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Best Online Surf Training: How OMBE Rocked My Surf Life

Best Online Surf Training: How OMBE Rocked My Surf Life

I’ve been surfing for a couple decades but in spite of some glorious waves and stories, I must admit I’m a pretty average surfer.

This gets confirmed when I see small groms flying over the waves looking like Kelly Slater.

Back when I started, there were no surf schools or coaches where I lived, only a small group of experienced (and unwelcoming) surfers who rarely shared their knowledge – in fact, most of them would have been hard-pressed explaining any of the things they did that made their surfing great.

So we newbies just grabbed the smallest surfboards around (smaller was cool), rushed into the breaks, and tried to catch waves any way we could.

Fast forward many years, many of us are still stuck with the same style, making the same mistakes over and over amidst a fast-growing crowd of newer surfers who learned to surf through schools and coaching, or sometimes Youtube.

When I heard about online surf training programs, I thought I’d take a look. I was skeptical though: how could someone teach you to surf online? let alone for an already experienced surfer like me.

Turns out enrolling in OMBE is the best thing I’ve done for my surfing. The program really astonishes me with the quality and effectiveness of the content. Doing the training in the way it’s designed is giving me incredible value, equivalent – or better – to a real-life coach.

OMBE draws on Clayton Nienaber’s long experience as a professional surfer, surf coach, and shaper. The learning paths are very well structured and progressive. There’s a fine mix of land/water/surf skate drills, video analysis, and just enough theory. The pedagogical approach is very effective.

If seasoned surfers like me draw value from this program, I can imagine how valuable it must be for newer surfers – I also went through a lot of the beginner pathway to re-assess the foundations of my surfing.

OMBE has 14-day free trial that gives you access to their whole library. Read-on for an in-depth look at their extensive surf training content.

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Key takeaways

Training materialTeaching surfing isn’t easy – let alone online. OMBE has byte-size videos with highly actionable concepts and drills based on years of coaching experience
ProgressivityThe courses are well- designed and well-structured, they take you from your current level to the next in a natural and intuitive way
Content quality The videos are professional grade with a nice mix of well-edited talking videos and on-point surfing footage in beautiful waves and locations.
OrganizationWhile there are hundreds of videos, the library does not feel overwhelming and is organized in a way that content is easily found and consumed
Team personalityClayton and Anthony are charismatic and friendly hosts with very personable characters. You quickly feel like you’ve known them for a long time.
InteractivityThe coaching feedback sessions, the comments under the videos, and the emails with advice you get make the program feel quite interactive.
Value for money Compared to other courses, the subscription price is on the high end. Once you start going through the courses though, it’s worth the price
Other remarksIt would be great to have cheaper plans giving you access to a subset of the content e.g. the surf skate training courses only (for non-surfers)

Why I chose the OMBE surf training program

Yours truly – intermediate surfer 🙁

I looked at a few online surf training programs and ended up selecting two of them for testing: Surf Strength Coach and OMBE. The two programs have a lot of concepts and techniques in common as Cris Mills and Clayton Nienaber collaborated on many aspects.

Surf Strength Coach, however, has a very strong focus and a lot of content on the fitness aspects of surfing, including strength and mobility body conditioning, breathing, and nutrition – resulting from Cris Mill’s therapist background.

SSCoach has tons of content (hours of videos) with in-depth physical and nutrition training content in addition to core surfing techniques. If you’re looking to improve your fitness for surfing, SSCoach has amazing value for the money.

OMBE, on the other hand, is 100% focused on surf coaching. It assumes you have a decent enough fitness level for surfing and doesn’t include any fitness and conditioning content. As a result it seems to have a lot less video content (in terms of hours) than SSCoach (just my impression, I may be wrong).

One thing I really liked about OMBE is that you immediately get a clear feel of what’s in there in terms of content. There’s a single catalog page with a manageable number of entry points. After you sign up, you’re guided to the best start for you – the emails are very helpful.

The second thing that made me want to stick around and explore more is the bite-size videos. Most of the videos are less than 3 minutes in length, so you just want to click to the next one even if you hadn’t planned to do so at this particular time.

