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Is Surfing Hard? 8 Key Things to Know Before Getting Started

Is surfing hard? This is one of the first questions anyone would ask themselves when considering getting started with surfing. Here is the truth. You are going to experience ups and downs when you start your surfing journey from scratch. Sometimes, the journey will be fun and sometimes it will be pure fun and adrenaline. But when you gain experience and become more confident, you realize most of the things you’ve been told about surfing, in the beginning, aren’t true.

This article aims to tell you the hard truths about surfing. No lies, no myths, no misconception. Just the simple, cold truth. And here we go.

Surfing is harder than other sports to learn

Experienced surfers make the sport look so easy. They glide on the waves like that’s what they’ve been doing since they were born. But the truth is that learning to surf can be difficult, at least compared to other sports.

From mastering the pop to navigating the lineup, brutal paddle outs, and reading waves, surfing is essentially a complex sport. There is also the fact that all waves aren’t the same which means your playground is constantly changing.

Surfing is also a condition-based sport and you can’t always decide when to surf which can make practicing regularly difficult. This is not to discourage you from surfing but to tell you some of the hard truths.

You might have heard of the saying ‘patience is a virtue’ and it applies to surfing. You’ll need patience to master the fundamentals of the sport but your effort will pay dividends in the long run. And once you catch your first ‘green wave’, your confidence levels are bound to increase which will come in handy.

is surfing hard - paddling

Progress greatly varies with your degree of determination and commitment to practice

Everyone has their own pace when it comes to surfing. Some people are naturals and will get the hang of the sports in just a couple of hours while others will need a couple of weekends to get going.

Of course, age and fitness matter, and the younger and fitter you are, the easier surfing will be for you. So when you ask people about how difficult surfing is, you are going to get different answers based on the experience of the people you are asking. Some might even tell you they quit after a couple of tries.

But whether you are the type that gets the hang of the sport almost immediately or requires a few weekends to get going, your progress is dependent on your level of determination and commitment to practice.

It’s one thing to learn the basics of surfing and another thing to become an intermediate or advanced surfer. You need to be determined. You are going to wipe out a lot. Also, you need to practice regularly. Practice makes perfect. How are you going to perfect your techniques if you don’t practice? There is no substitute or alternative to consistent practice. You do it or you don’t. There is no try!

It’s important to know how to swim and be at ease in the water

While you can participate in watersports like kayaking and whitewater rafting (provided you are not on fast rapids) without knowing how to swim, having basic swimming skills is a prerequisite for surfing. You don’t have to be a pro swimmer. You just need to have a certain level of swimming ability and be comfortable in the water.

If you don’t know how to swim, you won’t be able to paddle your board and that’s one of the things you’ll be doing a lot when surfing. Also, it’ll be very difficult to catch a wave without paddling skills which are heavily dependent on swimming. You are going to wipe out (fall off your board) when surfing and having basic swimming skills will keep you afloat. You may also need to swim back to shore.

So if you don’t know how to swim and intend to take up surfing, you should first take swimming lessons and ensure you are a decent swimmer. Your instructor will tell you when you are good enough to go surfing. Then, you should ensure you are at ease in the ocean before learning to surf.

is surfing hard - duck-dive

Manage your expectations – There will be frustrations

It’s easy to become with surfing before you actually learn to surf. The media, surfer’s lifestyle, and adverts may entice you to the sport and put a certain idea of surfing in your head. But when you eventually start to surf, it’s important to lower your expectations.

Why? Surfing can be frustrating at times especially when it’s taking you a bit longer to master it. You aren’t going to become an expert surfer overnight and start taking on large waves. Your instructor will get you started on small broken waves and work your way up from there.

A lot of patience is required when practicing surfing

I have mentioned somewhere above how it’s important to be patient when learning to surf and I’ll be talking in detail about it here. Some sports can be learned in a couple of hours or days. But when it comes to surfing, you may need weeks, months, and maybe years before you can consistently catch good waves.

There is also the issue of the changing environment. You don’t have control over the type of waves you get and learning to read waves requires spending a lot of time on the water and plenty of first-hand experience.

Surf conditions change daily and even sometimes hourly. There are so many factors that affect the surf and they include tides, waves, the ocean floor, and the wind. This results in different sizes and types of waves and it’s worth mentioning that no two waves are the same. The surf conditions you experience today aren’t going to be the same the next day.

is surfing hard - guide

Surfing is physically demanding, you need to be fit

Ideally, you should fit before you start to surf and this is why the sport is easier for younger and fitter people. You are going to do a lot of paddling when surfing. You’ll also be duck diving and popping up on a surfboard a lot. All these are physically demanding and if you are not fit, you are going to get exhausted quickly. This alone has made a lot of people lose interest in surfing.

So before buying a board or signing up for surfing lessons, you can do yourself a favor by trying to get in shape with some basic workout routines.

You should take lessons or get an experienced surfer to teach you

While it’s possible to teach yourself how to surf, your life will be a lot easier if you get an experienced surfer to show you the ropes. You can book surf lessons and have experienced instructors guide you through the early and critical stages of learning.

Experience has shown it’s difficult to unlearn bad habits and this makes it important to learn the right techniques when starting out. If you have a friend or family that’s an experienced surfer, you can ask them to teach you if you want to save costs on saving lessons.

Make sure to start with an appropriate beginner board

There are different types of surfboards and the best one for beginners is longboards which are usually over 8 ft. Longboards are ideal for beginners because they have a large surface area which makes it easier to paddle and balance. Also, choose a soft-top longboard over hard boards to minimize the risk of accidents as you are going to wipe out a lot as a beginner.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about surfing and I hope I’ve been able to clear some of them and prepare you for the reality of surfing. Is surfing hard? Well, surfing is fun, surfing is a culture but it’s not always going to be rainbow and sunshine especially during the learning process.

Digest these hard truths about surfing and then book a lesson to get started.

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