Getting Started With Surfing
Surfing For Beginners – All You Need To Know To Get Started
The sunshine, the beach, the warm water, the adrenaline, and the fun. You will be getting all these and more from surfing. What’s not to like about surfing? I honestly can’t think of a reason. Don’t believe me? Ask any surfer you know.
Have you ever seen someone surfing in real life, in a movie, or on a video on YouTube? There is this wild, fun, free, and cool vibe surfing gives off that makes you say, “Yeah, I gotta try that.” Why? Because surfing can make you look like the coolest dude in the world. Not that I’m saying you aren’t cool as you are but cooler. You get the gist.
Before you pick up a surfboard and rush to the ocean, there’s a learning curve, a relatively easy one, about the sport. This article aims to introduce you to one of the coolest water sports in the world and educate you on all you need to know before getting on the water.
Classified information: Most surfers are selfish and territorial about the sport and want all the fun for themselves, haha. And surfing resources (waves) are limited and one wave for you is one less wave for them. But the ocean is big enough for all of us and there is enough fun to go around. Thank you, Poseidon.
What Is Surfing?
Surfing is the sport of riding waves in the sea or ocean in an upright or prone position on a surfboard. The surfer glides across the surface of the wave until it breaks and loses its momentum/energy.
A typical ride on a wave lasts for only a few seconds but you’ll hear many surfers describing their time on a wave as one of the best ever. You have to be in sync with your board and the wave and every move must be accurate and spot on. You forget about everything else and enter an entirely different realm – The surf realm!
As a beginner, you start with gentler waves and work your way up to riding more difficult waves. The learning curve of surfing as I previously mentioned is relatively easy and you’ll find yourself improving at a surprising rate.
Is Surfing Hard?
I’ve already mentioned how surfing is relatively easy but the sport is not without its challenges. The most difficult part of surfing is that no two waves are the same. So this means surfing conditions can vary significantly in the same location. Each wave is unique due to changing elements like wind, tides, and swells. But this is part of what makes surfing interesting.
You know each wave is a fresh challenge and adventure. With practice, you’ll become skilled at riding different waves but don’t be surprised when you wipe out on a wave after proclaiming yourself an expert. It’s part of the fun, buddy. Even the most advanced surfers may fail one or two times in a blue moon.
It’s important to have a good guide or coach to teach you the fundamentals of the sport. This will help sharpen your technique and prevent the need for ‘unlearning’ bad habits later on. Even people that have been surfing for a while can still realize they are doing some things wrong after interacting with a good coach. And they find out the hard way how difficult it is to unlearn bad habits.
How To Catch And Ride A Wave?
You need a surf coach or an experienced surfer to teach you the basics of the sport and riding and catching a wave is among the things you’ll learn. Below is a general guide to riding and catching a wave.
Step 1: Your work begins at home as you have to practice popping up by pressing your hands into the ground or board. You could also practise this at the beach. While your hands are still pressed into the ground, you try to jump up to your feet. If your left foot is in front and the right behind after jumping up, you are said to have a “regular stance”. If it is the other way round, you are said to be ” goofy-footed”.
The idea is to practise this movement several times until you are comfortable doing it.
Step 2: The next thing is to paddle out to the lineup using the tips given in the first step.
Step 3: Congratulations, you are ready to catch a wave at this stage. Be on the lookout for waves and when you see one you want to catch, then around and direct the nose of your surfboard towards the shore. After that, lay down and start to paddle.
Care must be taken to ensure that most of your board is just above the water (i.e. grazing the surface). Common mistakes include putting the surfboard’s nose underwater or too high in the air. As you go in the direction of the wave, you slowly gain momentum.
Then comes the most crucial moment of the sport. At the right time, you get up and line up the wave using only about 30 – 50% of your paddle power after conserving a burst of power for this moment. This action must be calculated and precise.
You then take things up a notch by using about 80% of your paddle power as the wave starts to draw on your tail. You’ll know as your surfboard will be lifted from the back.
Step 4: Look behind you to determine the position of the wave behind you after getting in a few strokes. It’s important you are at the ideal position on the wave which means you must not be too far in front or too far outside.
You’ll master this with practice and experience so don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t getting it spot on yet. Also, make sure that your surfboard’s rail is perpendicular to the wave.