Last but not least, the content itself. I got hooked right from the first video. Each video is short and to the point, no fluff. Most importantly, the teaching is very progressive and builds off simple but powerful concepts, that are then put in practice in very smart ways: land drills, surf skate, and video analysis.

Is OMBE for me?

If you’re a complete newbie and want to start surfing, OMBE is a good option. The Beginners Pathway program teaches you the basics very effectively, including: etiquette, stance, paddling, sitting, understanding waves, popping up, posture, hand-eye coordination, turning.

If you’re an intermediate surfer (like me), the Intermediate Pathway is your best bet. I’m finding gold in that training, and redefining the way I surf. Feels like a new start – when I thought I’d missed the train for being a GOOD surfer.

If you’re a skateboarder/longboarder and feel attracted to surfing, the surf skate training programs will give you a fantastic transition into surfing, even if you’re landlocked or have little access to waves. I’ve been watching these courses, they are great for practicing my surfing on land.

Who’s teaching you surfing here?

Clayton Neinaber, OMBE’s co-founder and head coach, has been a professional in surfing for 30 years. He was once a World Surf League / WQS competitor.

He worked as a high-performance surf coach for over 15 years, coaching some of the best surfers in the world including WCT surfers like Travis Logie, Ricky Basnett and Jordy Smith. He trained the South African National Team as well as countless regular surfers.

Clayton is a Qualified ISA Level 2 Coach and Qualified Surfing Judge. He’s also a recognized professional surfboard shaper with his Clayton Surfboards brand.

To me, all this experience in surfing, surf coaching, and board making is what translates into so much value in the OMBE training videos as well as the video coaching and feedback the program offers as part of the membership.

Clayton is the main reason behind the invaluable advice I get from the training, the kind of coaching I’ve never had access to locally.

His co-presenter Anthony Lane, who defines himself as an intermediate surfer, also adds good value in the videos by adding structure to the content, asking all the right questions, and actually demoing the techniques on land and in the water. He’s a jolly and entertaining co-host for a lot of he videos, including feedback sessions.

How OMBE changes your surfing life

To me, OMBE is the surf training program that has put the most analysis in its training. Clayton has nicely decomposed and reverse engineered the posture and movements the best surfers on the planet use, as well as the bad habits shared by dozens of average surfers.

Like he explains, there is very little good information out there on how to improve your surfing – in contrast to something like golf for which there’s endless information and coaching.

Many surf schools I’ve seen don’t have the knowledge and experience (or willingness) to actually teach you how to be a good surfer. Some local coaches may provide some helpful bits and pieces of advice but few have a truly clear analytical understanding of the movement.

Most surfers like me are compounding their bad habits over time, making them worse, completely unaware of them. Most surfers blindly watch surfing and don’t understand how things are done.

OMBE’s systematic decomposition of surfing movement, and the guidance and drills found in the videos, is fundamentally changing the way I move.

As mentioned in the videos, a boxer or a golfer will practice their moves endlessly before actually getting into a fight or a golf contest. We surfers, in contrast, only get a few seconds or minutes on waves. So we need alternative ways to practice the movements over and over again. Clayton’s Cardboard Surfer method and surf skate training are his answer to this problem.

Solid building blocks for board riding

What mostly appeals to me in the OMBE training is that everything builds around a few core foundational concepts and skills – as opposed to a broad range of different skills randomly put together as is often the case in training programs in any domain.

These key concepts apply to posture and movement in surfing (and surf skate):

  • Stacking
  • Front-on
  • Coffee cup
  • Lunging (comp/decom)

Stacking refers to aligning the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders to achieve optimal balance and rotational mobility, as opposed to getting in a squat position with your back bent at the hips. This is a core requirement for improving your surfing.

Front-on refers to the direction your shoulders and upper body are facing when you’re riding the wave. This is as opposed to riding “side-on” – feet perpendicular to the deck, shoulders parallel to it, rear hand behind you. Realizing the need to go front-on was the single biggest aha moment for me.

