Do you want to learn to surf? Sure, you most likely have a romantic idea of gliding smoothly through a cascading wall of water, carving up and down the face of the wave, riding to the beach … right?
Incorrect. Chances are, if you’ve never surfed before, you’re ready for, let’s say, a very rewarding experience. I hate to tell you, but learning to surf is not easy. Sure, anyone can take a lesson and be technically ‘surfing’ in just a few minutes on soft, squishy crashing waves. But come on, any surfer will tell you that that’s not really surfing. If you want to experience the thrill of surfing so indescribable that it is said that “only a surfer knows the feeling,” then you will need a lot of practice, patience, and probably some helpful tips and advice.
If you stand your ground, beyond the embarrassing disappearances and initial discomfort, you will eventually experience that incredible ‘thrill’, but keep in mind that it could change your life!
Paddling a Surfboard: 3 Tips for the Beginning Surfer
1) Stand on your surfboard with your hips centered and balanced. Imagine that your surfboard is like a seesaw; you want the nose and tail to be balanced. If you go too far forward, your surfboard will pearl, too far back and you will sacrifice speed and have a hard time catching waves. As a general rule of thumb, keep the nose of your surfboard floating just a couple of inches out of the water while paddling.
2) ‘Ankle to Ankle’: To help prevent side-to-side (left to right) swaying, you’ll want to keep your ankles glued together. This may seem difficult at first, but the key to rowing effectively is a strong core. Keeping your ankles together while paddling the surfboard will strengthen your core and improve your balance. Just remember ‘ankle to ankle’ the next time you feel unsteady and I guarantee this little trick is sure to help you.
# 3) Cup your hands like you have water to drink. This is how you want your hands to be when rowing. Stretch your arms forward one at a time and dip your cupped hands down to the end. Try to prevent your shoulders or hips from swaying too much from side to side by keeping your core balanced and straight. This will help your surfboard glide through the water improving speed and ultimately make it easier to paddle.
* Special tip: take note of which surfers seem to be catching the most waves. Take a close look at them and notice their paddling. Are the ankles separated? Does the nose of your surfboard float just a few inches out of the water? Is your rowing stroke even and constant? They’ve most likely been surfing for years, so don’t worry if you’re not going to catch as many waves as they do. Learning to surf is a process that takes time and a lot of practice.
Practice your posture on the beach first.
The first thing to know before trying to stand on a surfboard is whether you are a “regular” or “dumb” surfer. No, don’t look silly or not surfing, because trust me, all beginning surfers look silly while learning to surf.
So what am I talking about? Well, the terms regular and dumb refer to which foot you naturally place forward on your surfboard. A “normal” footer navigates the left foot forward, while a “dumb” footer navigates the opposite side, the right foot forward. If you’ve ever tried skateboarding or snowboarding, then it’s usually the same stance.
I’m not sure? These three techniques should help you figure it out:
# 1 Bend your knees and find a relaxed and balanced posture as if you were surfing. Try to determine which foot in front is most comfortable. Typically the stronger foot is placed back to help put weight on the tail of the surfboard for turning.
# 2 Lie on your stomach like you’re paddling and then quickly get back into your surfing stance. Notice which foot naturally places forward.
# 3 This simple trick requires the help of a friend. Find a level place to stand, close your eyes and relax, and without announcing when, have your friend push you slightly from behind so that you can step forward naturally. Most likely, the foot you step forward to regain balance reflects your natural surfing posture.
I’m not sure yet? Don’t worry, you should be able to figure it out after a few walks.
Note: It is important to always place the strap on the rear foot. This will help prevent the strap from wrapping around your legs.
Where should a beginner learn to surf?
