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Surfing Guide

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.

There are many sports you can partake in, you can partake in ball-bases sports, endurance sports such as cycling, swimming, or running, equine based sports, or others. But, one of the best and most popular types of sports out there is water sports, and amongst these are surfing, a very popular sport that tests your balance, awareness, and strength out on the wild, wonderful waters of our planet.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Things To Know Before You Start Surfing

When you start out as a surfer, it is likely that you will get frustrated, or irritated as it does not always go perfectly to plan while you learn. But, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you won’t become a pro surfer in a day either. Surfing becomes more fun as you progress.

Of course, there are many ways that you can build up your skills as you learn to surf, avoiding the drag of time that it usually takes. Understanding and utilising surfing knowledge can get you ahead of the game, and that is what I will try to do here.

The Learning Curve

Let’s start with one of the basics. Before you start surfing, be aware, this is one of the most difficult and complex sports in the world. No one wave is the same, and so your playground is totally changing.

If we were to compare this sport to another, the closest would be equine sports, because you are working with a living and changeable environment, a horse can change its mood and suddenly start bucking, much like how the ocean could be calm one day and aggressive and choppy the next. The bottom line- This sport is alive and temperamental!

This is a sport that works with a wild and living entity, you cannot train the ocean, you cannot anticipate its behaviors, even if you keep a close eye on the forecast and the tides. It is changeable, and elements such as wind, tides, and swells will affect the waves you surf every single day.

It is challenging, and enjoyable of course, but remember it won’t be easy to learn, and you will have to be adaptable to the ocean’s behaviors.

Once you do catch your first ‘green wave’ that it is, you will be hooked. Knowing the learning curve can help you to prepare your attitude and expectations towards surfing.

It is unlike other boarded sports such as snowboarding, as there will be no moment on your third day when you think ’I got this!’ and then rarely fall off again. When you are surfing, you will wipe-out for years, it’s just part of the sport.

The Importance Of The Surfboard

Every sport requires the correct equipment to perform well. However, surfing is a bit different. Surfing well with the right equipment can make the difference between surfing 20 waves, or 0 waves.

Having the right surfboard will totally change the experience for you. It is not about having the ‘best’ or most up-to-date model, it is simply about having the right volume and rocker.

The volume is the measurement of how much flotation the board has. It is a function of the length, width, and the thickness.

Simply, when you start surfing, you want plenty of volume. This means you should choose either a longboard or a foam board, boards which are wide, thick, long, and have a flat rocker.

These are ideal for starters, obviously as you gain experience you will move on from this type, but for now you want something like this that will properly support you in your learning.

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Choosing The Adequate Surf Spot

It’s not all just about what you surf on, it’s also about where you surf too. This is absolutely pivotal. Where you choose to surf can be the difference between having the best time of your life, or the worst time of your life.

Many surfers might tell you that you should start on a beach break, as it is safer. And this is true, but only to an extent. It is better to fall onto sand than rocks, or onto a coral reef.

However, there are some sandy beach breaks for advanced surfers and some rocky point breaks for beginners.

Just to add to the confusion, some spots can be great to learn some days, but other days they may only be hospitable for the pros. It is all down to the conditions on those days.

To discover if a site is good for your level of experience, you should look up the information on that spot, as well as daily wave conditions. Some surf websites and forums are loaded with information on different surf spots.

Always do plenty of research and check out sites that offer this type of information, helping you know what board type is needed, surf level, tide, swell, and bottom.

 Have Someone To Show You The Best Technique

Surfing is one of the most complicated and technical sports in existence. Imagine learning the wrong techniques and then having to unlearn these bad habits before you can continue to progress.

In some ways, learning to surf can be as hard as learning a complex instrument, you best had learned it right from the start, or it will take so much longer to learn.

Many inland surfers will back this up, after having dedicated their life to the surf too late. Still today, coaches in surfing often make us realize we learn particular things the wrong way, and it can be very hard to change old habits.

If you really want to surf, learn it the right way. Get an experienced form or a surf coach to show you the basics at the beginning, you’ll be grateful for it later on.

 Study And Understand Surf Ethics

Finally, I want to remind you that there are many rules to go by in surfing. It is not all just free-birding, and you need to be aware of the rules. Some of these would be things such as; do not paddle inside, do not drop in, don’t snake, do not ditch your surfboard, etc.

It might sound like utter gibberish as you are starting, but it is very important that you stick to the rules as you learn.

Remember that not only are there rules for safety, but also for the environment. Oceans are the biggest ecosystem on our planet, and humans have already tainted them enough.

Surfing can be a damage-free way to enjoy the natural waters of our world, just make sure you give them the respect they deserve and be environmentally friendly on the waters.

Surfing Ethics

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.

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How To Get Started

Getting started at surfing as a beginner is not always easy, and it can be really trying. Here are top tips on how you can get started.

 Start At Beginner Spots

This should go without saying really, but surf only at beginner spots, you do not want to be learning the ropes in an area with loads of expert surfers. It will only frustrate all the people present, so talk to an experienced surfer and ask for suggestions on beginner spots to help you get started.

 Before Paddling Out, Watch Other People

Before you start the physical learning, take some time to soak up what you see. Spend a good half an hour watching the surf and watching other surfers. Look at where they paddle out, where the waves are breaking, and the level of everyone in the water.

Are those in the water advanced, or are they beginners like you? Check that you are conformable with the waves sizes. Once you paddle out, sit off to the side for a while and watch a bit more out there. Note where people catch the waves. Watching can be a great way to learn.

Be Respectful

As is true for any outdoor pursuit, the locals will know the area better than anyone else, and they will feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to the area. Be police, and do not yell, try not to get in other people’s way and just be civil and kind to the people around you.

