How to Surf Like A Pro In 4 Weeks

By World Surfing Champion Mike Doyle, Surf Instructor to the STARS John Philbin, European Surfing Pro Raife Gaskell and Oahu Waterman Prodigy Keola Auwae
Interview by Kurtis Shipcott

“Hey Kook!” What are surfers saying about YOU behind your back?

I love surfing and I know you do too. That said, I feel like a kook around pro surfers. So rather then focusing on the negative I thought I’d ask some of my coolest friends in the surfing world how they do it and get tips on how we can improve our surfing.

Mike Doyle World Surfing Champion Mike Doyle aka “Iron Man Mike” is a living legend. A surfer, Inventor, Artist and Waterman who is still crushing it at 70!



John Philbin John Philbin “aka Turtle from the movie North Shore” is a core surfer who has surfed the world’s best waves and survived the worst tsunamis. He also happens to be the go to guy in Hollywood for surfing stunts and turning actors into surfers for movies. He taught Kate Bosworth to surf for Blue Crush & Keanu Reeves in Point Break.


Raife Gaskell Raife Gaskell charges cold hollow barrels throughout Europe and recently represented Great Britain at the ISA World Surfing Championships in Peru. A super cool guy and comes from a surfing supportive family.



Keola Auwae Keola Auwae from Makaha Hawaii is a true Waterman Prodigy. Why? He can shortboard, longboard and SUP better then you and he is only 11 years old! He is out performing guys twice his age and earning podiums on a regular basis. He comes from a family of professional surfers and is one of the most genuine and likeable surfers you will ever meet.

These surfers are all amazing and their passion for surfing is contagious. So the last time I had their ear I had to ask them, how can we improve our surfing?

Today I’m stoked to share their answers with you.

1. Why do you love surfing?

Mike Doyle: When I was 10 I saw the ocean and surfing and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The ocean is peace. Take your troubles and drown them in the Ocean and come out revitalized and trouble free. Riding a wave is the ultimate feeling of freedom. Just being in or near the ocean is a powerful feeling but riding the wave is sheer Bliss. It’s also a ruler about how your doing. Get your ass kicked, better get in better shape and re-think your approach. Everything about surfing relates to your daily life and how you’re doing. My motto is Live to Surf, Surf to Live, to me surfing is life.

John Philbin: I love surfing for so many reasons. It makes me feel like a kid, I must be in the moment when I surf, it’s a feeling of pure joy, being in the ocean reinvigorates me, it’s always different, you can do it all over the world, it’s free its fun and its healthy.

Raife Gaskell: Everything about it, the people, the freedom, the discipline, the power of the sea.

Keola Auwae: It’s the stoke, the high without drugs.

2. What are 3 Tips every surfer can focus on for improvement?

Mike Doyle: Keep your mind and body in shape. The ultimate rewards from surfing come from your personnel maximum performance and enjoyment. Eat good, keep the weight down, exercise everyday. Do something physical everyday. Keep you mind focused on the positive things, mind clutter can create body clutter and unhealthy state of being. Remember the best surfer in the world is the one having the most fun.

John Philbin: Study the surf spot you intend to surf, watch for patterns! Enjoy the wave once you catch it! Try to be kind to another surfer in the water!

Raife Gaskell: Plenty of water time, work with a good shaper on the right boards for you, video analysis.

Keola Auwae: 1. Surf every day. 2. Surfing is a sport, train, workout, cardio, core, cross train, skateboard. 3. But most of all have fun, and surf with friends.

3. Who trained or influenced you?

Mike Doyle: My mentors were from Lifeguarding in Santa Monica, Ricky Greg and Buzzy Trent were two of my greatest watermen that I wanted to emulate. They moved to Hawaii and rode the biggest waves . I went 5 years later and did the same. They even picked me up at the airport and took me out to the North Shore and got me going. It was that Lifeguarding Camaraderie and showing the new kid (me) the ropes.

John Philbin: Gerry Lopez, Brian Keaulana, the Hawaiian water patrol and the pipeline posse trained me but I am constantly enjoying new influences from fun surfers like Craig Anderson

Raife Gaskell: Ben Skinner 10 x European Champion, done loads for British longboarding, he also hand shapes my boards. Taylor Jenson because he pushes his surfing to the limit. Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver for his stylish noseriding.

Keola Auwae: Our family are all watermen, my mom & dad been surfing and paddling all their lives, my uncle was a great champion longboarder, my 2 brothers are professional surfers, we live the waterman’s lifestyle. The ocean is our legacy, our Hawaiian heritage. My dad is my mentor and coach, but my brothers and all their pro friends are all big influences too.