Step 5: While looking forward, try to determine where the wave is by using your peripheral vision. The moment you feel a burst of speed and momentum, stand up! Then you drop in on the wave in what can be described as a mini roller-coaster slope.
Step 6: This is perhaps the most difficult part as you’ll actually be riding the wave at this stage. After popping up on your board, you have to look forward and be focused on riding with waves. There is this instinct to look down at your feet, at the nose of your surfboard, or back at the wave. But try to avoid doing all these.
Step 7: With your knees bent, hands on your side for increased balance, and putting more weight on your back foot, you are surfing.
Note: These steps may seem very complex and even abstract for a beginner. But when you have an experienced surfer to teach you and are actually on the water, they will be less ambiguous and you’ll get the hang of it with practice and proper guidance.
Different Types Of Surfing Boards
Surfboards are the most important gear in surfing. Designed in a wide variety, some surfboards are designed to go faster, some are lighter, more stable, and so on.
As a beginner, it’s important you get your choice of a surfboard right and I’ll be explaining the main types of surfboards below:
Fish and Retro Fish
Generally regarded as the ideal choice for surfing small or low-quality waves, the fish and retro fish surfboard is rounded, small, and features a kind of swallow tail and two keels. While this surfboard is easy to maneuver thanks to its small size, it should only be used on small waves. Also, the Fish and Retro Fish surfboard are more suitable for advanced surfers.
Stand Up Paddle (SUP)
The SUP offers great stability thanks to its longer length and thickness. It is best used on low strength or soft waves. However, maneuverability is more difficult. To help the surfer combat this, a flexible paddle is usually used to control the board.
One of the most popular surfboards around, shortboards are renowned for their speed and their versatility in all types of waves. However, they perform best in medium and big waves.
Note that using a shortboard requires a level of skill above that of a beginner. A beginner will have a hard time catching waves and maneuvering a shortboard.
Perfect for catching big waves and easy to maneuver, a Tow-in surfboard is small and comes with an accessory to attach your leg to the board. However, the small size means you have little room to balance. You can use a tow-in surfboard to propel yourself around on watercraft, especially small motorboats.
If you don’t surf on big waves, you have no business buying a tow-in board. Also, you need to have intermediate to advanced surfing skills to use this board while also having a jet ski or motorboat to tow you.
Bodyboard and Han-gun
The distinguishing feature of bodyboard and han-gun boards is that they allow you to surf in a kneeling position. You can also surf by lying on your chest and placing it at the lowest point of gravity.
Surfing on this board can be really fun. However, you’ll need extra momentum to use this board because of its small size.
Longboard and Malibu
Inspired by the famous Hawaiian logs, longboards are round and feature a rounded tip. You can use them to surf on small and medium waves and if you are experienced enough, on big waves.
Malibu is a big rounded tip board that’s similar to a longboard but smaller and easier to maneuver.
Distinguished by their long length (8 to 11 feet) and sharp tip and tail, gun boards are designed to surf on very good waves while also providing a good level of stability. Since big waves should be surfed by expert surfers, this makes the gun board suitable for them.
Other Essential Surfing Gear
A crucial part of your surfing setup, surf fins provide stability, performance, and drive. Popular fin setups on surfboards include single-fin, twin-fin, thruster, quad, and five-fin setups.
This is a rope that connects the surfer to the board. Using a leash prevents your surfboard from not only being swept away by waves but also prevents errant boards from hitting other swimmers and surfers.
Should you fall off your board, the leash ensures the board will be right next to you.
The Surf Wax/Traction Pad
Provides sufficient grip or traction to prevent you from slipping off the surfboard when paddling and riding the wave.
Could be wetsuits when surfing in cold and cool water. Even when the weather is warm, wearing a wetsuit is still advisable as you’ll be probably spending a long time on the water, get wet, and eventually cold.
You can also wear a rashguard to protect your skin against wetsuit irritation and prolonged exposure to the sun.
If the weather and water is warm, you can wear surf shorts and trunks.
Carabiners are strong, light metal rings that help attach climbing ropes to protection pieces like bolts, camming devices, and nuts thanks to their spring-loaded gates. Beginners generally require a locking carabiner that can be connected with a belay device.
