How to Surf Guide for Beginners

Ultimate how to surf guide

Are you dreaming about getting out into the sea, riding amazing waves? Learning how to surf is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can do!

It is a really fun sport to get involved in, and people of all ages can easily pick it up. No matter how old you are, surfing will teach you many lessons, as well as give you an appreciation and understanding of the ocean. It will also get you outside and give you a great workout!

Learning to surf isn’t as hard as you may think. All you need to do is follow a few simple lessons and tips to get you up on your feet. If you want to learn how to surf, read through our extensive guide below to find out everything you need to know before you hit the waves!

Learn to Surf the Right Way

Many people try to teach themselves how to surf, and this is often the first mistake. As with any sport, there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. If you are completely new to surfing, then taking a few beginners lessons with a surf school or experienced coach is a great idea.

This will teach you good surfing techniques from the start, and help you to continue growing and learning in the right direction. Something that sets surfing apart from other sports is how much the ocean and surf conditions constantly change. So it is crucial to know how to deal with this when you are a beginner getting your bearings.

Not only will learning good techniques help you to surf better and have more fun, but it will also allow you to be safer in the water (and not be a hazard to other surfers). This is really important as we all have to share the ocean.

Practicing our surf movement patterns on land with a bosu ball

Is It Hard to Learn How to Surf?

As a sport, surfing is challenging! No two days on the ocean are ever the same so you can expect to learn something new about yourself and the sport every day.

Learning how to surf will probably see you paddling into about 30 foamies on a beach break before you really get the hang of catching waves and standing up. After this, you can start catching green waves (waves that you catch before they have broken). Once you successfully ride your first green wave, you will be hooked – there’s a reason why surfing is a lifestyle!

Under the right conditions, and with the right teacher, getting started with surfing is easy! Learning how to paddle into and catch a wave, how to pop-up on your board, and finding your balance shouldn’t take too long. And once you’ve got it down, it will be stuck with you for life.

This doesn’t mean that you will be ready to take on the really gnarly waves right away though! Surfing is a constant learning experience, and you will get more confident the more you are out there.

The Surfing Learning Curve

The more you advance in surfing, the more fun you tend to have! With most sports, you will continue to learn up to the point you have it wrapped. Surfing, on the other hand, will keep teaching you each time you get out into the water!

As you are dealing with the ocean, the conditions change every day. Every single session is unique, and each time you head out into the waves you will be faced with a different situation. This means you always have to be aware of your surroundings.

Due to the constantly changing tides, winds, swells, temperatures, and other elements, surfing will never remain the same. This is one of the reasons why this sport is so much fun! However, it is also something that makes becoming an expert very difficult.

Here are some important surfing tips to know for anyone who wants to start to learn how to surf.

5 Things to Know to Help You Start Surfing

If you want to learn to catch a wave, you must come to grips with a few things beforehand. To help you get started, here are five important things to know before you start surfing.

1. Pick The Right Spot

Every single wave is unique, with each different surf spot requiring a certain level of skill. When you are learning how to surf, make sure that you are doing it at the right place!

The best places to learn to surf are generally beach breaks with soft, smaller waves. These break slower and are easier to catch. They will also give you a much gentler wipeout. With better control of your board in the water, it is easier to make sure you don’t get in the way of other surfers trying to enjoy a wave.

If you are a beginner, don’t surf somewhere with hollow, fast-breaking waves. Not only are these more difficult to catch, but the wipeouts can be terrible if you don’t know how to handle them. This can lead to an unpleasant experience.

Also, try to avoid rocky or shallow coral breaks when starting out.

2. Pick The Right Board

The surfboard that you choose will make all the difference, as it can be very frustrating learning how to surf on the wrong one.

The main thing to you should be concerned with as a beginner is the board’s volume, as this determines how much it floats. Volume takes the length, width, and thickness into account. More volume = better floating.

To start with, you probably want either a longboard or foamboard that is wide, thick and long, with a flat rocker to give you good balance. Just be wary of it being too long, as this can cause the board to nose dive. As you advance, you can start to play around with different shapes and lengths to see what suits you best.

You also need to choose the right board for the conditions that you surf in, as this will make a significant difference to your overall experience.

Our advice is to talk to a knowledgeable and experienced surfer at the local shop when picking out your board.