The coffee cup concept was another groundbreaking learning tool for me. It takes the front-on idea one step further by teaching you to keep your rearm arm in front of you as if holding a cup of coffee at all times. Raising, lowering, and passing the coffee cup guide your upper body position for speed and turns.

Lunging is the primary movement you need to use for getting low on your board when riding front-on – as opposed to squatting sideways. Lunging allows you to load up and then offload weight in order to gain speed.

All the training material build on top of these core concepts, including the Beginner and Intermediate pathways, the surf skate courses, and the video coaching. Not only does this give the training a very cohesive unity, it helps you improve a lot faster by focusing on a few key skills again and again.

This reminds me of a self-defense training course I watched which focuses on teaching you only 10 effective techniques. The reasoning is that in real situations, your brain will typically be paralyzed by stress and adrenaline, so you should rely on a few simple skills that you’ve repeated over and over.

The training content

Again, the OMBE library is a very cohesive and intuitive body of knowledge for the learner. The OMBE philosophy isn’t just some nice-sounding theoretical layer created after the fact. It’s true pedagogy based on solid surfing and coaching experience.

The OMBE method

The OMBE method course module is quite rich with 39 videos, albeit many short ones. I took a look out of curiosity, expecting to find general surfing pep talk and hype about the OMBE trainings. But once again, I got hooked up and ended up watching all the videos in one run.

In the course, Clayton goes in great depth in the process of how people learn surfing. He explains how natural, every day movements can be applied to surfing, and how stress is the main hurdle. This is all backed by deep experience and with very compelling video excerpts. Again, no BS.

But one of the highlights of this module for me was the difference in the lines chosen by beginner vs intermediate vs advanced surfers on a wave, and the mental reasons behind them. This greatly helped me understand why I lose my speed on the wave and struggle to get it back.

Everything he describes and explains maps out very tightly to my own experience as an average surfer.

This module zeroes in on a clear overarching objective: changing your line. All the concepts and techniques (see previous section) in the trainings will converge toward this goal.

Core learning paths

The heat of the training content is organized in two core learning paths which are step-by-step training programs you follow along with each week: the “Surf Start” 6-week beginners path, and the “Surf Smart” 12-week intermediate path.

The two paths build upon a common set of fundamental skills and techniques, each at a different level. This is quite comforting for the learner, as you know you’re going in a single clear direction.

With these 2 learning paths, OMBE pretty much plotted every single thing you will need to master in order to become a much better surfer.

Beginners path

The Beginners path zooms in on the main paint points beginners struggle with: catching a wave, popping up, balancing while following the wave.

The module goes into pre-surf aspects including choice of beach, etiquette, fitness and safety, and gear. Then it introduces the skills needed for catching waves. Each skill is reinforced with land-based drills.

The course drills down in some depth into essential paddling, popup, and stance skills with effective and repeatable land-based drills and techniques. It focuses on hand-eye coordination, turning, and dealing with fear and stress.

It also introduces the “coffee cup” concept that will be significantly honed in in the more advanced modules.

Intermediate path

The Intermediate path starts with crucial knowledge about the wave and its power zones, and the way the surfboard interacts with it. It explores fundamental surf stance aspects with highly-targeted drills using a bosu ball as well as water-based exercises.

The course path goes deep into positioning and paddling, pop/walk-up, front-on surfing, turning and coordination. Speed generation is also an important aspect of this course, through the innovative Cardboard Surfer land-based method for learning to compress and extend.

The learner is introduced to surfing efficiency, rail surfing, top-to-bottom and flowy surfing, with skills that are once again put in practice with land, water, and surf skate drills.

One of the key takeaways from this content is how intermediate surfers like me tend to get too much speed initially (usually on a fast surfboard) and rush away from the energy zone, then go into body twisting to try to keep speed and get back to the power zone.

Surf skate courses

The Surf Skate Foundations course is a land-based training that also revolves on the fundamental skills I mentioned earlier – stacking, front-on riding, lunging, coffee cup.

