Surfing Basics: 13 Tips For New Surfers

Surfing looks like a lot of fun, and it looks pretty simple.

Just get on a board and ride a wave.

Simple right?

Yes, but you still have to learn how do it, and like most things, is more complicated than it looks.

In general it is better to get lessons from a professional, or at least from someone who is pretty good at teaching, in order to get the most enjoyment out of the sport.

You don’t have to take a lot of lessons though, just a few to learn the correct mechanics, and then you can learn as you go from there.

Here are some more tips to get you going in the right direction on that surf board.

female surfer on beach

Start with good equipment

Most experts say to start with a big board to learn mechanics, and then “graduate” to a smaller one for more fancy surfing.

A big board is more stable, and much easier to stand up on.

You need that stability especially at the beginning.

So, when you shop for a beginner’s surfboard, go with one at least 8-foot in length.

Fear or respect

It is understandable if one fears the ocean.

It is huge and can be dangerous.

People have different levels, but you have to overcome your fear gradually through experience in the water.

The goal should be to turn that fear into a healthy respect, and the more you learn about the water, the more you will be able to make it work for you.

Use a boogie board, for instance, to get used to how it feels to have the water push you along.

Spending time in the water will benefit you when you start trying to catch a wave.

Use the beach

Before you hit the water, practice laying on the board and “popping up” while still on dry land.

This is part of learning the mechanics, but doing it on dry land in the sand, is a good way to learn.

To pop-up, start with a pushup and then spring to a standing position.

Learning this on the sand will make it much easier when you are on the water.

Start with a soft top

At the beginning, you need the soft surface because you will be laying on it most of the time.

Also in the beginning, your board will go places you don’t intend, so a softer one is safer.

Later on you can move up to fiberglass and other hard surfaces.

Stay away from the crowd

Find a secluded area to learn the basics.

A place away from everyone will make you less self conscious and you wont get in the way of the experienced surfers.

A related tip is to stay out of the way of more experienced surfers who are hitting bigger waves.

Focus on smaller waves

Start with smaller waves sounds almost too simple to mention, but it is important.

Master those smaller waves first to get your mechanics smoothed out.

This is when it is good to have a teacher who can tell you when you are ready for bigger waves.

Watch other surfers

Pay careful attention to what other, more experienced surfers do.

Learn from them just by observing.

This is what experienced and talented surfers continue to do.

Watch the water

Expert surfers also spend a lot of time studying the conditions.

The wind, the waves, how the water is moving and so forth.

Taking some time doing that will give you insight as to how to maneuver out there.

Work on paddling

You will find your own stroke, but it takes time.

It is also hard work, so you need a lot of practice.

It can be exhausting especially at first when you are learning.

But work on paddling as much as you can.

Practice patience

Even experienced expert surfers wipe out at times.

You will fall, and wipe out, several times as well perhaps even before you get a good wave to ride.

Take the falls and failures in stride.

Try to just laugh them off as experience and keep going.

It is just part of the adventure.

Work on your posture

Bend your knees and not your back to stay balanced on the board.

Secondly, stay perpendicular to the water that is breaking.

When you lose that, you lose the energy of the wave and you will fall quickly.  

This is one of the things you will learn with practice.

Try some surfing trips

Most people are casual surfers who hit the waves when they can, but they don’t advance in skill much that way.

If you can take a few days where all you do is surf, your skills will grow dramatically.  

Immersion in surfing is the best training there is, and it’s a great vacation as well.

Have fun

Above all else enjoy the adventure.

Set small goals, and achieve those first.

Don’t worry about not being the best, and maybe that shouldn’t be a goal anyway.

It’s more important to have fun and that should always be the reason you are out there.

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