Photo: Shutterstock.

Photo: Shutterstock.

The Inertia

Surfing isn’t something you’re likely to just “pick up,” but plenty of people have it on their bucket list. For some, the challenge in setting out to learn lies in not knowing whether or not you’re even going to be good at it. There can often even be a fear of failure.

To ease those worries, here are 25 tips for beginner surfers, aimed at helping you attempt to start the adventure. I say attempt because it will most likely be full of just that: attempts. Aside from these useful tips, expect to put in some work. Nobody ever jumped on a surfboard for the first time and snagged a barreling overhead wave. Just like any other sport, you need to put in some time and effort to learning and becoming better at it. If you follow these  tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a great surfer.

1. Don’t Learn by Yourself.

No matter how easy you think it looks, never, ever approach surfing by yourself. Either get an experienced friend to teach you or go to a surf camp in order to avoid injuring yourself and others, or even putting your life in danger.

2. Pick a Good Teacher

If you decide to take some surf lessons, research the teacher in advance. Make sure they are experienced and have good reviews. Sometimes, a good teacher won’t just teach you how to surf, but they’ll inspire you and help you love surfing.

3. Use a Big Surfboard

This is one of the best beginner surfing tips you could ever follow. Some people are tempted to jump on smaller, shorter boards as quick as possible. A large board will help you develop better fundamental mechanics and you’ll catch a lot more waves in the early stages.

4. Get Yourself a Soft-Top 

Make no mistake, at the beginning, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting on it, rather than standing. Soft-tops are good entry boards and they’re safer for everybody involved than their fiberglass and epoxy alternatives.

5. Surf a Beginners Wave

Using a beach that is appropriate for beginning surfers is crucial to your surfing success. Learn to surf on a beach known for good, steady waves and the whole learning process will be smoother. Tackle small waves before you attempt larger ones. Even though you may feel ready, unless your teacher says you’re ready, you’re not. Trust me, you’ll be upgrading your surf spot in no time with the right amount of dedication.

6. Spend Some Time on Dry Land First

Once you’re at the beach, don’t rush in the water. Spend some time on the beach and do your stretching. Check your leash, you board and also take a moment to watch the waves. Keep your eye on the other surfers and see what they do. This isn’t a habit that will stop once you’ve graduated past the beginner ranks.

7. Pace Yourself

Once you get into the water you will need to pace yourself. I know how excited you may feel, but if you don’t pace yourself you can risk injury. Remember, you have all the time in the world to surf.

8. Don’t Get Tangled with the Big Dogs

This advice ties in with our previous one as well as tip #5. It simply means keep your distance from experienced surfers, mainly because they’re surfing more challenging waves. As a beginner you’re prone to making lots of mistakes, and you’ll want to avoid getting in people’s way. The safety of others is just as important as your own safety every time you get in the water.

9. Get Comfortable Sitting on that Board

As weird as it may sound, sitting on a surfboard isn’t the easiest, nor the most comfortable thing in the world.

10. Paddle, Paddle, Paddle

Paddling is another thing you will need to practice until you get it right. The key is to find a rhythm and to keep it. This also requires you to be in shape, because it will be quite exhausting the first few times.

11. Get Used to Wiping Out

If there’s one certainty when learning to surf it’s that you will be involved in a lot of wipeouts. You will fall, and fall, and fall…and then you’ll fall some more. The waves will knock you down, you’ll get confused, and frustrated, and you’ll even get some bruises. All you need to remember is that it’s all part of the game.

12. Bend at the Knees

When you’re on the wave, it is imperative that you bend your knees and not your back. If you bend your back, you’ll not just lose your balance mush easier but trust me, it’s not a good look in surfing’s style book.

13. Stay Perpendicular to the Whitewater

When a breaking wave is ahead of you you can either duck under it or race to paddle over. No matter which you choose, once the wave has broken you need to stay perpendicular to the whitewater (the part of the wave that is breaking). If you don’t, you’ve given all that energy more surface area to grab you and your board, pulling you under the water and dragging you toward shore.

14. Have Fun

No matter what you do and where you are, if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it. Always remember that awesome quote by Phil Edwards: “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.”

15. Go On a Surf Trip

You don’t need to charge the North Shore of Oahu your first few months into surfing, but there are plenty of places all over the world where the water’s warm and the waves are prime for a new surfer. Your surfing grows in leaps and bounds with even a single week where you have nothing to do but wake up, surf, eat, surf some more, sleep and repeat.


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