We’ve all been THE newbie before. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking, you feel like every move you make is annoying everyone else in the room. You might even face mean senior workers, who seem to disapprove your every move. Sometimes, surfing can feel like that for many first-timers too. I mean, the idea of a newbie on an unstable board attempting to tackle unpredictable and strong waves is technically a reasonable cause for concern for anyone in the vicinity. It’s no one’s fault really, and you shouldn’t let this deter you from trying either. There’s always a right way to get started with everyone else’s safety in mind, including yours.
To begin, it’s essential to be able to assess where the majority of the surfers are, what type of waves they’re catching, and to be respectful of the rules. If many of the surfers seem to be professionals catching taller waves, perhaps you could catch a gentler wave at the spots where most beginners are. Always be alert and respect each other’s distance, the general rule is only one person surfs a wave. You might even hear surfers yelling which direction they intend to take on a wave, or if they intend on taking on that wave. Don’t drift around someone while waiting — think of it as like a queue for a ride. Always stick to your board, and avoid collisions with other surfers.
In this article, we dive deep into what you can do during your first time surfing to ensure everybody has a good time. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Where You Should Start
Essentially, all you have to do is sit back and observe before even touching the water. Identify who’s out on the water, where they are and quickly assess their skill level. If a spot looks populated, chances are many there are at an advanced level. You have to avoid these spots as the condition of the waves there may be hard to grapple especially for a first timer. Next, make sure that the waves look comfortable enough for your current skill level. No one is expecting a surfer to tackle a three-meter high wave on their first day!
A better spot that’s highly recommended for newbies would be at slightly shallow areas where waves break more gradually. The key is to practise in places that aren’t crowded with other surfers so you don’t have to worry about accidents should you lose your board in a fall. If you have a hard time locating a good spot, feel free to do some research beforehand or ask around or observe where most surf lessons take place.
What to Use
In terms of a surfboard, start big. It may be tempting to invest in a fancy board to start with, but most of these expensive boards require a certain mastery of skills before use. Bigger boards would be easier to paddle on and will provide you more stability you need when you first start out. This will help you focus on the more important part of training, which is familiarising yourself to the sea, gauging how your surfing style is like and fortifying basic surfing skills. Once you get that secured, then you can start looking at boards to invest in.
You could get a Shortboard, which is a shorter surfboard manufactured for quick turns and gaining optimum speed in big waves. They usually have three fins and are quite lightweight.
Alternatively, there is the Longboard, which is usually adorned with either a single- or triple-fin at the bottom tail of the board. These are great for nose riding or a more traditional style of surfing.
Additionally, make sure you’re equipped with a rash guard, a wetsuit (for colder areas), a leash to put on your ankle and wax to keep you from slipping off your board.
How to Surf
One of the basic exercises you could do to prepare for surfing can be done at home or at the shore before heading out. Practice “popping” up on your board by lying on your stomach and standing up as fast as you can. A regular stance would see your master leg at the back of the board and your other at the front with your knees bent for balance. This trains you to be familiar with this motion when you’re out on the waves. Once you’re out at sea, paddle out to the wave. Once you’re “on” the wave, turn your board to face the shore and start paddling, and start to paddle harder once you feel the waves lifting the back of your board. Make sure the nose of your board isn’t submerged, it has to be resting on the surface of the water.
Make sure you’re not too far ahead of the wave, this could use some practice to get used to. Make sure your board is sort of intersecting the wave as you paddle towards the beach as not all waves are always parallel to the shore, so make sure to adjust accordingly. Once you start to feel your board picking up the speed from the wave, this is where you prepare to pop-up. When you’re standing up, ensure that you are looking forward with your knees bent. Looking elsewhere will only cause instability.
Avoid holding your board when a wave comes up, remember to keep paddling. If you slip or fall off your board, try to fall flat instead of vertically. A vertical drop could cause you to fall deeper and increase the chances of hitting something underwater. Additionally, brace your head when you fall to protect yourself from colliding with your board. While you may have a leash attached to your ankle that connects you to your surfboard, never use it to pull the board to you. You never know if a wave might pop up and send a huge board barrelling towards your face. Lastly, stay hydrated and warm up before your session. The last thing you want is to faint or cramp up in the middle of the ocean!
We hope this article has prepared you for your first surf, and that it goes well! Try to keep these basic pointers in mind in order to ensure every single one of your surfing sessions go smoothly and more importantly, safely.