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How to Surf for Beginners (10 Tips on How to Surf When You Are Starting Out)

Surfing is a fun and healthy way to stay active outdoors, and it’s never too early or too late to learn how to do it.

To learn how to surf, you need to master how to maneuver and balance on the board. Additionally, you should develop great wave-reading and perfect timing skills. Also, you want to ensure you gain an excellent knowledge of the ocean. Overall, the best way to learn surfing is by taking lessons from a skilled instructor to get crucial foundational basics.

However, despite the challenges involved, surfing is one of the most rewarding adventures, particularly if you put in the time and effort to develop proficiency. 

This article will help you understand the different aspects you need to grasp when learning how to surf to achieve the best beginner surfer status. 

Here’s a rundown of the ten steps to follow.

1. Find Suitable Surfing Equipment

Getting what suits your capabilities is critical when finding the appropriate surfboard and any related gear. Moreover, everybody needs a different board volume and size depending on their skill level. 

Other corresponding kits such as a protective bag, leash, and fins must match the board. 

It’s necessary to test the boards before purchasing. You will only be in a position to catch as many waves with the appropriate gear. Typically, a 7’6 or 8’0 footboard is suitable for a beginner. 

Surf schools and camps use boards made from foam-like material, and you, therefore, don’t need to worry about injuring yourself or others. 

Some of the surfboard options include:

  • Longboards: These boards are usually nine feet and above and have a single-fin setup (suitable for classic or nose riding surfing styles) and a tri-fin setup (ideal for high-performance techniques).
  • Bonzer, Egg, Fish, Funboard, Mini Tanker, Mini Mal: These are all shorter boards (between five to eight feet) but have a little more volume and are easier to maneuver than longboards.
  • Gun: They are designed for big wave surfing and are seven feet and above. 
  • Shortboard: They’re nine feet and above with a single-fin or tri-fin setup. 

Other necessary gear includes:

  • A swimsuit that fits you well and a snug rash guard keeps you from sunburns.
  • You need to get a leash that’s your board’s length.
  • You’ll need wax that’ll keep you from slipping.
  • Investing in a good base sunscreen (SPF 50) for the face and body and a sunscreen stick specifically for the face to layer over the base.
  • A deck pad is optional, but they’re great with high-performance shortboards. Once you’re ready to move to more aggressive boards, they are a great addition.

2. Find a Beginner Surfing Spot

The ideal choice for a beginner to start surfing is one with waves breaking further out or where there are smaller and more powerful waves. Accordingly, you need to identify a beginner-friendly location with minimal crowds. 

Also, keep your ego at bay and even practice where kids take their surfing lessons. There are websites and apps where you can find the best beginner surfing spots or identify where surf schools in the area conduct their classes. You can also search for local surf guides. 

What makes a good beginner surfing spot?

  • A consistent spot during a particular season of the year, i.e. a perfectly sized swell every day and glassy conditions. 
  • Waves that split rather than row. Thus, you’ll have ample time to get on your feet and know how to turn. It’s more or less a slow-motion wave.
  • You should identify the long waves. These waves allow you to practice heel-side and toe-side turns. 
  • A defined peak that breaks well and is easy to read. 
  • Identify a spot that has a channel with an easy paddle out. Thus, you won’t waste much time getting to the green waves break.

3. Learn How to Identify the Right Waves for You

You need to understand what waves fit a surfing beginner. Then you will learn how to forecast when they’re likely to happen. You’ll progress much faster if you regularly surf in the right waves and slowly increase the challenge level.

Remember that it’s never a great idea to tag along with your experienced surfer buddies. Neither should you drive to the beach just to glimpse how the waves are. Instead, you need to determine when waves are suitable for your level. 

4. Remember the Line-Up Rules

Follow the line-up rules, keep in mind who has the right of way, and keep a friendly demeanor to avoid conflicts if mistakes happen. 

After all, no beginner wants to be in a situation where they get tangled with experienced surfers. 

5. Pay Attention to Your Body

Take time to pay attention to your body and start small as you up your game slowly and consistently. Great serotonin and adrenaline levels may be exciting, but you need to slow down. You might end up taking risks that might get out of control. Remember that the ocean is stronger than you. 

6. Learn How to Wax Your Surfboard

Here’s how you need to wax your surfboard: 

  • Shortboards: Be generous with the amount of wax you use. Try to make a pattern on its surface to strengthen the grip.
  • Foam board: You don’t need to use wax on foam boards unless you feel there’s a need for some. 

Please note that there’s no need to wax the footpad if you own one. Some surfing experts only do so if they’re performing aerials. 

7. Always Use a Leash

A leash is an essential addition when surfing because it keeps you in control. You’ll spot some “experienced” surfers not using one, but they risk crashing it into another surfer or rocks, which kills the vibe. 

8. Practice Pop-Up/Take Off on Land

Basic take-off/pop-up movements are not only meant for beginner surfers. Pros also work on how to execute a perfect pop-up. Therefore, you need to ensure you get to where you don’t have to think about your movements. Your body gets used to it; hence you focus on the waves.

9. Work on Your Paddling Techniques

You need to keep perfecting your paddling prowess because it’s one of the most tedious aspects of surfing. But it gets better with consistent practice. Your surf wings (muscles) get stronger with time. 

When going to the wave, take an extra paddle. One common reason for beginners not catching a wave is because one extra stroke is needed to glide in the wave. 

10. Have Fun

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even the greatest surfers of our time were once beginners. So, go out there and have as much fun as possible. Also, you should know that there’s no failure, just lessons. You can never be wrong. Becoming a great surfer is all in the experience.

How to Train for Surfing

The best way to train for surfing is through muscular endurance of the back, arms, and core control. 

Some of the recommended exercises for strengthening your surfing muscles include:

  • Swill ball core rotations: This exercise strengthens the core muscles in a rotating movement, and it’s essential for making cutbacks and powerful turns. 
  • Barbell Romanian deadlifts: Strengthens the back, hamstrings, and glutes (posterior chain muscles), which generate power when making turns.
  • Dumbbell front-lateral raises: Strengthens the deltoid muscles that you use for paddling. 

Beginner Surfing Mistakes 

There are several common and unnecessary beginner mistakes that slow your progress, and you need to avoid them:

  • Selecting the wrong surfboard.
  • You’re not taking good care of the surfboard. You, therefore, need to be aware of your surroundings.
  • Not using enough sunblock when you’re out surfing.
  • Paddling in the wrong place.
  • Giving up when faced with challenges.

Wrapping Up

The best way to improve your surfing skills is to practice as often as possible. Generally, if you desire quick progression, you need to aim at surfing at least thrice a week. 

Having a good trainer who’s been there and done that sets you up for success and shortens the journey. And if you don’t know where to find one, you can start with Tommy Tsunami Surf School. We help surfers of all ages and levels get acquainted with the sport and spirit of surfing in an energetic and positive environment. We’re located in Half Moon Bay, California.

And remember, practice makes perfect. Keep practicing, surf smarter, and soon enough, you’ll move to the line-up from the shore break. 

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