Surfing has got to be one of the (if not the) hardest sports to master.
And as a beginner surfer you need all the help you can get.
Which is why we've gone and created a MEGA list of thirty two of the best beginner surfing tips to help you on your journey.
32 BEGINNER SURFING TIPS TO GET YOU SURFING BETTER, FASTER
1. HUNT OUT A BEGINNER FRIENDLY SURF SPOT
There are some surf spots that are good for advanced surfers, and some that are better for beginners.
Typically, advanced surfers will prefer waves that are more powerful, that break in a more dumpy type manner.
As a beginner however, these are the waves you want to avoid.
Instead search for surf breaks with slow, soft rolling waves, as it's here that you'll find the best surfing conditions for beginners.
2. LEARN WHEN THE TIDES ARE RIGHT FOR YOUR LOCAL
Every surf break shows a different personality depending on whether it's high, or low tide.
However, there's no hard and fast rule you can apply across the board.
Some spots will be better at high tide, some better at low, and it's up to you to find out the best surf conditions at your local spot.
Quick easy way to do this...
...just ask a local.
They'll be able to tell you in a heartbeat!
3. LEARN HOW TO READ A SURF FORECAST
You want to be surfing when the waves are at their best right?
Well in that case, you're going to need to learn how to read a surf report.
Get this skill dialled, and you'll be in the right spot, at the right time...
*Our favourite surf forecasting service? MagicSeaweed, go check it out here.
4. LEGROPE CHECK
Legropes deteriorate over time.
The velcro wears down, and you can get nicks and cuts into the legrope cord too.
So it's a good idea every once in a while to give your leggie a 'once-over' to check for damage, as the last thing you want is to lose your board mid surf.
Not only is this damn annoying, if you're not confident it can put you in a bad situation pretty quickly.
So get in the habit of checking your legrope for damage regularly.
5. DON’T SURF ALONE
Surfing alone can be one of the most blissful things you can do.
Just you, immersed in nature, alive but alone.
But as a beginner however, it's probably a wise idea to avoid.
Whilst you're in your early stages of learning it's a good idea to have extra people around you for safety, confidence, and let's face it, someone else seeing your waves is just better
6. DRY LAND PRACTICE
I used to call BS on dry land practicing.
That was until this happened that is:
Picture this, I had two private lessons with two separate individuals - both complete beginners - that both struggled for the entire 2hr session until just about getting to their feet in the final 15 minutes.
Fast forward six weeks later and these same two surfers book in for another private session with me within the same week.
Surfer 1 hadn't surfed or practiced since our first lesson.
We basically had to run the exact same lesson as the original, with things finally clicking in the last 15 minutes once again.
Surfer 2 on the other hand (unbeknownst to me) had been religiously practicing their pop-up every day at home.
And the results were insane!
Even though he hadn't hit the water the entire time (not even once), the improvements were HUGE!
So if that's not proof that dry land practice works I don't know what is.
So be like surfer 2, and get some dry land practice in each day.
7. DON’T DROP EQUIPMENT SIZE TOO QUICK
Running a Surf School in Mount Maunganui in New Zealand we see this a lot...
Many of our students make the big mistake of dropping down in equipment size too quickly.
I know, I get it, we all want to be on those shiny beautiful looking surfboards, but if improving is highest on your agenda (above looking cool that is ) then it's a good idea to hold off on dropping equipment size too fast.
Well, think about it like this.
The bigger and more buoyant your surfboard is, the more waves you're going to catch.
The more waves you can catch the more opportunity you have to practice and refine your technique, leading to faster improvements.
If you're riding a board that's too small you'll struggle to catch any waves, struggle to get to your feet, and struggle to get any reps in for practice - leaving no room for improvement.
I'm not saying don't drop down in board size, I'm just saying you've got to do it at the right time that's all.
8. WARMTH OVER FASHION
To improve, you've got to spend time in the water, and there's no bigger barrier to spending time in the water than getting cold.
So do yourself a favour, when picking a wetsuit be sure to invest in warmth over fashion, or try to get a balance of the two at the very least.
If you're not sure what to look for when buying a new wetsuit check out this wetsuit buyers guide here.
9. KNOW YOUR LIMITS - AND PUSH THEM BY 10%
Sure, there are dangers to surfing and you've got to know your limits.
...you've got to push through those limits too.
Each session try to push yourself, push your limits - just a little bit each time - and your confidence will sky rocket I promise.
10. THE 1% RULE
The 1% rule is all about searching for small improvements, regularly.
Tiny improvements, stacked and compounded over time lead to HUGE overall improvements in the long run.
How can you incorporate this into your surfing game?
Simples. Just pick one area of your surfing that you want to improve each time you hit the water, and go focus on that one thing for the session.
Maybe you want to set yourself a goal of how many waves you're going to catch in 1hour, maybe you want to work on popping to your feet faster, whatever it is focusing your efforts on little micro improvements will compound to insane improvements over time.
