Surfing is a popular pastime all over the world. The thrill of catching a wave and riding it across the water in to shore is a singular experience that is not to be missed. Follow these steps to learn how to start surfing yourself.
1Get a surfboard. Boards can be broken down by type; some are easier to learn with than others. Most surf shops can provide expert advice to help you pick a beginner's board that's right for you.
Know the basic types. Although you should respect the recommendation of a surf shop pro over advice you read on the Internet, it can be useful to have some idea of the basic types of board before you shop. They are as follows:
The longboard is the oldest and longest type of surfboard commonly available, ranging from 8 to 12 feet in length. Longboards are often recommended for beginners because of their ease of use.
The funboard is a newer type of surfboard that is somewhat shorter than a longboard, but still up to 8 feet long. Funboards combine the smoothness and stability of a longboard with some of the agility of a shortboard.
The shortboard is less than seven feet long, with a sharp nose and multiple fins. It takes more practice to master than longer types of surfboard, but is considered the definitive high-performance professional board.
The fish is even shorter than a shortboard, and much wider. Its flatness and small profile make it ideal for riding small surf that other boards sometimes struggle with.
The gun is a long (up to ten feet), thin board with a needle nose that is designed for surfing the very biggest waves. It can handle tall drops and high speeds with ease.
Suit up. In many places, a wetsuit is just as essential as the board itself to ensure an enjoyable surfing experience. The wetsuit keeps your body warm in cold water, helping prevent chills and hypothermia. If your surf shop recommends a wetsuit, get fitted and purchase one before you hit the beach.
Get some wax. Surfboard wax is an important and inexpensive product that can be rubbed onto the top of a surfboard to increase foot grip, allowing better balance in the water. Ask your surf shop which type is appropriate for the temperature of the water you will be surfing in.
Be cheap if you want. You can often get used equipment from yard sales or other secondhand sources for a fraction of the cost of new gear. If you need to save money and feel confident about your ability to choose the right board, feel free to take this approach instead.
Choose a foam surfboard rather than a fiberglass one, as they are softer and less likely to cause you injury while you are learning.
Condition isn't especially important when choosing a board. As long as it's still straight and smooth on the bottom, even a surfboard with top-side nicks and scratches will work fine on the waves.
2Learn surfing etiquette. There are a number of commonsense rules that most of the surfing community abides by while on the water. Knowing these will make you a safer and more pleasant surfer to be around.
Don't drop in on others. Catching a wave is called “dropping in,” and doing it while someone is already riding the wave is considered rude and potentially dangerous. Remember to scan the line of the wave for other surfers before you try to catch it.
Respect the right of way. When there is more than one surfer paddling to catch a wave, the person who has paddled closest to the place the wave is breaking has the right of way for that wave.
If two people are waiting on the same wave, whichever person catches it first has the right of way.
Stay to the side. Once you're able to successfully surf a wave, it's important to know where to go afterward so you can safely swim back out for more. Don't paddle up the middle where other surfers will be coming. Instead, paddle off to the side first, to keep the center clear.
3Find a spot. Decide on an area that's good for beginning surfers. This is where you will go once you are ready to test your skills in the water.
Ask around for advice. Ask your local surf shop, or surfers at advanced surf breaks where beginners should surf. They will be happy to point you to an appropriate spot.
Check online. If you can't find any advice that seems reliable, go online and search for recommendations there. You will often be able to find discussion boards for local surfers that have good information.
1Get help. The best way to practice and prepare for hitting the beach is with another person nearby who knows more about surfing than you do, and can provide feedback and advice.
Pay an instructor. The most reliable way to learn the basics of surfing in a clear, methodical way is to take lessons from an instructor. For a fee, he or she will teach you all you need to know and give you pointers that will help you get out into the surf and having fun quickly.
Ask a friend. If you have a friend who surfs, ask him or her to help you learn. The benefits of this approach are twofold: first, a friend won't charge you for the lesson; second, you can practice in the privacy of your own home rather than on the beach in front of others. On the other hand, the information may be less reliable or harder to follow when compared to an instructor.
2Practice. There are a few important techniques to get comfortable with before you try to ride a real wave. You can practice them whenever and wherever you like, as long as you have your board with you. Remember, having another, more knowledgeable person present will expedite the process.
Wear your leash. Your surfboard comes with a wrist leash to keep it from floating away from you in the event of a wipeout. Get used to wearing it whenever you are on your board.
Lie on the board. Lie belly-down on the board so that your body is lined up straight down the middle of the board. You should have a couple of inches between your feet and the back end of the board.
If you're at the beach, make sure you're not next to the waves or they might wash over you as you practice.
Paddle. From the belly-down position, practice a paddling motion with both arms to get a sense of the muscles that you will be working, and the perspective you will have from the board.
Learn to pop up. Getting up from the prone position is usually accomplished with a technique called “popping up.” The pop up is a vital element of surfing, but it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of.
While lying on the board, bring your hands up from the sides and grab one rail (side edge) of the board near your chest with each hand.
In one quick, explosive motion, push your body up with your arms and tuck your feet up and under, to about where your waist used to be. Let one foot stand in front of the other.
