Surfing is an incredible, thrilling sport which pushes you to the limit of your fitness and skill while rewarding you with awesome adrenaline rushes and that unrivalled feeling of interacting with nature in a truly amazing way. Like riding a bike or learning to ski, surfing has a steep learning curve but once you have grappled with and overcome the basic skills, you’ll quickly move from nervous beginner to confident pro.
The first step in learning to surf is to make sure you’re using the right equipment. If you are taking surf lessons, it could be that the equipment is provided for you but if you’re going it alone then you’ll need a board (foam boards or ‘softboards’ are best for beginners), a wetsuit and rash vest, and surf wax to treat your board. While your skin is getting used to the cold, the wet and your board, it is a good idea to get yourself some gloves and wetsuit boots or water shoes.
Next up is choosing where you are going to learn. You may have heard talk of a spot that’s great for surfing, but the chances are that the reason it’s great is because the waves are quite large and unpredictable – exactly what you don’t want as a learner. Pick somewhere uncrowded with small break waves, no higher than stomach height.
Now, you have your equipment and you’ve picked your spot. Great, now you’re ready to surf. But before you surf, you need to learn how to paddle. Paddling is not glamorous but it is an essential surfing skill as this is how you will propel yourself into the waves before you stand. Paddling is a skill that many underestimate but failing to master the art could prematurely end your surfing career.
At first your board will battle the wave; this is because you haven’t got your optimum position yet. If the nose is dipping into the water, move yourself backwards; if the nose is more than half an inch above the water, move forward a little. Shift your balance from left to right as you paddle and as soon as the board glides, you’ve found you paddling position. Practice until you can get to your paddling position without thinking about it.
The next step is learning to catch and then ride a wave. Watch the waves breaking, paddle with them and then let the wave ride you back to shore. After a while you’ll be able to see the waves before they break by looking out to sea. Practice swinging your board around in time with the waves.
Finally there is the pop-up which is the transition from paddling to standing. You might want to practice on the beach first but the basics are to start lying on your front and do a push-up. As soon as your arms are straight, pull your knees towards your chest and stand up. Don’t stand up straight, use the classic surfer pose to keep a low centre of gravity.
Now you’re ready to ride that wave home!