3. Master the basic techniques

We mentioned above how important it is to start learning the right way with a surf school or master surf coach like Clayton Nienaber. This couldn’t be more crucial. Imagine having to unlearn bad habits that you picked up early on in your career, further down the line.

Bad habits can inhibit your progression in the sport, as they prevent you from getting the most out of your board and the wave. Its important to learn the best foundational movement patterns that is required for surfing – note, if you get this right early you will save yourslef years of hard work unlearning bad techniques. The best way to practice these is via practicing on land with a bosu ball or a piece of cardboard. They can also lead to you suffering from injuries related to improper stance while you’re out there.

Make sure that before you head out into the water, you know how to paddle into and catch a wave, pop up onto your board, and even practice a turtle roll so that you don’t get wiped out by some of the bigger white water. You also need to know a bit on the theory of how waves break, power zones, turning your board, by shifting your weight to trim or carve.

4. Stay Safe

Anyone new to the sport and learning how to surf may not realize all the potential dangers that surfing involves. The ocean is a force far stronger than any human, and it needs to be treated with an understanding and respect. Before diving in, you need to know how to stay safe while you are out there.

Be wary of difficult currents and rip tides. Don’t venture into waves that are too big or powerful for your experience or skill level. Also, it might be best to avoid empty lineups if you are a beginner.

Being honest with yourself and understanding your level of skill is important for your safety in the ocean.

5. Have Fun!

99% of surfers do it strictly recreationally. Going surfing for fun should never involve trying to impress anyone, or competing with anyone else. Always understand that everyone out in the water is just trying to enjoy themselves, so never get in their way of doing that!

Surfing can be one of the most relaxing and exciting things to do at the same time. Whether you are falling off far too often, or are charging down huge waves, just enjoy being out in the water!

Don’t Be a Kook

When getting started with surfing, you may hear the word kook a few times – here a round up of best kook slams in 2020. Surfers like using their own lingo, and learning the sport may involve picking up some new words too. So if someone calls you a kook, it’s not a good thing!

A kook is like the surfing term for a poser. It is someone who acts as though they know better than they do. If you talk the talk, but can’t follow up on it when it comes to performance, then you are a kook.

Being a kook doesn’t necessarily mean that you are bad at surfing, or are a total newbie. It is more about having an exaggerated idea of yourself – like someone who surfs in the wrong spot for their level of skill. It can also be someone that doesn’t follow basic surf ethics or someone that gets in the way of other surfers fun.

When learning how to surf, nobody expects you to be brilliant. But whatever you do, don’t act like a kook!

Surf Ethics: 7 Things You Need to Know

Knowing how to surf, stand up, and ride waves is important. However, it is equally important to understand the code of ethics, or surf etiquette, when you are in the water. There is a certain set of guidelines that every surfer needs to follow to create a happy and safe atmosphere in the lineup.

Pretty much wherever you go in the world, surfers will follow the same basic principles. As long as you stick to these, you will stay out of trouble and not annoy any of the locals! Sticking to proper surf etiquette also means that everyone in the water will be able to have more fun, and enjoy their time surfing.

Here are 7 simple guidelines to always follow, no matter how good you get!

1. Dropping In

No dropping in is kind of the golden rule when it comes to surf etiquette. Dropping in on a surfer can also be thought of as stealing their wave. Basically, it is a big no wherever you surf and is something that you must always try to avoid doing.

The surfer who is closest to the peak (the part of the wave that breaks) should always have right of way. Whoever is closest to the peak will have the longest ride, and they will be the one that gets to claim the wave.

Dropping in happens when you paddle into a wave that already has a surfer deeper inside, or closer to the peak on it. This will lead to you popping up in front of them, and cutting off their ride.

2. Don’t Snake

While dropping in on a surfer is never allowed, neither is snaking somebody’s wave. This is a greedy tactic that some surfers use to get more waves, and is usually done on purpose.

Beginner surfers may not always realize when somebody is snaking their wave, but it can get really frustrating when you know how to surf and pick up on it.

Snaking is when one surfer has right of way (being closest to the peak), and starts to paddle for the wave. While they are paddling to catch it, another surfer maneuvers around behind them, getting in closer to the peak all of a sudden, claiming the wave.

This is wrong because the snake knew that the wave wasn’t theirs to take, and so they should have left the original surfer catch it.