Depending on which foot comes naturally in front, you'll be either a "regular" or "goofyfoot." Regular means that your left foot is in front, goofyfoot means your right foot leads.
It is sometimes easier for beginners to tuck their legs onto the board slowly, and then stand up quickly. Feel free to do this until you become more confident.
Maintain balance. Once you've popped up, keep your knees well bent, your arms loose and extended, and your torso leaned forward to lower your center of gravity.
You can practice popping up without a surfboard present, so feel free to do it wherever you have a bit of space until you feel comfortable doing it.
3Get comfortable in the water. Before you plan to surf, visit the beach you will be surfing at and take a good long swim to make sure you feel confident in the water. Never surf anywhere you aren't comfortable swimming on your own.
Take mental notes. Pay attention to water temperature, depth, and any currents you notice. Note the positions of jetties, rocks, and other potential hazards.
Play it safe. If there is a lifeguard tower, plan to surf at a time when the lifeguard is on duty. Take some time to ask other surfers on the beach if they have any advice or warnings for you.
Catching a Wave
1Set a target spot. Don't plan on swimming too far out where more advanced surfers might be floating, but make sure you are in deep enough water to keep from hitting your head should you fall off your board.
Remember to be courteous. Plan to swim up the sides of the main corridor if other surfers are present.
2Swim to your spot. When you're ready to go out into the waves, walk your board out until you're about waist or chest-deep, then lie on the board and paddle straight into the waves.
Swim straight. If you hit the waves at a glancing angle, they will knock you over. Stay perpendicular to the oncoming waves and “cut” through them instead.
Pick a reference point. Choose a landmark on the shore and glance at it periodically as you move into deeper water. This will help you gauge your distance, and reveal any hidden currents that might be moving you off course.
3Turn around. Remain on the board and paddle hard on the side that you want to turn away from. This will rotate the board so that it's pointed towards the shore.
Stay back. Remember to keep your body straight and far back on the board as you paddle for maximum board control. Your feet should be a few inches from the tail end.
4Paddle onto a wave. Waves will be coming from behind you. Don't let them take you by surprise; turn your head and watch for them. When you see one about to break, start paddling.
Be quick. You want to catch the wave before it breaks, so you have time to get up on the board.
Be patient. If you miss a wave, just paddle back out and wait for the next likely candidate.
5Catch the wave. When you have a good sense of the speed and motion of the wave, pop up onto your board using the technique you've been practicing.
Keep trying. You'll probably slide off the first few times, but don't be deterred. Some people can learn in an afternoon, while others take a week or more to get the hang of things. Keep trying and you'll eventually make it.
Try staying low. Consider standing on your knees for the first few tries until you get a better feel for the physics involved in surfing a wave.
Try staying even lower. If you're having trouble conquering your fear, or are getting frustrated trying to pop up onto your board, practice riding some waves in while still on your stomach first.
6Ride into shore. With your feet planted on the board near the back end, your knees bent, and your arms loose, you're now surfing your first wave! Stay focused and let it carry you in to shore.
Start simple. At first, you should ride each wave straight in. This is a shorter and slower way to ride than angling on a wave, but it is easier to get the hang of.
Get ready to angle. As you become accustomed to the feeling of surfing, you will probably want to try angling your board across a wave. Angling on a wave lets you ride for much longer and reach higher top speeds than a straight ride. It takes some practice but isn't especially difficult if you've already gotten used to riding straight.
Pick the direction you want to ride across the wave (left or right) early. If the wave is low enough, begin paddling in that direction before the wave hits. For larger waves, wait until you are getting pulled up onto the wave.
Lean into your turn. Use your body to gently dip one rail of your board into the current. This creates a keel that will turn the board.
Remember to stay far back on a longboard to avoid digging the nose of the board into the wave as you come around.
Once you catch the right angle, maintain balance and ride down the curl.
7Get ready to wipe out. Wipe outs are an unpleasant but unavoidable part of the surfing experience. With time, you'll get better at avoiding wipe outs, but for now, follow these basic steps to stay as safe as possible when one happens:
Stay calm. A wipe out can be dangerous, but if you keep your head there is usually nothing to fear. Think clearly and act decisively to minimize your risk.
Jump away from the board. Most wipe out injuries happen as a result of the board hitting the surfer. Always remember to jump out to one side as soon as you feel a wipe out coming, rather than to the front or back.
Don't dive in. Always assume the water is shallow when you jump, to prevent accidental head injuries.
Lead with your bottom. The safest overall position to enter the water from a wipe out is the cannonball position, with your limbs tucked high and your butt leading into the water.
Let yourself sink. Waves are powerful, but they don't have nearly as much pull below the surface. Let your body sink for a second or two and you'll often pass safely under the wave you wiped out on.
Return to the surface slowly. Swim upwards gently and feel ahead of yourself to avoid getting hit by the board.
Open your eyes briefly and look up if you can, to ensure that your board isn't lurking directly above you.
Return to your board. Once you have safely surfaced, follow your wrist leash and climb back onto your board to prevent it from scything or flopping through the water, which can cause serious injury to yourself and others. Climb aboard, rest on your belly, and regain control.
Once you're safely on your surfboard, take a moment to relax and clear your head before doing anything else.