So you’ve started having these crazy thoughts that you want to learn to surf. You’ve seen surfing on TV, at the beach, in magazines. It looks pretty cool right? So you’ve made the decision. This is going to be your year – the year you learn to surf!
But wait a minute. You may be keen to start learning to surf as soon as you can, however, there are a few very important tips that you need to familiarise yourself with before you even think about hitting the water.
Surfing is a heck of a lot of fun but it is still an extreme sport and people can (and do) get hurt. There are a number of elements to be safe in the surf. Let me elaborate:
Knowing Your Surroundings
As a beginner surfer, you want to avoid surfing in areas where there are submerged boulders and reef/rocky bottoms. These type of breaks will only make it harder and more dangerous for you to learn. Try sticking to sandy breaks. Not sure where to go? Ask around your local area for the best beginner surfer friendly beaches or even try a Google Search in your area.
Being Aware of Other Surfers
The presence of other surfers can be one of the biggest hazards and safety concerns for a beginner surfer. When starting out, your ability to control your board will be limited. Therefore, it is very important that you pick an uncrowded spot to learn. Not only will this help avoid any dangerous accidents, it will also allow you to focus solely on your surfing without having to worry about other people. Win!
This may be obvious to some, but being able to swim is a MUST if you are a beginner surfer. Coming off your surfboard will happen when you are learning (and even when you are a pro). So, you must be confident in your swimming ability. Good fitness is also a bonus, but not a necessity, as you will see your fitness improve the more you surf anyway.
The weather plays a huge part in determining the best days for beginner surfers to get out onto the waves. It is very important to check the surf report and surf forecast when determining what day to surf. As a beginner surfer, there are some weather conditions you should look out for:
Keep out of the water if it’s going to storm. Try stick to blue, clear sky days.
Look for days when the swell is 2 foot or below and only surf the broken waves closest to the beach. These waves are called the whitewash and are perfect for beginner surfers.
Strong wind gusts can create messy, unrideable waves. The best way to avoid them is by surfing early when the temperature of the water equals the temperature of the surface of the earth, thus generating little to no wind. Surfing early also means you beat the crowds. Double win!
If you’re not sure where to look to find daily surf reports and surf forecasts in your area, try Swellnet or Magic Seaweed. They also provide a written report for most major surf areas if you’re not too confident reading the charts.
3. Rip Currents
Rips are strong currents of water flowing away from the shore through the surf zone. They can be dangerous and difficult to see, especially for beginner surfers. A tip to spotting rip currents is to look for one, or all, of the following features:
- Deeper, dark-coloured water
- Fewer breaking waves
- A rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters
- Anything floating out to sea or discoloured, sandy water flowing out beyond the waves.
Watch this video to learn how to spot a rip:
If you’re still not feeling to sure, visit Beachsafe for more tips on rip currents.
4. Surf Etiquette
Surf Etiquette is possibly one of the most important things you should know before learning to surf. So let’s just get straight to it:
Don’t Drop In
Basically, the person closest to the peak of a wave has right of way. This means that if the person to the left of you is paddling for a right (surfing terms 101: the direction the wave is breaking from a surfers point of view), than they have first dibs on that wave. Wait your turn. Check to see that you are closest to the peak of a wave before you take off.
Hold On To Your Board
This is a very important point to learn, especially as a beginner surfer. You DO NOT want to get into the habit of throwing your board to dive under a broken wave. Surfboards are hard, heavy and dangerous. A better way to take on an oncoming wave when you have a larger, beginner style board is to Turtle Roll. We will touch on this technique in a later tutorial.
Snaking is when you cut off another surfer by paddling past them to the front of the line up (surfing terms 101: the place just outside the breaking wave where surfers wait to catch a wave) and effectively take their wave. This is one of the less dangerous offences in surfing etiquette, however, it won’t get you many friends. Make sure you paddle out to the end of the line up and wait your turn.
Surfing is challenging and can be a very difficult sport to master. Adopting the right attitude before you hit the water is therefore essential to succeeding in this sport. A beginner surfer does not quit surfing due to their age or ability. They quit because they let frustration take over and forget that surfing is about having FUN and achieving GOALS. My biggest advice to you is don’t give up. Adopt a “try and try again” attitude because you WILL learn to surf. All it takes is a little self belief and perseverance. Once you start to see improvements (such as the first time you stand up; the first time you catch a wave and so on) you will notice this overwhelming feeling of excitement, pleasure, happiness and thrill. This is called Surf Stoke. Are you ready to find yours?