3. Surf Somewhere That Suits Your Skill Level

This relates back to being a kook, and it can be an annoying thing for competent surfers who are enjoying themselves at a certain spot. While surfing is a sport that constantly challenges you, and takes you out of your comfort zone, you should never attempt to surf at spots that you know are beyond your capabilities.

Not only can this be unsafe for you, but it will also probably cause you to get in the way of other people. Before you surf a new spot, take some time to observe the other surfers who are out. Learn how to surf the wave breaks, and see where you can paddle out.

4. Know How to Paddle Out

When you are entering a lineup, or are paddling back out after coming off a wave, it is really important that you know which path to take. Never paddle out where you will get in the way of other surfers.

The area where the waves break is called the impact zone. Never paddle directly through this, as you will be in the way of surfers who are taking off. You must also never paddle towards an area where the surfers are riding.

Always paddle wide, through the channel where the waves aren’t breaking. This will stop you from causing any accidents.

If you fall off a wave and end up in an oncoming surfer’s line, you have two options. Either paddle wide where you know the surfer will not reach, or paddle towards the foam that is behind them.

5. Don’t Let Go Of Your Board

To avoid potential dangers, always hold on to your board. If a wave is breaking in front of you, you have to learn to either duck dive or turtle roll past it. If you throw your board out and swim under the wave, it could smash into someone behind you.

Not only is duck diving a safer way to navigate through the lineup when you are learning how to surf, but it will also help you to become a better, more efficient surfer.

6. Take Turns Catching Waves

Once you are out there, the ocean belongs to everyone. When surfing a pointbreak, reef break, or somewhere with a smaller and consistent lineup, surfers should take turns to catch the waves.

This is an easy and fair system that gives everyone an equal chance. As each person takes off on a wave, the line will rotate. Whoever caught the last wave waits at the back, and whoever has been in line longest takes the next wave. Never be selfish and greedy when catching waves.

If you are in a crowded lineup or a beach break where the waves are breaking all over the place, then this rule probably won’t apply. You will just need to remember not to drop in!

7. Be Friendly and Respect the Locals

People surf for fun, so always show up with a good attitude. If you make a mistake (dropping in on someone or blocking off their ride does happen), then apologize and don’t do it again. Surfers are generally very relaxed, and if you are friendly and don’t mean any harm, they will most likely be friendly back.

Some surf spots have a crowd of locals – people that have been surfing there for years. In some places, locals are more protective over their turf than others. If you are new to a spot that is full of hardcore locals, then be friendly towards them and pay attention to how their lineup works before you slot in. If not, your session may not be as fun as you were hoping!

Learning How to Surf: FAQs

Think you’re ready to hit the water, but just want to clear up a few things first? Here are some commonly asked questions by people wanting to learn how to surf.

Is surfing dangerous?

The ocean is extremely powerful, and it holds many potential dangers. However, as long as you are smart and understand these dangers, surfing is pretty safe. Here are some precautions you can take to avoid danger while surfing:

  • If you are a beginner, try not to surf in empty lineups
  • Always understand where the currents, tides, and rips are in a spot
  • Tag along with a friend when possible
  • If you are a beginner, don’t be the furthest person out
  • Surf in places that are suitable for your skill level
  • If you are unsure of your skill level, make sure there is a lifeguard present
  • Make sure your fitness level is good enough to see you safely through the conditions you are surfing in

How long does it take to learn how to surf?

You could be standing up on waves after an hour session if you have a good teacher and favourable conditions. Getting the basics down doesn’t take long. Just remember the constant learning curve when surfing.

How do I get better at surfing?

Just surf more! The more time you spend in the water, the more experienced you will become. The more experienced you become, the more fun you will have! No matter what level you are at though, taking surf lessons is always a good idea for helping you grow.

Accelerate Your Surf Journey

Whether you are just starting out, or are an intermediate surfer looking to improve, our Foundations of Surfing course will help you to achieve your goals! This course covers a wide range of topics that surfers often don’t think about (such as your mental approach, using your power zones, and your understanding of equipment).

Not many surfers actually strated training until the mid 2000’s when surifng increased in popolarity> Now it is essential for all skill levels

Final Thoughts

Surfing is loads of fun, really good for your body, and it can teach you many important lessons! Learning how to surf is one of the best things that anyone can do, and it really isn’t as hard as it may seem.

Follow these simple guidelines, go for a lesson, and get out in the water! They say that the best surfer out there is the person having the most fun – a sentiment that we totally agree with.