How to Get Barrelled


Whether it’s in the heaving beach break barrels of Hossegor or a South Pacific reef pass, Ace Buchan has built himself a reputation for his prowess in the tube. Here, Ace gives us the ins and outs of the, err, in and out.

Confidence. More than anything, more than what board you ride or what kind of peak you’re surfing or anything like that, getting barreled is all about confidence. You’ll see a lot of surfers out there who really may not be all that talented on the open face, but if you put them in heaving barrels, they’ll really shine. And I think that’s all about their confidence. The number-one thing you can do to become a better tube rider is believe that you’re gonna make the tube. We’ll talk about the details behind the technique in a second, but for anyone reading this, keep in mind that at the end of the day, it’s all about confidence.

Board Choice. For the most part, I’ll ride my regular-sized shortboard in barreling waves, but with a rounded tail to get a little more drive. If the waves get above the 6-foot mark, I’ll go up an inch or two on my board. I’ve been experimenting with quads a bit in really heavy tubes and they seem to go pretty well. But for the most part, for your average surfer, a regular shortboard with a rounded tail should do the trick.

Draw the Right Line. Once you’ve dropped into a wave and you can begin seeing it start to barrel ahead of you, it’s easy to make one of two mistakes: you can either draw too high of a line and end up getting pitched over with the lip, or you can draw too low of a line and take a lip to the head. The trick to this—and I’ll be honest, even the best guys make these mistakes—is understanding just how the wave is gonna barrel. That just comes with time studying a particular lineup. If you’re not really familiar with a lineup, sit on the beach and study the barrels. If they’re a little more almond-shaped, you’ll want to take a high line. If they’re top to bottom, you can get away with taking a lower line.

Stall. Stalling for the tube is one of the most important elements you can master to become a better tube rider. I actually try and not stall if I can avoid it. I like to position myself behind the peak enough where I can either backdoor it or drop right into it. But sometimes, you’ll have to stall. There’s no real right or wrong way to do it, just as long as you’re dropping speed. There’s the single-hand drag where you drag your inside arm in the wave’s face. You can also do the two-handed stall for a little extra style points. There’s also the snap-stall that Tom Carroll mastered in heavy waves. It’s basically a small snap under the lip that puts you right in the tube. All in all, I don’t think there’s one way that’s better than the other, as long as you’re cutting your speed and staying in the pocket, you’re doing something right.

Hold On. You’ll see a lot of people pull into waves and write themselves off earlier than they should. Always try and hold on for that extra second. You never know when the wave will open up again. Plus, it’s good to get comfortable with the foam ball. You’ll realize pretty quickly that you can still navigate through a tube with the foam ball on your tail. Trust me, it’s all worth it. When you make it through that one tube that you thought was gonna close out on you—well, that’s just about the best feeling you can get in surfing.

Eject. There does come a point when you’re in the barrel and you know that it’s gonna close out. Although there are a few different ways that you can eject from a tube, the number one thing to keep in mind is that you want to get your board as far away from you as possible. Some guys will kick their board out in front of them, but I like to jump forward. Either way, just get the board away from you.

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