Catching your first wave is one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences you can ask for. The secret to success lies in knowing what to do and what to look for before you head into the water. There is nothing worse then getting into the ocean only to realise you have absolutely no idea what you are doing!

Firstly, make sure you are using the right type of beginner surfboard. Once you have checked that off, you are ready to learn the basics of catching your first wave.

Step 1) Find The Whitewash

The first thing you want to do is find a spot where the waves have broken and whitewash is being formed. These type of waves will be close to the beach and in a spot where you are able to stand. Stay away from the green (unbroken) waves out the back. These are the waves you will advance onto once you have mastered catching waves on the whitewash.

Step 2) Check Your Surroundings

Knowing your surroundings is very important to being safe in the surf, especially when catching your first wave. You can make sure to stay safe by following these important beginner surfing tips:

  • Avoid surfing in areas with submerged rocks or sharp reef at the bottom. This is dangerous and more difficult to learn on.
  • Check that you are not in the way of any other surfers or swimmers in the area you plan to catch your first wave. If there are other surfers around, learn what surf etiquette is expected.
  • Know how to spot rip currents that may be in the area you are surfing.

Step 3) Paddling Onto The Wave

Once you’ve found a good section of whitewash and checked your surroundings, it’s time to get yourself onto the surfboard and start paddling to catch an oncoming wave.

As you see the whitewash approaching, lay your body on the surfboard. Try positioning your feet close to the end of the board so that the nose of the surfboard is out of the water. Arch your chest up and lift your feet slightly off the board to avoid any drag. You should start paddling well before the whitewash reaches you to help build momentum. Focus on having a strong, deep paddle stoke and let the water reach to about elbow height with each stoke. Once you feel the power of the whitewash push the surfboard, take an extra paddle then prepare for your pop up.

Step 4) Goofy or Regular?

Before you do your first pop up, it’s good to understand whether you are regular or goofy stance. If you are regular, it means you surf with your left foot at the front of the board. If you are goofy, you surf with your right foot at the front of the board.

One way to figure out what stance you are is to stand with your two feet together and have someone gently push you from behind.

  • If your right foot automatically goes forward – you are goofy
  • If your left foot automatically goes forward – you are regular.

Step 5) The Pop Up

Now it’s time to pop up on the surfboard.

  1. Place your hands at chest height on the top of the surfboard. Do not hold onto the rails (sides) of the surfboard as you will lose your balance and fall off.
  2. In one swift motion, straighten out your arms and bring your front foot (either your right or left foot depending on if you are goofy or regular) to the front of the surfboard while your back foot remains at the tail of the board.
  3. Once you are up, take note of your stance. Make sure your back foot is at the end of the board and your knees are slightly bent. If you are too far forward on the board or standing up too straight, you will lose balance and fall off. A lower centre of gravity will give you more control. You can try putting your arms out for more stability.

Your should aim to look something like this. Take note of how close to the tail of the surfboard his back foot is and how his knees are slightly bent for stability.

Surfing Correct Pop Up Stance
The pop up is often the hardest part of catching your first wave. Perfecting the pop up comes down to how much practice you are willing to invest so it is a good idea to try it out on the beach or in your bed at home. All you need to do is lay the surfboard down (fins removed or pushed into the sand) and practice exactly what was said above.

Get Ready To Catch Your First Wave!

So that’s it folks. You’ve got all the information you need, now it’s time to get out there and try catching your first wave. Remember that surfing is meant to be FUN so don’t get too worried if you aren’t nailing all of these the first time round. Surfing takes time and it is only those who stick around long enough who prevail!

Anything else you would like to know before you hit the waves? Let me know below.