So you’ve been watching them for a while now - the oblong black dots lined up on the surf break, or the guys and girls watching the swell from their cars, surfboards poking out the back seat, or neatly stacked on the roof rack. And you’ve made up your mind.
You want to become a surfer. Or at least give it a go.
You may be eager to buy the coolest-looking board and paddle out to the line-up at what appears to be the most popular spot. But that’s probably the worst thing to do. Although surfing is a lone sport, it's usually a group activity and requires a fair share of mutual consideration and a lot of hard work for you to learn how to surf
Tips for Beginner Surfers
Take time to watch how other guys do it
Join a dawn patrol or just be a beach bum and watch the people in the lineup. Which route do they take to paddle out, what turn-taking system do they follow, and where and how do they steer their boards? You will learn a surprising amount by patiently doing this. It may also help to familiarize yourself with surf etiquette before getting your fins wet!
Acquire a soft-top surfboard
Here’s hoping you haven’t already gone out and bought yourself the coolest-looking short board. You’ll want to start with a soft-top longboard if you want to give it a decent go. It’s more buoyant, so you can pop up and balance better, and you’re less of a danger to yourself and fellow surfers when you wipe out. Which you are likely to do a lot of at first.
Surf in an uncrowded place
Take your time to scope out a place, or ask a more advanced surfer for a good spot where the waves aren’t too big, and the line-up is small. It’s much better to hone your skill here till you’re ready to try the waves in the popular spots. Smaller line-ups mean more opportunities to catch waves, fewer people to crash into, and smaller chances of accidentally burning someone else’s wave.
Practice your explosive push up
Practice lying on your board at home or on the beach. Push yourself up on your arms, bringing one foot to the front and the other to the back in one smooth, quick motion. Make sure you place your feet perpendicular to the board.
Find your balance
This is another reason why it’s great to practice in uncrowded spots first - the water is hopefully a little calmer there which means you have a bigger chance of balancing, more space to fall, and way less pressure to get it right.
Don’t get horizontal on the whitewash
This kind of goes without saying, but it needs to be said because it’s not always that easy. Steer your board to go nose first on the whitewash, or you’ll wipe out.
Don’t bend your back; bend the knees
You need this for better balance and steering. If you’re having trouble with this, try working out your legs and core with yoga and circuit training.
Fall nice and flat
When it becomes clear that you’re bailing, the first thing to do is to protect your head with your arms and hands and fall on your side or stomach. It may seem like a good idea to go feet first, but you don’t know how deep the water is and can get a serious spinal injury if it’s shallower than you thought.
Know Your Surf Gear
It helps to have these terms in your artillery from the start so you can focus on what the salesperson or instructor is saying.
The plastic rope that goes around your ankle and onto your board, keeps it from getting lost on a wipeout. Make sure that it is as long as your board, or else it can be more of a hazard than a help.
You don’t need all that much of this, but you do need to clean and wax your board every two to three months. It’s essentially what helps you defy gravity - providing the grip for your feet to stay on the board.
You’ll need lots of this - more than you think. Definitely opt for a water-resistant one that won’t pollute the ocean with an oily film.
Surf Suits or Rash Guards
You may end up staying in the water for longer than you planned. Here a wetsuit or surf suit, or at least a rash vest or chafe vest comes in very handy. It’s also good for protecting your body from jellyfish stings if you’re surfing in places they are too frequent.
Surfboard Traction Pads
This rubber pad is not a necessity but serves as an easy replacement for surfboard wax. It provides more grip but can peel off in bits and leave a sticky residue on your board. They do not stick on soft boards though, so should not be on your beginner surfing shopping list.
Common Beginner Surfer Mistakes
Just a few quick things to avoid.
Riding The Wrong Surfboard
As discussed above, this could make or break your new hobby. If you don’t want to buy a soft-top longboard and think you won’t be using it for long, try renting one till you think you’re ready to progress to something else.
Abuse of Surfboards
Handle your surfboard with care - rinse it down with fresh water after each use, don’t store it in the sun or heat, and try not to ding it. If it does get a ding, have it repaired on the double.
Not Putting On Enough Sun Protection
This is true for just about any sport, but don’t underestimate the wickedness of the sun when you spend a whole day in the water.
Paddling Out in the Wrong Spot
Be sure not to paddle out in front of the line-up where you will get in the way of the other surfers patiently waiting their turn for a wave.
Giving Up Too Soon
See the learning as part of the sport and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings while you’re there. Don’t give up just because it is hard, be patient because it is hard.
Browse With The Best of the Best Surfing Store!
And because it’s hard - take your time. Watch the others, get the right gear, and be patient. Learning how to surf can be daunting - I mean it practically defies gravity - standing up on a narrow board like that while the ocean crashes around you.
But it looks exhilarating too, right? While we can’t help you pluck up your courage or put in the hours in the water to learn how to surf, we’d be stoked to help you choose your first surfboard.
Visit the South Bay Board Co warehouse from Mon - Fri, 10 am - 4 pm; or browse our online catalog of beginner surfboards and gear.