Surfing. Nothing looks as effortless as gliding along the waves on a warm sunny day. It can’t be that hard….surely? Just grab a board, get in the sea, paddle around a bit and stand up…
If you’re expecting to pick it up straight away, you might need a rethink. Surfing’s like no other board sport. Ok so you might have a tiny advantage if you’ve skateboarded, snowboarded or wakeboarded but trust us…nothing really compares.
The learning curve’s a lot steeper. Surfing’s not just about paddling, popping up and riding waves. You need to understand the ocean – where to sit to catch a wave, and that will only come with time spent in the water. A lot of it!
But the good news is that all that time, effort and patience is a million per cent worth it! You’ll keep coming back to it time and time again….trust us. It’s exhilarating and highly addictive, despite the frustrations.
So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge this summer and want to start your surfing experience positively, look no further than our handy guide to avoiding the common mistakes made by beginner surfers;
Riding the wrong board
Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, that shortboard with the sick graphics may look really cool but don’t be that guy or girl that tries to learn on one. A 6 ft board doesn’t have anywhere near as much float as a foamie and you won’t catch any waves. And that’s not fun.
Don’t let your ego get in the way by thinking you’re too good for a foamie. Surf schools use them for a reason and they know a lot more about surfing than you!
Not assessing the conditions
Newsflash. Those perfect waves you saw yesterday probably won’t be there today. The sea changes…constantly. From shifting sand banks, currents and tides to wind and swell direction, it all has an impact on the waves.
As a beginner it’s a minefield of information. Then there’s the surf reports to get your head around.
Bottom line, check the conditions with a surf shop, lifeguard or surf instructor. Don’t go out when it’s massive…that’s just dangerous. Equally, don’t get all suited up and arrive at the beach when it’s flat. That’s certified kook status!
Not paddling hard enough
Flailing your arms around with no conviction isn’t going to get you anywhere. To catch a wave, you need to start paddling before it reaches you. You need to match the wave’s speed to get enough momentum.
Paddle like you mean it and don’t stop until you’ve caught the wave. Take long, deep strokes with your arms and if your technique could use some attention, hit the swimming pool to help build up your paddle power.
Being in the wrong position on the board
Every surfboard has a ‘sweet spot’ – the optimum point for popping up and riding the wave. If you’re too far forward on your board, you’ll nose dive or ‘perl dive’ and end up with a lot of saltwater (and sand) up your nose! Sit too far back and you’ll miss the wave completely.
When you paddle for a wave, you’ll need to weight the board towards the nose. This means gravity will do its job in helping you to catch the wave. Foamies, which are ideal for beginners have a much bigger sweet spot meaning they’re much more forgiving when you pop up!
Ignoring the level of fitness needed
Surfing is physically demanding and more so than beginners anticipate. You need strength, flexibility, balance and endurance. It’s an all over body workout and you’ll use muscles that may not have been used in a very long time!
We’re not saying you have to train like an athlete but keeping up your fitness levels will help you improve a lot faster. There’s nothing like surfing to get you surf fit but if you don’t surf regularly you’ll need another strategy. Hit your local swimming pool and do lots of press ups to help build your shoulder strength.
If you’re booking a surf lesson, don’t overestimate how long you can last in the water. A 2 hour session is usually more than enough for anyone.
Looking down at your board
This goes for paddling as well as riding the wave. When you paddle, keep your head up and your eyes forward. Similarly, when you stand up, don’t look down at your feet. You’ll lose momentum and slow the board down. Look where you’re going – ideally over your shoulder in the direction you want to travel.
Standing up too quickly
Many beginners rush to stand up straight in a rigid position. You’ll lose control of the board and wipeout.
Stay low, bend from the hips and use your knees and hips to adjust. Similarly, you want to avoid the poo stance, named after its similarity to how you’d sit on the toilet. Poo stance is when your knees face outward with your legs being shoulder width apart and knees bent. Which is fine in most sports for a sturdy base but not in surfing.
Think knee width apart, feet across the stringer (or centre line of the board) and bend your back knee down.
Not having a surf lesson
Surfing isn’t like jumping on a skateboard, or kicking a football round a field. The ocean changes all the time and if you’ve never had any exposure to it, it’s pretty arrogant to think you can just jump in there with a board and start ripping.
Having a surf lesson with like minded beginners is way more fun and safe than trying to go it alone. Plus, you’ll learn the correct techniques which is guaranteed to get your surf journey off to the best possible start!
Have fun and welcome to the club! Maybe we’ll see you in the line-up…