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How To Surf: The Beginner's Guide to All Things Surfing

March 25, 2022 6 min read

Surfing is a beautiful depiction of people joyfully immersed in the purity of nature. It’s a sport that celebrates the magnificence of the ocean. Surfers are able to harness the power of the ocean while at the same time subjecting themselves to it completely.

It’s mystical. It’s graceful. Surfing is an ancient sport that’s awesome just to watch, let alone actually participate in.

The sensation of dropping into a wave is like nothing else. Surfers know this; that’s why they get up at the crack of dawn and pull on a wetsuit in order to paddle out into frigid water. There are other ways to ride a board, but there’s nothing quite like surfing.

If you’ve never tried it, it’s 100% worth it — even just to have the experience and float around on a surfboard for a while. But if you take to it, if you get bitten by the surf bug, it might just cause you to leave your landlocked life and relocate to the coast.

This guide for beginners covers everything you need to know before heading to the beach for your first session.

Choosing the Right Beach To Learn

The right beach to learn surfing has a few characteristics that make it ideal, keep you safe, and ensure that you have fun regardless of the number of waves you’re able to catch.

First off, a surf beach that’s good for beginners is not the famous surf spot with the biggest waves. Leave those for experienced surfers. Instead, you want to learn on waves that are one-two feet tall.

A perfect beach for learning has knee-high waves, isn’t too crowded, and has a sandy bottom free from protruding rocks. Do a bit of research or ask local surfers which beaches they recommend.

Consider Taking A Lesson

You also might consider a beach that offers surfing lessons. This is a good route to go, not only because you’ll learn a lot quicker, but it usually includes rental surfing gear. Plus, you’ll know that the location is going to be suitable for beginners.

A good surf instructor will teach you all that’s covered in this article and more. They’ll be in the water with you and help you stand up for the first time. By holding on to your board and pushing you into the wave when it comes up behind you, paying for a surfing lesson basically guarantees that you can say you’ve stood up on a wave.

A Good Surfboard For Beginners

Not all surfboards are the same. They range in length, shape, material, and volume. There are several names that refer to the specifics of their differences.

Generally speaking, a shorter surfboard is more challenging to learn on (unless you weigh less than 100 lbs). This is especially true for shortboards, which don’t have a lot of heft. This makes them really maneuverable but more difficult to balance because there is less surface area and buoyancy to support you.

Surfboards that are ideal for most beginners are between seven to 10 feet in length. A surfboard with a soft foam top, called a funboard, is excellent to learn on and used by many surf rentals and surf schools.

Additional Surfing Gear

In addition to a surfboard, you’ll need a few other pieces of equipment to ensure you have the best ever First Day of Surfing.

  • Leash:A leash is attached to your surfboard and has a velcro strap you place around your ankle. This is so that you don’t lose your surfboard if you fall off a wave.
  • Wetsuit:If the water is cold, you’ll enjoy it more and stay out there longer in a wetsuit.
  • Rashguard:If you’re not wearing a wetsuit, a rashguard will prevent skin irritation from rubbing against the surfboard.
  • Sunscreen: Apply and reapply.
  • Water:Surfing takes it out of you; make sure that you stay hydrated.
  • Towel:You gotta have a cool, large beach towel so you can do that surfer thing where you change behind a towel next to your car.

Before You Paddle Out

We know you’re excited but hold on a second before you run into the water straight away. Prepare yourself on land before heading out using these tips.

Practice The Pop Up On Dry Land

The pop-up is the transition you make from laying on your stomach and standing up on the surfboard. You can’t surf a wave without the pop-up, so you want to make sure yours is strong.

Put your surfboard on the sand and lay face down on top of it like you’re paddling into a wave. Press your hands into the surfboard (like you’re doing a pushup) while at the same time bringing your feet underneath you quickly into a surfing stance. It should be done in one fluid burst.

Observe Waves And Other Surfers

Watch the waves. Notice how far out they’re forming and breaking.

Watch other surfers as well. Notice where they’re paddling out, how far out they’re sitting in line and their timing as they catch waves. You can learn a lot by observing. Take a few minutes, sit in your retro lawn chair, and make some mental notes to help your surf game before you rush into the water willy nilly.

How To Catch Your First Wave: Step By Step

Alright, you’re finally ready to get out there and give it a go.

Here’s how it works:

Paddle Out

    With your leash secured around your ankle, walk out until the water is between your knee and waist. Plop down your surfboard and get on top of your belly. Use your arms to paddle out past the break with long strokes.

    Choose a line to paddle out where there’s a break in the waves or where you see others paddling out. Don’t paddle out right where other people are surfing towards you.

    A useful way to avoid the oncoming waves is to perform a duck dive, a simple maneuver to pass under the waves so that you don’t end up getting pushed back to shore.

    Shop For Waves

      Once you’re out past the break, you want to sit on your board with one leg on each side, facing the horizon. Make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings and other surfers who may have been waiting their turn before you.

      Take a minute to catch your breath from paddling out (it’s tough if you don’t do it regularly) and enjoy the ocean. You’re really doing it! Keep your eye on the horizon for oncoming waves.

      Turn Around

        When you see a wave forming that you want to chase, turn around and face the shore. Keep your head turned towards the oncoming waves and get ready to paddle.

        Time The Wave And Paddle

          The timing of surfing is one of the hardest parts to learn. It’s kind of like hitting a baseball; there’s not a distinct moment when to start your swing; you just gotta time it.

          Start paddling with long and consistent strokes as the wave approaches you from behind. When you feel it forming beneath you, paddle as hard as you can for two or three more fast strokes.

          Pop Up

            Right when you feel the wave start to grab you, pop up. By this point, you’ve already mastered it on dry land. Just remember to do it quickly and keep your eyes looking forward.

            Balance and Ride the Wave

              Now you’re surfing! Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent, arms out for balance, and enjoy the irreplaceable feeling of wave riding. Ride that thing all the way into the shore and flip your hair in a cool way. Nailed it.

              Congrats, Now You Can Surf! (Or, At Least Say You’ve Tried) 

              That’s it; you did it. Even if you didn’t catch a single wave, you went out there and gave it a shot, and chances are you had fun anyway. For most people, surfing has a steep learning curve, but it's hard not to enjoy yourself if you can appreciate the wonder of the ocean and the challenge of trying something new. 

              If it turns out that surfing isn’t your thing, you might be better off riding this inflatable jet ski by FunBoy instead. The learning curve isn’t so steep, and you’ll have an absolute blast whether you take it to the ocean or use it in your backyard pool.

              After a day of surfing, you’ll probably be exhausted. You can expect to be sore the next couple of days and finally understand why surfers are so ripped. Keep at it, and that’ll be you before you know it.


              surfing | water sport | Britannica


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