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Catching Your First Wave: Essential Beginner Surfing Tips

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Male surfer riding a wave in the ocean

Surfing is an exhilarating sport that allows you to connect with nature and ride some gnarly waves! If you're a kook (aka a rookie surfer) the learning process can be exciting and challenging. But fear not! With the right guidance and a positive attitude, you'll be on your way to mastering the art of surfing.

If you’re just starting your surfing journey, here are some tips to help get you started:

Surfing lesson on the beach

Take a Lesson: Before venturing into the waves, it's smart to take lessons from a qualified surf instructor. They will teach you essential skills, including safety guidelines, proper techniques, and how to read the ocean. Learning from the experts will give you a solid foundation and increase your confidence in the water. A one-day lesson is excellent, but to feel the most confident, a multi-day lesson or surf camp is ideal.

Dry Land Practice: Even after a lesson, it’s a good idea to practice on dry land before heading out into the ocean. Practice your “pop-up” every day on dry land to perfect your form and build upper body strength. A pop-up is a technique where the surfer moves from lying on their belly to standing on their board. Surfers of all levels benefit from dry land training and conditioning.

Research Surf Spots: When starting out, opt for beginner-friendly surf spots. These beaches usually have smaller, slower-breaking waves, and sandy bottoms, which are more forgiving for falls. Research local beaches and seek recommendations from experienced surfers or instructors to find the perfect spot for beginners. Ask around, locals always know best.

Practice Paddling: Paddling is a fundamental skill in surfing. Lie flat on your board and use your arms to paddle efficiently through the water. Keep your fingers together and use your entire arm stroke to maximize power. If the waves are rough, paddling can become exhausting. Make sure that you are well rested, hydrated, and know your limits.

Develop Wave Awareness: Understanding how waves work is crucial. Although the ocean can be unpredictable, observe the pattern of waves and identify the point at which they break. Start with smaller waves that have a gentle, rolling break. Learning to read the waves will help you know when to paddle to ride a wave.

Find Your Stance: Experiment with your stance to find what feels most comfortable for you. Most surfers start with the pop-up technique, where you lie on your board, push up with your arms, and quickly bring your front foot forward, followed by your back foot. There are two types of surfing stances: regular foot and goofy foot. Regular foot is when the surfer puts their left foot forward and right foot back when standing on a surfboard. Goofy foot is when the surfer puts their right foot forward and left foot back. No stance is better than the other; just choose the one that comes most naturally.

Practice Balancing: Balance is key to staying on the board. Keep your weight centered and distribute it evenly to maintain stability. Keep your knees slightly bent and your gaze forward to help with balance. Focusing on improving your core balance and body positioning will allow you to feel most grounded on the board.

Consider Using a Longboard: Learning to surf on a soft top or foam longboard is the best option for beginners. Longboards are more stable and offer better buoyancy, making it easier to catch waves and maintain balance. A soft top or foam longboard is user-friendly, hurts less when wiping out, and provides added buoyancy. We recommend an 8–9-foot rounded foam board for beginners.

Stay Safe: Wear a leash to keep your board attached to you, which prevents it from drifting away. Use appropriate sun protection and stay hydrated. Never surf alone, always surf with a buddy, and know your limits.

Be Patient: Surfing takes time and practice to master. Don't get discouraged if you don't succeed right away. Keep practicing, and with time, you'll improve your skills!

Remember, surfing is about having fun and enjoying the ocean! Take it step by step, and with practice, you'll become more comfortable and confident on your board. Now get out there, ride some waves, and hang loose 🤙

Surfer catching their first wave


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