4. Outside of surfing, what can people do to improve? What does your cross-training, nutrition, mindset look like?

Mike Doyle: It always come to the same thing, Keep moving, stay busy, don’t sit around and watch T.V. I have never owned one. Always have a plan what you’re going to do physical the next day. Remember it’s as much good for your mental set as your body. It’s all connected. I surf, if it’s flat I Sup, do some light weights, swim and lay-down paddle. Personally I don’t like jogging, I try and keep most of my exercise in the water. On windy days I kite. Food is a personal matter. My wife is the best, lots of greens, fresh fruit, grains, protein , chicken, fish, and really lean meat, only filet mignon. My mind-set is influenced by what I do, eat right and train right, and love right and your mindset falls into place.

John Philbin: Its been flat for 2months , swimming, surfing without a leash! Tons of healthy smoothies, yoga and watching good surfers in HD slow motion!

Raife Gaskell: Work on balance, core muscle strength, all round balanced diet too, slow release food for energy and stamina.

Keola Auwae: I do just about everything in the ocean. I surf, paddle canoe, paddle SUP, bodyboard, alaia board. Runners run, basketballers are on the court every day. Although I spend many hours in the ocean, I do lift weights, but light weight circuit training with dumbells and barbells, free weights, do a lot of core workouts, pushups, sit-ups crunches, pull-ups, burpees, dips, squats, lunges. I do a lot of stretching and limbering up to stay flexible and injury free.
Nutrition? What is that? I am a junk food addict, but I love veggies, and Hawaiian shoyu poke. Mindset? Not sure, but I stay focused with my surfing by always eating, sleeping and passionately living surfing every day.
Surf with friends its so much fun. Besides surfing, I occasionally run rocks under water to train for big surf, and our family does camp outs where we go lay net or dive for fish. I’m always in the water.


5. If you had to train an average surfer in 4 weeks for a surfing competition and had a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like?

Mike Doyle: First I would evaluate the surfer and see what his strong points and his weak points in surfing ability and mental attitude and mind set are at. I would want to strengthen the weak points in both. I would want him to surf the break that the contest is in to learn the line up and shifting peaks or rock shelfs or sandbars and understand what the tides do to the break. Learn some line-ups, some triangulation’s from the water to keep in the proper spot for the best rides. Eat good, sleep good, stay off the drugs and booze. Focus on doing his best. Visualize winning over and over again. Eat, sleep, surf and think about winning, but keep him calm and not over amped.... stretch and keep him limber. Basically become his mind. He would have to let me take total control and trust me for this to work.


John Philbin: I trained Kate Bosworth to be able to play a surfer in a movie, so we mostly paddled and used different boards in and out of the water, going to a lot of different spots, pop ups are important. But 4 weeks to train for a contest is different, I would train at the contest spot as much as possible to recognize the patterns, paddle run swim and watch movies of great surfers surfing that spot.

Raife Gaskell: First analyze their surfing, fitness and diet, work out where their strengths and weaknesses are. Video everything. Make sure they’ve got the right performance boards. Work on individual moves and build over the weeks to combine the moves. Improve fitness and flow. Understand judging criteria and higher scoring maneuvers, get them to judge heats to understand scoring. Practice 20 minute heats with better surfers to push them to achieve more and surf under pressure.

Keola Auwae: First take care of the conditioning part by doing a lot of paddling regimens while cross training with land work, circuit training, running, skateboarding. Free surf every day, if you can surf at the contest site, do it, otherwise surf a spot with a similar wave as the contest site. When surfing focus on your combination of turns, moves. Focus on turning every wave you catch into a 10 pt wave, if you pick the wave, make it a high score. Surf heats, set goals like catching 7 waves in a 20 minute heat. Watch a lot of surfing videos. Video yourself so you can see your good points and mainly, your weaknesses, make the corrections. Get rest. Stay healthy and don’t get sick. And always surf with friends, its so much more fun.