If you have never surfed before or are still in the learning stages, you may need some suggestions for choosing a suitable beach to learn to surf. Let’s start by providing a simple explanation of the different types of surf breaks:
A) Beach breaks: Sandy bottom, generally breaks in shallow water near the shore. Often these waves break best near piers or rock piers. The shape of the wave is formed by the changing contour of the sand below, therefore the quality of the wave can vary greatly depending on the season or even on a daily basis, as underwater currents constantly adjust the position of the sand below. beginner to learn to surf (initially). The shallow water makes it easy to stand up when you fall off the board, and the sandy bottom generally has few hazards to step on. However, watch out for swimmers! Most of the beaches during the summer have designated areas for bathers only. Look for the ‘black ball flag’ and stay away from that area. You are now a surfer so you have to hang out in the surf zone from here on out 🙂
B) Reef Breaks: these types of waves are formed by rocky bottoms or reefs. Some of the most treacherous waves in the world crash on a very shallow coral reef. Oahu’s world famous ‘North Shore’ is made up almost exclusively of shallow reefs. However, as a beginner, you may not yet be ready to conquer huge spit barrels. Don’t worry, the best thing about reefs is their diversity. As you progress beyond the initial stage of learning to stand up, you will most likely want to head towards a reef break that offers gentle, sloping waves. Reef breaks can provide longer rides than beach breaks and gives you the opportunity to really feel the slide of your surfboard under your feet. That first wave of ‘heads’ you catch will stay with you forever. Note: reef breaks can often be more crowded than beach breaks, so be sure to master the basics (paddling, snorkeling with turtles, and turning the board quickly) to avoid collisions with other surfers.
C) Point Breaks: Point Breaks can offer some of the longest and best fit rides available. Breaking appropriately against a ‘point’: These waves generally bend around the outer edge of a bay or peninsula, and may have sand, rock, or reef bottoms. Famous examples include my personal favorites Rincon in Santa Barbara or Honolua Bay, Maui. If you’re unfamiliar with these spots, googling and you’ll see photos of long, smooth, perfectly contoured waves begging for the waves. The kind of waves the daydreaming student-surfer would scribble in his notebook during class … just perfection! Note: perfection doesn’t usually go unnoticed, so be prepared to fight a bunch of wave-hungry surfers looking for that perfect ride. Caution: intermediate and advanced surfers only.
D) Rivermouth – Often the most fickle of breakwaters, rivermouths are essentially beach breakers with sandy bottoms, but in the right conditions they can occasionally rival the shape and form of any of the best reefs or point breaks that exist. Rivermouth waves are usually triggered after a heavy rain when an avalanche of water trying to reach the sea pushes a temporary accumulation of sand in the right place to channel incoming swell into the walls of water. Caution: beware of water contamination in urban runoff areas.
In short, stick to beach breaks while you master the fundamentals of rowing and balancing on your board, but don’t be afraid to hit the longboard reefs for a real adventure!
Surf terms for beginners
The following is a mini-glossary of navigation-related keywords and phrases, some of which have been used so far:
Black-Ball: A yellow flag with a black ball in the center used by lifeguards to warn surfers of a no-surf area.
Barrel: The ultimate ride is when the crest of a wave bends back on itself and forms a cylinder with enough room to provide a “tube” for the surfer to ride through. Related terms: pulling in; be beaten, boned, cased, or otherwise stuffed; dirty wells; the green room.
Dropping in: refers to the critical point when a surfer stands on a wave that is reaching the top. (Drop in on), which is used to describe the act of a surfer mistakenly riding in front of another surfer on the same wave. See also: snake
Face-Wave: The crest of a wave that surfers ride. It tends to break at the outer peak. It could be considered the opposite of bleached waves.
(a) Fish: No, not the type that sneakily swim under and around you. A fish in this sense refers to a type of surfboard. Typically shorter and wider than a typical modern shortboard, often modeled after vintage designer surfboards from the ’70s.
(a) Gun – Taller, sleeker and narrower surfboard used by advanced surfers to ride bigger waves.
Kook: A derogatory term used to describe, well … generally beginner surfers who don’t know what they’re doing in the water. Basically equivalent to the not-so-flattering term “idiot.” If you can’t see one, then it’s probably you …
Pearl (ing) – This happens when the tip of your surfboard dives underwater while riding a wave, causing your surfboard to come to an abrupt stop, likely throwing you forward and off of it.
Rip current: strong rip current of water that heads directly into the sea. Look for slightly brown or discolored and chopped water. If you are caught in the current, swim parallel to shore to escape.
Snake (d): Describes being unjustifiably cut by another surfer. See also: fall into (someone).
Stoked: To be super excited about something, damn awesome! That is to say. The waves are fading, I’m so excited right now!
White-Wash: The kind of white, foamy waves that have already broken in on themselves and are falling towards the shore. Beginners generally practice surfing these waves first before tackling the faster moving face waves that break at the outer peak.
The main rule is to have fun!