How to Surf: A Helpful Guide for Beginners

There are many different reasons why you should start surfing. You can learn more about how to surf by checking out our guide here.

Do you want to join a cool club of 35 million people in 162 countries?

To become a member, all you need to do is grab a board, head for the nearest beach, and learn how to surf.

Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. Surfing ranks among the toughest sports in the world to learn, requiring strength, agility, and plenty of nerve.

If you’re up to the challenge, we guarantee you’ll love the adrenaline rush of riding your first wave. In this post, we’ll introduce you to some surfing basics and explain how to surf for beginners.

Read on for your go-to surf guide!

Surfing Basics: Get Your Gear

Before you get in the water, let’s make sure you have everything you need to learn how to surf.

1. Board

For your first few surfing attempts, it’s best to rent a surfboard. Once you’re hooked and your skills improve, you can think about investing in your own.

Beginner surfers do best on a soft-top longboard (over 9 feet in length). These are easier to paddle on and more stable to ride than their shorter, smaller counterparts.

If in doubt, ask the guys at the surf shop for their recommendations. They know the waves and can give you a board that’s best for your skill level and the current conditions.

Bonus tip: Make sure the board you rent comes with a leash that you can attach to your ankle. Otherwise, you and your board may go your separate ways!

2. Wetsuit/Rashguard

Whether or not you need a wetsuit depends on your tolerance to the local water and air temperature.

If the water temperature is above 75 degrees, you probably don’t need a wetsuit. Be sure to slap on sunscreen if you bypass a suit, although you might still consider a rashguard to protect your skin from chafing.

Can you surf in winter , you might wonder? Absolutely—as long as you have an appropriate wetsuit for the cold conditions.

3. Wax

The last item you’ll need a thin layer of wax on your board. Apply it to the area where you’ll stand to make your learning experience easier.

How to Surf: Step by Step 

Here’s a quick guide to prepare you for your first day on the water.

1. Practice Standing

It’s important to practice the “popping up” motion onshore before you try it on the water.

Lay flat on your board and place your hands beneath your chest, pushing yourself to your feet in one quick motion. “Regular” surfers ride with their left foot in front, while surfers with their right foot forward are known as “goofy.”

Pro tip: If you don’t know whether to ride regular or goofy, try sliding across your floor wearing socks. Which foot feels more comfortable in front?

2. Paddle Out

After determining you’re in the right place for beginners, paddle out past the break. Be mindful of others and always yield to anyone actively riding.

Once you’re past the break, face the horizon so you can study the incoming waves. When you’ve selected one, turn to face the shore, lay down, and start paddling.

Save your energy for when you feel the momentum of the wave pushing you forward. Glance over your shoulder to gauge where the wave is and make sure you’re lined up correctly.

3. Take a Wave

You’ll feel a burst of momentum and speed when the wave catches up with you. Take a deep breath, keep your eyes up and forward, and get ready to stand.

Pop up as quickly as you can—hesitating will only make you unstable. Keep your knees bent with your weight shifted slightly into your back foot.

Hold out your arms for balance and don’t forget to smile. Congratulations! You’re riding your first wave.

Other Surfing Beginner Tips

Like all sports, there are some etiquette and safety tips to consider before you begin. Keep the following points in mind.

1. Respect Surf Etiquette

A rider always, always has the right of way. Whether you’re paddling out or maneuvering for a wave, never cut in front of someone who’s actively surfing.

While you’re waiting back in the “line up” behind the break, be respectful of other surfers’ space. The person who’s been waiting the longest or is nearest the wave’s peak gets priority.

“Dropping in” is the equivalent to cutting in line. Not only is it dangerous, but you’re sure to incur the wrath of your fellow surfers.

2. Anticipate the Learning Curve

We’d love to tell you that you’ll pop up on your first wave and ride off into the sunset, but we don’t want to give you false hope.

Learning how to surf involves a steep learning curve. No two waves are ever alike. The water, tides, and wind conditions will be different every day you surf.

It’s a challenging experience, but your efforts will be worth it. Keep at it and your skills will improve over time.

3. Research When & Where to Surf

Set aside your dreams of surfing Pipeline (for now) and find out the best places to learn how to surf near you.

A semi-shallow spot with a sandy bottom and plenty of whitewater rolling towards the shore is ideal. Look for a spot where there aren’t many people so you don’t have to worry about collisions.

Don’t be in a hurry to paddle out to the big peeling waves where the experienced surfers are hanging out. You’ll get there one day—we promise.

Surf’s Up! Time to Catch Your First Wave

So, are you ready to learn how to surf?

Start with gathering the equipment you’ll need—a board, a wetsuit, and some wax. Research the best places for beginners to surf in your area and (if possible) ask an experienced friend to come along.

Always respect basic surf etiquette, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t stand up right away. Remember, there’s a steep learning curve!

Finally, review our step by step guide before you head out. If you do all these things, you’ll be well on your way to riding your first wave.

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