6. What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in surfers trying to improve?

Mike Doyle: Many surfers are working on the wrong stuff to get good. They need to know how to set a rail and carve a turn. They need to know how the G force of a turn can be un-weighted and re-bound them into the opposite direction. They are riding boards that are for pros and they are beginners. (all wrong) beginners and intermediates should be riding bigger boards that still perform but allow for minor mistakes. Pro boards don’t allow for any mistakes with regards to weight distribution. So you see a lot of arm flapping , twisting and gyrating that does nothing to improve board speed. It’s what they see in the magazines. Most of those pictures are guys falling because there body positions are wrong but it’s a (Rad Shot) so they post it. And the wannabes follow it. Kelly Slater always lead a turn with his head and outside arm leading the turn, wannabes do reverse shoulder turns. 1. They should be riding longer boards that still work. 2. Slow the tempo down. 3. Look at the whole wave for the ride, not just a chuck that you can do an aerial on and screw up the total ride. 4. Enjoy it. You should not be winded at the end of the ride.

John Philbin: It takes time, focused repetition in the water, and desire helps, but practice works better.

Raife Gaskell: Sticking to the same moves and not mixing it up. Really important to work on your weaknesses, make every manuever count in the critical section and push yourself. Don’t just stick to safe moves, try different stuff out. It’s not about how many waves you catch but making the two best count. Focus on what’s important, its all about the surfing.

Keola Auwae: I always see surfers trying too hard, instead of flowing with the wave, they trip to rip it to shreds. The best surfers flow with the waves, they are so graceful, watch a really good skateboarder at a skatepark, he’s the one that’s skating sooo smooth. I see a lot of new surfers that get in over their head. They think that they are really good after just learning how to surf, then they go to a really hard wave, like northshore or makaha, and they get really worked over, and sometimes the locals gotta rescue them. Plus, they piss off all the locals because they get in the way and they don’t have any respect for the local surfers or they lack surfing etiquette in the lineup.


7. Any new technology you recommend for surfers? Videos, apps, equipment? Anything you’re stoked on right now? How can surfers reach you or follow you?

Mike Doyle: All the equipment is out there you just have to make choices, unfortunately the hip surf shops usually put kids on Pro equipment and that’s all wrong. You should not be riding Indo boards in Calififornia slop. Surfers generally think small is hip. That’s the problem. Catching the wave is #1.
In my Cabo Surf surf school I put beginners on huge boards and they stand up and have fun. Then I move them down in size as they progress. After several lessons and personal evaluation you can steer them towards their first board.
I can be reached through my art web site or my surfboard website

John Philbin: I like to try different boards, and drink coconut water. I’m pretty low tech. I’m on facebook, John Philbin, or Aloha and mahalo.

Raife Gaskell: Balance boards are great for core muscles, yoga and I’m doing alot of skateboarding to get those turns punched out. Sunscreen, ear plugs & Kurtis Surf Goggles too!

Keola Auwae: Watch a lot of surf videos, online videos, and youtube surfing. In our area we have the surfing channel. I watch it all the time. You not only get to watch the best surfers doin’ their thing but you also get inspired to go out and surf. We live 5 minutes from my local break. One day I did 5 surf sessions. I surfed, came home and watched the surf channel, got all pumped up, went out for another session, came home watched more surfing, went back to surf. I did this 5 times. Mom said I was crazy.
There’s a great bundle of surf videos, training, surfing, coaching, contest, like that, it’s done by a well known surf coach from Australia. He’s personally trained a lot of the top surfers. You can probably google it, surf coach, to find it. One day when I have the money I’ll invest in those videos.
If you are serious about surfing, you can benefit from running rocks under the water or learn to free dive, it works wonders for surfers that want to be ready for the big winter surf. If you have a video camera, the best thing to do is to video your surfing then sit down with your friends or coach and critique yourself, and then play it back in slow mo. That way you can correct your surfing and become a better surfer.
Right now I can only be reached thru Facebook: Ke Ola.
My Instagram account was hijacked so my dad shut down my instagram account. If you are in Hawaii during the winter months you can always find me at Makaha beach. Just ask any of the locals, they all know me. Aloha.

I hope you enjoyed the interviews with Mike, John, Raife and Keola.
Will you surf like a pro in 4 weeks? Yes, if you move to Russia and establish a professional surfing tour, otherwise no way. That said, my intention was to gain information that would help improve our surfing. To ask questions that I haven’t heard asked before.

I love surfing because it has opened doors of opportunity and friendship in my life that wouldn’t have been possible with out it. It is something I first tried at 9 years old and I still get to do it today. It’s allowed me to travel all over the world and meet incredibly interesting people. To this day I get an ear to ear grin of pure stoke when I catch a fun wave.

As always keep in touch with us and please let us know if any of the above insight helped you improve your surfing.

Kurtis Shipcott No Fried Eyes!