Learning how to surf

Sometimes the hardest thing for beginning surfers is the initial embarrassment of not being good at the sport. Keep in mind that all good surfers had to start on the bottom rung, just like you. I don’t know a single soul who paddled into the water for the first time and didn’t feel defeated and just plain bad about his or her ability. There is a steep learning curve, and the first month can be painful both physically and mentally, but remind yourself that everyone goes through it. You can’t get better unless you experience being bad.

So, it’s not surprising that you will become very familiar with the virtue of humility. As you’re out there in the lineup observing other people’s epic rides while you, in turn, paddle for a wave and falter, use that to your advantage. Consider your failures as something worth improving upon and try to understand what the good surfers are doing so that you can correct your technique. It’s okay to feel completely uncoordinated as you lie there awkwardly, belly down, on the surfboard. It’s better to be out there on the water than cooped up in your house or office wondering why you didn’t push yourself harder.

Tip #1: Once you go, keep at it for a month.

The best way to get through the difficult beginning stage of your surfing career is to make it as short as possible. Try to dedicate a whole month to your pursuit of surfing. Get in the water every day no matter what the conditions are. Rain or shine, just get out there, paddle around a bit. You don’t even have to catch a wave! The simple act of being on the water and trying will advance your ability is enough.

Tip #2: Choose the right place to learn.

If you’re heading out as frequently as you should, you should also consider choosing one good learning spot. Find a break that is convenient, where people are nice and friendly, and where you feel comfortable. You’ll establish a comfortable routine in no time, and most likely you’ll acquire some surfing companions! Once you begin paddling out to the same break day in and day out, people will recognize you and help you. Eventually, they may even wonder where you were if you missed a day and will keep you on track.

Tip #3: Observe advanced surfers, and learn from them.

There are also ways to learn how to surf when you’re not even in the water! Pick up some good surfing videos and study them for your next session in the water. There are even some good instructional surfing videos at SouthCoast.com taught by pro surfers that are worth a look. Take mental note of the areas your surfing could improve on, like how to stand on the board, when to pop up, how to duck dive, how to paddle effectively. Then paddle out and work on what you’re having trouble with the most based on what you’ve seen. You can also learn a lot by observing surfers on the beach. Pick one or two that seem to be catching the most and best waves at that break. Then, analyze what it is they are doing that is effective. Maybe they are paddling longer or harder or popping up quicker. Maybe they know the right place to line up to catch the best waves and you don’t yet. Observing other surfers is particularly effective if you are having trouble paddling into waves. If you’re desperately paddling your heart out, but the guy three feet from you is catching every wave that comes by, you have some homework to do. Chances are that better surfers have better wave knowledge of your favourite spot, and their familiarity with the wave gives them an edge. Next time you’re on the beach, watch them and find out what makes your local wave tick.

Tip #4: Observe beginning surfers, then critique yourself.

Likewise, you can learn what not to do. Countless times beginning surfers make mistakes that prevent them from properly catching waves. Sometimes they lie too far back on their boards or don’t pop up soon enough. Other times, they seem heavy footed and not quick to respond to the conditions of the wave. Make a list of things that beginning surfers do wrong and strive to check your own mistakes off that list. Use it as a checklist when you paddle out each day. That, along with your list of what TO DO, will get you to the next level in no time!

Author: Robb Bailey