Toes on the Nose with Mickey Muñoz

Noseriding tips from one of the all time greats!

By Bob Howard

If you're talking great noseriding, and how it's done, there's no way you can leave Mickey Muñoz out of the equation. Muñoz had the following to say when sat down with him at his home in California.

How can someone learn to noseride better?
To learn to noseride, repetition is probably the number one thing you need. Lots of time in the water. Obviously equipment has a lot to do with it, but it is so individualized and particular to a given break that it is difficult to make general statements about equipment. But there are some specific things you can do. Surf with people who are better noseriders than you are, and glean as much information as you can from them. Discuss the break and how they noseride it. Find out what they like about the board they ride there. Try their board and lots of others, and see what works best for you. Just get out there and noseride. Practice, over and over, the same maneuver until you learn that it is just plain impossible -- or until you figure it out. Repetition--it's getting out and trying. If you haven't fallen off or wiped out you haven't learned anything. Mistakes are part of learning. Repetition allows you to practice at a maneuver till you master it.

What kind of wave works best?
Beach breaks are harder to noseride than point breaks like Malibu where the waves set up and just keep going around a nice point. That is the ideal for a sustained noseride. You want a point break that has a nice constant wave of moderate speed--this is probably the easiest and best to noseride.

San Onofre is a difficult place to noseride because the waves have more slope to the face and are peaky. A wave with a more vertical face is better to ride. Doheny is a much easier place to noseride than San O.

What is noseriding?
Noseriding means different things to different people, and it is all noseriding. A cheater-five is noseriding to some people. Riding the upper third of the board is noseriding to others. I happen to have come from the old school and was brought up on Malibu. So I'm pretty spoiled when it comes to noseriding, as opposed to a peaky beach break where everything happens quickly and is over so fast. To me, Hanging Ten is noseriding and the stance is more parallel than perpendicular to the board. The advantage in being more parallel is you can control the rail to rail maneuvering to gain or lose altitude on the wave and then you can steer the board around and under sections and sustain a longer noseride, generally. You want to use a fore and aft stance, if you are in the tube. Then you can crouch down and duck through sections or accelerate and decelerate with more stability. Most things in surfing are a compromise. So you compromise or adjust your stance to best fit the situation and conditions.

Is knowing how to cross-step crucial to learning how to ride the nose?
No. But if you have learned to cross step you probably have learned to noseride by that time. If you are cross stepping, you are probably already sure of position and ability. Cross stepping commits you to an almost imbalanced situation where you are almost toying with disaster. That is part of the adrenaline rush, though--even though it is such a seemingly relaxed maneuver. It has advantages in that you can advance and retreat quicker than shuffling back and fourth Sure, shuffling is OK. You get up there, and that's what counts.. But there are times when shuffling your feet is the only thing that works, like in a more difficult and radical wave.

What about equipment?
Some boards are easier to noseride than others. Like, a single fin board is easier to noseride than a tri-fin board. Now, if you are Joel Tudor, or one of the other genius noseriders, you can noseride anything. Try all kinds. We only limit ourselves by limited thinking. But a single fin is easier to noseride than a tri-fin, which is kind of trackey. They don't allow you to steer the board from the forward part as easily. And, you want to use enough fin to keep the board in the wave. So the tail is not washing out.

What about concaves?
I have seen situations where concave noses worked best and others where a convex nose worked the best. Again, talk to good noseriders where you surf as I mentioned.

What else is really important?
The other number one thing is learning how to read the waves. When is it optimum to attempt noseriding? Again repetition is the key, and after a while reading the waves becomes second nature. You don't have to think. Picking a wave in advance, and picking a place and a time in the wave, all become more natural and easier. Malibu makes noseriding about as easy as you're going to get it. But what if you can't get to Malibu--or can't stand the crowds there? Reading the waves is looking for a part of the wave that is like Malibu, with a more vertical face, and then using that part to noseride.

You also need velocity to develop lift on the nose. Velocity and length of the wave balanced together allows longer, sustained noseriding. You want to be where the velocity of the wave matches the velocity of the board to get enough lift for noseriding.

Why noseride in the first place?
Noseriding is all about what gets you off or turns you on.

You repeatedly try for that situation and that feeling! Hanging Ten is thrilling. With toes over the end of the board--and there's nothing in front of you?!!!--it heightens the feeling of speed. I love that feeling! I think it's a wonderful feeling. And, so is doing a cheater-five inside of a barrel.

Even getting half way to the nose can be fun. It's all about what does it for you. Is it a turn on? And the closer you get, the bigger the feeling. You want more. It's like a drug. You want more of it.

What else really helps?
You have to learn how to visualize it happening, in your own mind. And of course it takes time in the water. Again, there is no substitute for time in the water. Time in the water gives you conditioning for your body, mind and reflexes. By mind I mean knowledge of when to try, and when not to try, a noseride. You can go to the gym, use a balance board, watch videos, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as pulling some warm sand up under your chin and just lying there on the beach watching a David Nuuhiwa or a Joel Tudor noseride. Visualize yourself doing those same maneuvers. See it in your mind. Then go out there and try to emulate them! And again, talking with people who are better than you really helps. Surf with people who are better noseriders

It all gets back to water time. The more time you can spend, and the closer you can get to the nose, the better you will get at doing it.

A Brief Biography of Mickey Muñoz
     -- First stand-up surfing 1947.
     -- Glued fin to paddleboard 1948.
     -- Started surfing Malibu in winter of 1950, on an 8'10 balsa, a Joe Quigg personal board he           bought.
     -- AAU competitive swimmer.
     -- Surfed Malibu through the 50s and into early 60s.
     -- One of a handful of surfers to ride Waimea Bay the first time in 1957.
     -- Winner of first Tom Morey Noseriding Contest, 1965. (Mike Hynson placed second and           Skip Frye placed third.)
     -- Designer/shaper noseriding boards for Hobie.
      -- Contributor to Hobie Cat sailboat design.
     -- Sailboat designer.