump
Even if the rock setup isn’t too gnarly, if a surf spot is big, the consequences of a miss-timed jump of rocks can be heavy. With a big day, the jump takes a little more planning than usual. You need to watch the sets and their frequency, study the sea and work out how long it takes from the time you spot a set to the time it unloads on the jump spot.
Then mark the route you are going to take while watching. Know which rocks look stable and which might be sketchy. When you get the gap, you have to launch with full commitment. In a worst-case scenario, if it looks like you’re going to get caught, do not turn your back on the ocean. Keep going for the jump and pray you don’t get slammed.
The Quiet Spot
An interesting observation is that often when there is a bit of a tumultuous jump off on a point break or off a shelf, there is a quiet spot just around the energy point. It might be further up the point, or just behind the normal jump spot. If the energy is washing across the shoreline, it might be worth your while to walk a bit further, to see if you can find the quiet spot. You’ll be surprised how often they exist and how often people overlook them.
At certain waves around the world, Jeffreys Bay for one, there is sometimes no breaks in the sets. Whenever it looks like there might be a gap, another sneaker set arrives and smashes the shoreline. Here you have no option but to wait it out. A gap will eventually present itself.
If you get impatient and just launch, the chances are that you will get flogged, lose a fin or two, lose all your energy and have to start again anyway.
In total contradiction to the point above, sometimes you just have to take a flogging and hope that you’ll break through the lines of whitewater before you get smashed. Sometimes the sets are just not stopping, sometimes the waves are so good and uncrowded that you have to take a chance, and at other times you might be rushed for time and you have no choice but to launch.
If this is the case then remember this: a short but intense sprint-paddle and extra deep duck dives could see you through. You need to go at it with total ferocity and aggression, for as long as you can. If you make it you’ve expelled some energy but you’re out the back, and you can get your breath back.
And you looked really cool doing it, which is probably the most important fact of the lot. Looking cool.
Five Key Points
• Watch out for slippery rocks
• It’s all about the timing, timing is everything
• Watch for natural breaks in reefs
• When you commit go for it
• Sometimes you have to accept a beating
Pray You Don’t Get Slammed
Craig Jarvis knows his way around the surfing universe thanks to 10 years of independent surf travel and 10 years of surf writing. Not only has he got a
couple of books under the belt, but he also edited Zigzag surfing magazine in South Africa for five years.
This article was originally published in Wavelength issue 232. Be the first to get our articles in print and online by subscribing here.