I’ve been thinking about this some more since writing this tip and have a couple more things that might help. The advice I gave is good for when you want to try and get over the white water, but what about when it’s to big and you can’t. I basically have three options to choose from. Options one and two are the ones I use the most.
Option one, approach the wave as if you were going to try and get over it, but at the last moment before impact prepare to shoot the board up and over the white water. Just as the wave is about to hit, shoot the board over it by leaning back and jetting the board forward. If it is a longer board you may need to take an extra step on the way out the back. Make sure you shoot the board with an upward projection so that it doesn’t come straight back into you. The whole purpose of this technique is to get the board over the white water so that it doesn’t pull so much with the leash and potentially take somebody out that is behind you. Of course your sacrificing yourself a little, but at this point it’s about damage control. Remember after shooting the board, get yourself down underwater in case the board decides to come back with the white water.
Next option, and perhaps the most challenging. If you are from the old windsurf days you’ll remember a move we called a “chicken jibe”. It starts with a quick turn around so that your pointed in. Next, you start paddling hard for the shore and finally just before the wave overtakes you, get down low into your surfing stance. Favor your weight forward, so that as the wave hits and tries to knock you back, you’ll be better prepared for impact. Have the paddle on your front side and stick it back into the white water, this will enable you to pry against it for leverage to help keep you up. The goal of this technique is to catch the white water, as opposed to getting run over by it. After some practice you’ll be surprised with how big of a white water you can catch.
The last option is perhaps the easiest to execute. Abandon ship! I’ll only use this when I know I’m not endangering anybody inside of me and when the wave is so large, all bets are off.
One final tip is to keep your eyes open if possible and the water is somewhat clear. This way you may be able to swim yourself up in between the boils coming down at you.