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How to Surf for Beginners

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Surfing is a sport like no other. It combines the beauty of the ocean, riding waves, and the satisfaction of mastering a new skill. Learning how to surf can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences, but it's essential to recognize that it can also be a VERY challenging and frustrating process, especially for beginners. However, with the right guidance and plenty of patience, you'll learn faster than you may think. In this blog, we will break down the fundamentals of how to surf for beginners, offering tips, and some advice to get you going.

How to Surf for Beginners

How to Surf for Beginners

Step 1: Get the Right Gear

Before you get in the water, you'll need the appropriate surf gear. As a beginner, it's best to start with a soft-top longboard. These boards are stable and float well, making it easier for newcomers to catch and ride waves. You'll also need a surfboard leash to keep your board nearby when you fall, and a good-fitting wetsuit to keep you warm in the water (Depending on where you are). Make a visit to your local surf shop to get the right gear for your skill level, they will often offer rentals as well.

Step 2: Learn Surf Etiquette

Surfing is not just about riding waves; it's also about respecting the ocean, fellow surfers and the locals. Understanding surf etiquette is crucial. Here are some basic rules to follow:

  • Don't Drop In: Wait your turn for a wave. The surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way.

  • Paddle Wide: When paddling out, go around other surfers to avoid collisions or getting in the way of someone.

  • Respect Locals: Be respectful to local surfers and the surf culture of the area.

  • Safety First: Learn how to handle your board safely to avoid injuring yourself or others.

Step 3: Take Surf Lessons

If you're new to surfing, it's highly recommended to take surf lessons. Professional instructors can teach you essential skills, safety measures, and help you catch your first wave. They provide valuable feedback and ensure you start on the right foot.

surfing lessons

Step 4: Start on Small Waves

As a beginner, it's best to learn on small, manageable waves. Look for beginner surf spots that offer gentle, rolling waves. These conditions provide a safer and more comfortable learning environment. Don't paddle out somewhere with a lot of people around. This way you can avoid getting scolded by a local, and you'll likely be riding whitewash anyways.

Step 5: Practice Paddling

Paddling is a fundamental skill in surfing. Spend time practicing paddling on your board in flat water. Make sure you can paddle efficiently, as it's crucial for catching waves.

Step 6: Learn to Turn Your Board

Practice turning your board by shifting your weight and using your arms. Being able to control your board is essential for catching and riding waves, while also avoiding other people in the water.

Step 7: Catching Waves

Here's the moment you've been waiting for – catching your first wave. Start by selecting a small wave that's about waist-high. Position yourself on your board with your chest up, looking towards the shore. When you feel the wave lifting you, start paddling hard to match the wave's speed. As the wave begins to lift your board, pop up onto your feet, placing one foot forward and one foot back. Keep your arms extended for balance, and ride the wave all the way to the shore. Congratulations, you've just caught your first wave! Yeewww 🤙

Tips for Beginner Surfers To Keep In Mind

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety. Learn to identify and respect your limits, and never surf alone. Pay attention to local conditions and weather. You can head to check out a spot near you.

  2. Choose the Right Gear: Start with a soft-top longboard that suits your skill level. Consult with local surf shops for recommendations.

  3. Find Beginner-Friendly Spots: Seek out surf spots known for their gentle waves and welcoming atmosphere for beginners.

  4. Respect the Locals: Be mindful of local surfers and surf culture. Respect the locals, and they will likely return the favor.

  5. Learn from Experienced Surfers: Don't hesitate to ask for advice or watch experienced surfers. Observing their techniques can be invaluable.

For more information on Baja surf spots and great destinations to test your new surfing skills, check out our post on the 5 Best Surf Towns in Baja. You can also explore different types of surfing waves in our guide to Types of Surfing Waves and discover the right surfboard for you in our article on the 7 Types of Surfboards. For an overview of surf destinations in Baja, consult our Baja Surfing Map. Happy surfing! 🌊🏄‍♂️

Tips for Beginner Surfers

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