It’s a very good way of learning these core skills without being distracted by all the moving parts of surfing in the ocean.

For complete beginners in surfing, I would highly recommend starting with this course as it provides a solid basis to board riding. The core concepts and techniques are a lot easier to understand and apply first on a skateboard vs in the ocean.

The Advanced Surf Skate module builds on top of the Foundations course, taking the skills from flat land to the skate bowl, thus emulating the top-to-bottom, 3D motion on a wave. It also introduces you to picking the right line and explores this crucial aspect of surfing in a concrete (pun intended) manner.

The course uses the core concepts of coffee cup and “spinal engine” to learn vertical surfing and effective turning in the bowl – and hence on a wave.

The Surf Skate challenge is a complete live surf skate coaching session that also takes you from flat land skating all the way into the bowl. You watch Clayton coach Anthony from start to finish, bringing significant value for the learner.

Overall, I find great value in the surf skate content, especially due to the fact that the same core concepts and techniques as the water-based content are used and applied. Repetition and practice in different environments really helps build understanding and muscle memory.

Zoom-in courses

Besides the core stuff, the OMBE library also includes courses that deep dive on essential skills and techniques. For example, the Pick The Right Line course helps you understand the biggest mistakes beginners and advanced surfers repeatedly make in terms of the path they take on the wave.

The course goes into an in-depth discussion of surf lines and provides land and water-based drills to help you level up this crucial aspect of your surfing.

Other course modules zoom in on functional aspects such as the pop up, the bottom turn, or speed generation and control. The modules are a mix of new information and discussions, relevant bits and pieces from core courses, as well as relevant content from feedback sessions.

Here again, what I really like about these modules is that they use the same global pool of core techniques to help you achieve a specific goal, everything is tightly connected.

Pick The Right Line, for example, uses footage from the surf skate training that also shows the front-on and coffee cup techniques well-applied. Another example is the Speed Generation module which uses bosu ball, coffee cup, and “compress and extend” drills learnt in the main learning paths.

The Get The Right Surfboard course draws upon Clayton’s 20-year expertise as a surfboard shaper. It goes over the fundamentals of board design, shape, and function, and how they relate to your skill level. Had I had watched this course years ago, I would have picked very different surfboards.

Feedback sessions

OMBE holds monthly live zoom feedback sessions where members can submit their surfing or skateboarding footage. The coach breaks down your surfing via video analysis and tells you how you can improve.

If you’re serious about taking your surfing to the next level, this feature is pure gold. Having someone film you in the waves or in the skate bowl is the best way to take advantage of it.

If for some reason, however, you’re not able to get yourself filmed, you still get great value from it. Just by watching the live or recorded feedback sessions breaking down other surfers’ footage, you will learn a TON, as so many of us make the same mistakes.

Once again, every time I want to take a quick peek at a recording, I get hooked and end up watching most of it. Every comment from the coach is super valuable to me as well.

Be aware though that these feedback sessions often run up to 2 hours long, so make some time and get yourself a… coffee cup!

In addition to feedback sessions, the Coaches Eye series provides in-depth coach analysis of some of the best surfers in the world. This module contains dozens of videos. Here again, some extremely valuable content for learning and improving.

The Community Stories collection, on the other hand, has recordings of live coaching for some OMBE community members. More great learning material.

Other features

The more I dig, the more gems I find in the OMBE content. Even though I’ve already spend many hours watching videos and doing some of the drills, I’ve only scratched the surface. There was clearly a huge amount of knowledge put into this library.

Also, the OMBE community is a cool place to meet like-minded surfers from all over the world (there are groups by geographic area) and share feedback on each other’s surfing.

Final thoughts

OMBE is without a doubt a solid surf training program, one of the best out there. A lot of the value stems from Clayton Nienaber’s undisputable surfing and coaching expertise and skills, however the content team is also top notch judging from the quality of the videos, the content structure and layout.

You currently get full access to the whole library for $245 per year (a 50% discount from their original price) which includes the 1000+ videos in the library plus the new content published every month. They also offer a 14-day free trial.