How to Learn to Surf

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Girl on a surfboard in Cornwall learning how to surf


So you want to learn to surf. There are hundreds and thousands of blog posts, articles and videos that document learning to surf, many of them dealing with technique and the procedure of catching a wave. I am not a surfing expert. In fact, although I've been learning to surf on and off for many years, I would still classify myself as a beginner surfer, and even now I still eat sand regularly, not to mention my pop up, which still majorly sucks. So if you're looking for technical advice about technique then this might not be the post for you. Despite this, as a learner or beginner myself, I know exactly the challenges and highs and lows that you're going to face as you embark on your surfing journey. And trust me, the journey isn't an easy one. Surfing is difficult, there's no other way to say it. But surfing is also incredibly fun and addictive, and when the surfing bug bites, it gets its teeth in you for life. So, with no further ado, here are my top tips for learning how to surf.

1. Find a forgiving break

When learning to surf, mellow waves and space are two of the key ingredients you need. Ask around for some local knowledge, or if you're travelling to an unfamiliar place, do a little bit of research to find a suitable beach. Magic Seaweed is a good place to start, as the site usually includes information about when the waves are best, as well as the level of surfing you could expect. If your surfing in the middle of summer or on the weekend, my top advice would be to go early or late to avoid the crowds. There's nothing fun about trying to paddle for your very first wave whilst also trying to avoid being run over by hundreds of foamies laden with shrieking children. 

2. Book a lesson or phone a friend.

If you're a total kook with no knowledge of surfing whatsoever, then you will either want to book a lesson or find a surfing friend to accompany you on your first try. Learning to surf can be challenging and frustrating, so you're most likely going to need this initial input, not to mention someone to cheer you on when you finally manage to struggle to your feet after falling off a hundred times in a row.

3. Check the forecast.

Before you go for a surf you'll need to check the forecast. Over time you may learn to read the weather charts yourself, but until then apps such as Magic Seaweed will interpret this for you. Tides are important. Most beaches work best at mid and low tide, although this isn't always the case. You'll also want a small swell and offshore wind for the perfect learner conditions. Although, if the conditions aren't perfect don't necessarily let this put you off, sometimes its just about getting in, having fun, and surfing whatever the surf gods happen to throw at you that day. 

4. Practise, practise, practise.

Getting good at surfing takes an incredible amount of practise, and although I've been surfing for years, I would still class myself as a 'learner'. Some days I have great surfs where everything clicks and I catch wave after wave, other days I totally suck and spend most of my time rolling around in the white water. The only advice I can give is to go as much as possible, have fun, and don't give up. Once you've nailed catching waves in the white water, you'll want to progress on to green waves. Once you're catching green waves, you're pretty much there. My only advice would be that at this point you need to check your pop up technique. I learnt bad habits early, and now that I want to progress on to catching bigger waves, I find that my clumsy pop up is holding me back. 

Girl in Cornwall on Sennen beach learning how to surf


5. Buying a board.

So you've had a few lessons, you've caught the surfing bug and you want to take it further. No doubt you're thinking about buying your own board. Before this, you've most likely been learning to surf on a foam board. Foam boards are nearly indestructible and have an incredible amount of volume, making it easy-peasy to catch waves. Going from a foam to a regular board can be a difficult transition. My advice would be to get something big with plenty of volume. Mini-mals are the usual choice for beginners, before either progressing to something shorter or longer. Just don't spend too much money - your first board will suffer injuries, and you don't want to be left crying in the shallows when your expensive board gets its first ding. 

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