Although it does not really need to be said, there can be incidents with conflict and this is just best avoided at all costs. Even if you are frustrated at the surf on the day, try to stay calm and be respectful to everyone around you.

 Understand The Exact Rules

Know the rules before you take to the water. This includes the rule that generally, one person surfs per wave, and the person who is closest to where the wave breaks has right of way.

So, if a wave is coming in and you and another surfer turn toward shore to catch it, if it were to break on your left and peel toward the right, then if the person is to the left of you then they have right of way. You would need to stop paddling and wait until the next wave comes.

If a wave is peeling in both directions, then a surfer can ride the wave in each direction, as this will not cause a collision.

This is why you may hear a surfer yell ‘going left/ right’ to indicate their direction and that they have right of way.

If you are at a break with one takeoff spot, wait your turn, moving towards the spot as others take their turn, do not paddle around them as this is bad surfing etiquette. Remember you should be polite, and not only to the locals but fellow surfers too.

 Stay Out Of The Way When You Are Paddling Out

When you are paddling out, stay out of the way. If there is a channel (this is a deeper area where waves do not break) paddle out there. But never paddle out through the surf or through the lineup if there is another way. This keeps you and other surfers safe, and it also preserves your energy too!

If there is no other way out than through white waters, then it is your responsibility to stay clear of any surfers riding ways. If someone is riding a wave towards you, then you need to paddle in the opposite direction of where the surfer is heading.

And so not forget, regardless of anything else, always hold onto your board.

Where To Surf

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.

 Start At A Place Where Waves Break Slowly

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.

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What To Ride - Choosing A Surfboard

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.

Gun Board

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.

Important Accessories

One of the best things about surfing is that besides your board, you typically do not need much other gear. There are plenty of gear you can get, but not much you NEED. So, here are some of the extras you need to have that you should also get when you go board shopping.

 Swimsuit: 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, getting wet, and eventually cold.

You can also wear a rash guard 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.

 A Leash: 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.

Wax or Traction Pad: Provides sufficient grip or traction to prevent you from slipping off the surfboard when paddling and riding the wave.

 Surf Fins: 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.

 Surf Camera: 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.

Surf Watches: Portable surfing computers that display metrics like wave height, wave period, wind speed and direction.

 Boots, Gloves, Hoods, Hats: Surfing boots and surfing gloves are essential when surfing in cold waters, as they offer protection against low temperatures. Surf hats are well recommended to protect yourself against the hot sun and harmful U.V. rays.

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.

 Practice Popping Up

Our work begins at home as you have to practice popping up by pressing your hands into the ground or board. You could also practice 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 practice this movement several times until you are comfortable doing it.

 Paddle out

The next thing is to paddle out to the lineup using the tips given in the first step.

 When You See The Wave Turn Around

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.

 After Some Strokes, Look Back Over Your Shoulder

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.

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.

 Look Forward And Use Peripherals

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.

 When Popping up, Look Ahead And Commit

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.

 Keep Your Knees Bent

With your knees bent, hands on your side for increased balance, and putting more weight on your back foot, you are surfing.

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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 board.

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.

The elements

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.

Gym Training For Surfing

Requiring a combination of strength, power, endurance, balance, flexibility, speed, as well as mental toughness, surfing requires being 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.

 Dumbbell Front Lateral Raises

This is an exercise that will strengthen your deltoid muscles for better paddling.

To do this exercise, start with your feet hip-width apart, and brace your core by drawing your belly button into your spine. Inhale slowly and raise both dumbbells overhead. Keep your shoulder blades down and your back and arms fully extended overhead. Keep your arms straight, and slowly lower one dumbbell to your side, keeping the other one remaining overhead, do this in a pattern of four second down, one second up in alternation. Alternating the sides helps to simulate the motion and strength of paddling.

Remember to exhale as you bring your arm down, and inhale on the way up. Use a light to moderate weight and aim for around three sets of 15 per arm. Make sure you choose a comfortable weight for you, as overdoing it will only make you tired faster and will prevent the muscle build up you seek.

 Barbell Romanian Deadlifts

This is an exercise that helps to strengthen your posterior chain muscles, which includes your glutes, hamstrings and back. These help to generate power while you are performing turns.

To perform this exercise, start with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back as if you were trying to touch a wall behind you with your bottom. Keep your knees stacked over your ankles to maintain adequate balance, and reach down. Grip your barbell about a thumbs’ length in front of your knees and keep your shoulders down and back flat. Push through the floor with your feet as you drive your hips forwards to stand tall. Return to the starting position slowly.

For this exercise, you want to use a moderate to heavy weight and aim for three sets of ten.

 Core Rotations with a Swiss ball

The final exercise to help you with your surf is done as it strengthens your core in a rotational movement. Therefore, assisting in doing powerful turns and cutbacks.

Sit upright on a Swiss ball with your feet firmly on the ground. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle. Draw in your belly button to your spine to properly brace your core. This can be done with, or without weights, although medicine balls work well.

Hold onto the weight with bone hands, extend your arms out in front, keep your shoulder and back down. Lean backwards until your body is at a 45-degree angle, then rotate to one side, keeping your hips level, then alternate to the other side and repeat. Use a light to moderate weight for this and do three sets of ten per side.


Surfing is one of the most popular sports in the world, and it definitely trumps all others as the most popular water sport in the world. People love it, and it provides a sense of achievement, freedom, and peace when you are out there on the water.

However, like any sport, it takes learning and patience to do so. It will not always be easy, and you are bound to fall off. Take time to learn the ropes, understand the etiquette and learn with an experienced surfer as you start out.

There is no shame in taking the time to get through the beginner stage of surfing. Be aware of apex predators, waves and rip currents, getting tangles, rocks and corals, and the elements.

As long as you are sensible and take your time to learn properly, you will be just fine and out there surfing the world away soon enough.