Boots, gloves, and hoods
Essential when surfing in cold waters as they offer protection against the low temperature.
Portable surfing computers that display metrics like wave height, wave period, wind speed and direction.
Helps you capture your best waves. You get footage of yourself for keeping and sharing with friends. By also analyzing your videos, you can find areas you need to improve on.
How To Choose Your Surfing Spot For Beginners?
Unless you are lucky enough to live in a shack on the beach or a few streets from the beach, you are probably going to embark on a road trip to find your first wave. But before you head out, you need to get surf reports to know the swell size and direction in the beach you are going to. There are now several great apps that tell you swell sizes and directions in different locations around the world. As a beginner, you should look for waves in the 1 to 3 foot range.
Remember that the best waves for beginners are those that are slow, mushy, and soft. After reaching your surfing spot, assess the crowd before paddling out to surf. This is to avoid being in the way of more experienced surfers and endangering them. And they will not take kindly to you for doing this and rightly so.
How To Train For Surfing?
Requiring a combination of strength, ,endurance power, endurance, balance, flexibility, speed, as well as mental toughness, surfing requires to be physically and mentally fit. The bigger the waves you intend to take on, the higher the level of fitness needed to pull it off.
Workouts that can improve your surfing include front squats, ring chin ups, Turkish get up, push ups, and mobility drills. All these workouts will boost your athletic capacity and ensure you’re not self-limiting the skill and art of surfing.
Remember that these exercise routines aren’t going to make you a better surfer but will ensure you are in better physical shape to master the sports.
What Are The Dangers of Surfing & How To Stay Safe?
Most beginner surfers are usually too excited to get into the fun that they forget about any potential danger. But before you head out to catch and ride your first wave, it’s important to learn about surf-related risks and how to stay safe.
Beware of the apex predators
Sharks are the major reason why many people don’t take up surfing. Since you’ll be surfing in the ocean or the sea, there’s always a risk that sharks are going to pop up. However, chances are that you won’t see sharks every time you are on the water.
Surprisingly, sharks will move on without bothering anyone on most occasions. But the moment you spot a shark, call out as loudly as you can to alert people around for help. Then move your legs and arms onto your board while remaining still.
Should a shark approach you, prepare to defend yourself by using your board as a shield and a weapon if necessary. Aim for the softest and most vulnerable part of the shark such as eyes, nose, gills, and keep hitting it until help arrives.
To reduce the chances of running into a shark, don’t surf alone, at night, or areas with dead and rotting marine life.
Waves and rip currents
Waves are not as delicate as you can think. An average wave can weigh as high as 1000 pounds. And should you end up on the wrong part of the wave break, it’s like a fully grown horse falling on you. Your bones could break or you could pass out and drown!
Rip currents are narrow channels of water that can move up to 8 feet per second. The danger rip currents pose is that they can sweep a surfer out to sea. Beach officials will tell surfers when to expect rip currents and your coach will educate you on how to stay safe. If you get caught in a rip current, you can be swept out to sea rather swiftly and violently
Getting tangled in your leash
Your leash is there to avoid your board being carried away by currents. But there is the risk of your leash getting tangled around you and cutting circulation when you wipe out. When this happens, untangle the leash as quickly as you can and position yourself currently on your paddle.
Rocks and corals
Beginner surfers should stay away from areas with rocks and corals. Why? This is because waves can sometimes take surfers all the way to the bottom and rocks and corals can cause injuries especially when the surfer isn’t wearing a wetsuit.
Stay hydrated, put on a quality waterproof sunscreen, and keep an eye on the weather. If you see lightning, be sure to get out of the water as soon as you can. If the weather is becoming windy, stormy, or rainy, go home. You can always come back to surf another time.
Below are unwritten rules of surfing which you must familiarize yourself with a beginner to be fully integrated into the surfing family. Here we go.
1. Whoever has been waiting the longest is given priority for the next wave.
2. If you are unable to catch and ride your wave, wait patiently for your next turn.
3. Preference is given to those farthest from the shore because they are the most experienced and risky surfers.
4. Never take another surfer’s wave!
5. Stay out of the way of other surfers.
6. There is no discrimination in surfing.
7. Be nice to your fellow surfers.
8. Know your limitations.
9. Help the beginners.
10. Take care of the environment.