The 12 Rules of Surfing – Your How to Surf Bible

Always wanted to know how to surf? Don’t know where to start? It can seem a bit daunting at first, but chill – we’re here to help.

There are some simple rules and how to surf tips to get you going so you can ride safely and most importantly have fun.

Here are our 12 rules of surfing to get you up riding your first wave.

Surfing for Beginners – The Rules

1. Find the right spot

Waves come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It’s completely dependent on the sea bed, rocks and reefs, tides, weather and the location.

Most people recommend you start surfing on a beach break (that’s where the waves form and break at the shore) rather than an offshore break (which is often out deep around a reef).

But a beach break doesn’t always mean a forgiving sandy bottom – all shorelines have their quirks and these ‘safer spots’ can be very different in different tides and wave conditions.

Make sure you talk to the locals about the best places to surf.

2. Grab a board

If there is a surf school or kit rental place near you, hire a beginner board before you buy one yourself. The best surfboards for beginners are either a foam top board or longboard.

The foam top is softer and safer for when you have that inevitable wipeout. They’re also super buoyant which will help you catch a wave more easily, and rely on your paddling less.

A longboard is another option which will give you good stability too. As you progress, you can work towards a shorter board which will give more maneuverability for turns and tricks.

3. Wax on

If you hire a board, it’ll probably already be waxed. A foam board already has a lot of grip, so it’s not as important with these. But a standard material board will be very slippery without wax, which means you will struggle to stand.

Wax comes in different types depending on the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in.

You can choose between several categories: tropical water, warm water, cool water and cold water.

Check your local water temperatures, and remember that you may need to change your wax depending on the seasons as the sea warms and cools. 

4. Get the gear

You’ll need different kit depending on the time of year and where you are surfing.

Wetsuits keep your body warm when you’re out for long periods, and come in different thicknesses. If you’re surfing in warmer waters, you can possibly get away with not using one. However, you’d be wise to wear a rash vest to protect your skin from the sun and the board which will rub.

5. Learn to read a surf report

Knowing what the different tides and weather (particularly the wind) does to each break is really important too.

There are many surf websites and forums full of information and surf forecasts to tell you about the wave height, wind direction, swell direction and the tide.

Now when you first look at a surf report, it looks pretty confusing. What does it all mean?

  • Wave height is pretty self-explanatory. Beginners usually want to seek waves under 4ft.

  • Swell period is the time it takes for a wave to travel. A longer period means faster and more powerful wave sets because they have travelled further and built up more energy.

  • Swell direction determines at what angle the waves are hitting your surf spot. You’ll want to see the swell direction heading for your area for obvious reasons. But again, a local surfer will know what directions are best for that spot.

  • Wind: Surfers want no wind (or ‘glassy conditions’) in an ideal world for smooth riding. However, this is pretty rare.

Onshore winds blow landwards and make the waves bumpy and harder to surf. Offshore winds will keep the wave clean and make them barrel-shaped if they aren’t too strong.

Wind tends to pick up throughout the day, then drop off again. So a morning or evening surf session is your best bet for glassy conditions whatever the wind.

6. Know the conditions

Knowing the tides is the difference between a wasted trip down to the beach and a perfect session. Tide tables are available on most surf reports and local news.

Most beach breaks work better on a medium to high tide, but the impact the tide has on the surf will depend on your spot.

Be sure to also keep an eye out for rip tides, which are strong currents flowing away from the shore. They can be useful for getting ‘out back’ to the waves, but also dangerous because they are so strong.

7. Read up on surf etiquette

There is an international etiquette for surfing that applies all over the world. It’s important to be aware of this all to make sure you understand your fellow surfer’s movements and where you should be at all times.

8. Get a Lesson

You can get group or private lessons at local surf schools, or even ask an experienced friend for some pointers.

It’s best to get a grip on the basics before moving into the water so that you know what to do and how to be safe.

9. Get in the white water

White water is where waves have already broken nearer to the shore. Although less daunting here, the waves do still have power. Therefore, it’s the perfect spot to practice getting up on the board in a more gentle environment.

From there, you can progress onto green waves.

10. Practice paddling

This is one of the most tiring parts of surfing, and can make all the difference when you’re trying to catch waves.

Training your arms and working on your balance on your board will help you progress.

11. Getting ‘out back’

Sometimes, getting past the white wash and breaking waves is difficult. To get out to the waves, practise learning how to ‘duck dive’ a shorter board, or ‘roll’ your longboard to help you get to the green waves.

12. Practice makes perfect

You’ve mastered standing up and catching waves but how do you get good at surfing?

As no wave is the same, you’re always learning. So it’s really important to get in the water as much as possible to improve.

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