11. LEARN TO LOVE THE JUNK
I love surfing junkie waves.
Do you know why?
Because where I grew up that's the only type of waves we ever had.
But learning to love surfing crap waves actually has a loads of benefits too:
And a whole heap more.
So next time you're 'ummmming & arrrrrrrring' whether to get in the water because is look like just get in there anyway.
You'll always feel better afterwards.
12. FAIL FAST
Fail fast is a motto that I like (and it's a motto that I'm quite good at too ), but it holds true in surfing nonetheless.
Here's the thing, to improve as a beginner surfer you've got to pay your dues...
...you've got to take your stacks, take the wipeout's, take the beatings in the whitewater, you've got to embrace it all!
Because in surfing it's not about the destination, it's about the dance (thanks for that one Alan Watts), and it's about falling in love with the process - and everything that comes with it.
13. DON’T BE A SHEEP
Most surfers are like sheep.
They see a group of surfers in the water, and without surveying the conditions whatsoever they paddle straight out and join the crowd .
And then the inevitable happens, they get pissed off with the crowd, and catch no waves.
To keep it short, don't just be a sheep that can't think for themselves, be the wolf that makes their own decisions.
Cause who knows, just 100m down the beach might be a perfect little spot with nobody out, just waiting for you to come say hi.
14. LEARN THE RULES OF THE GAME
A big contributing factor leading to a lack of confidence in beginner surfers comes from the a lack of understanding.
A lack of understanding the rules of the game, the rules and etiquette of surfing as a whole.
When you're just starting out it's easy to feel like a deer in the headlights, confused, apprehensive, and uncomfortable.
So how do you combat that?
You've got to learn the rules of the lineup, how it works, and where you fit in.
It's called surf etiquette, and once you familiarise yourself with these unwritten rules your confidence in the water will soar!
15. LEARN TO PADDLE LIKE A PRO
Paddling is the thing that literally nobody EVER wants to practice, because you didn't take up surfing to be good paddler right?
But think about it for a moment.
You spend WAY more time paddling than you do actually riding waves, and you know what, being an epic paddler can help you in more ways than you can think:
And a whole lot more.
So, take the time to refine your technique - Minimise Resistance, Maximise Propulsion.
You'll feel the benefits quickly I guarantee.
16. TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK
Surfing's a funny one.
Sometimes you've got to take two steps forward, one step back to make progress.
Here's an example we see a lot in our surf lessons:
A surfer will try to catch a green unbroken wave, they'll ride down the wave on their belly, stabilise, then get to their feet.
This is fine and all for a couple of goes, but you've got to move past this stage quickly.
That habit has got to be changed so that you're popping up at the top of the unbroken wave, not riding down it on your belly (for a number of reasons, but safety being a big one).
So, you have a choice: Keep riding down the waves on your belly and staying the same level - but getting to your feet regularly in the whitewater.
Or, commit to popping up at the top of the wave, taking all the falls and unsuccessful attempts until you push through and master the technique for good.
Sometimes the longer, harder route, is actually the quicker route in the long run.
17. DON'T PROLONG YOUR POP UP
Did you know that the whole time you're popping to your feet your board is slowing down?
And it's this slowing down of the board that makes it way more wobbly as a result.
So commit to popping up fast - in conjunction with the point above - and you'll get more success, more often.
18. SPREAD OUT YOUR WEIGHT
Do you ever find yourself riding a wave and then just kind of stopping
Slowing down and grinding to a halt.
This is likely due to your surfing stance & the weight distribution on your board - probably too much of your weight, too far back.
So what you want to do is spread your weight out across your board, this will help the board to plane over the surface rather than bogging.
Think of it this way, when you're riding a wave on your belly to the beach you can dry-dock that thing on the sand every time right?
That's all because your weight is distributed across the board.
So try to replicate this when standing up.
19. REPETITION, REPETITION, RETPETITION
I wish I could give you some magic hack, some sneaky trick that'd help you to improve without doing any of the hard work.
But you know what, this just doesn't exist.
As with everything in life there are no shortcuts, and you reap the rewards of what you sow.
There really is no substitute for time in the water.
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
20. LEARN TO READ THE WAVES
As a beginner surfer the ocean appears to move in unpredictable chaotic ways, doing its thing with no rhyme or reason.
But, the more time you spend in the surf the more you'll understand how waves work - how the ocean moves, its ebbs and flows, its patterns too.
All of this ocean knowledge will help you to begin reading the waves, so much so that you'll know exactly where a wave is going to break every time.
Sure, it takes time, but the more time you spend in the water the better you'll be able to read the ocean and the waves, putting you in the right spot, more often.
21. WATCH SURF MOVIES
If you want to get better faster then you've gotta watch how the best do their thing.
By a process of osmosis, what you watch on film will trickle through to your surfing in the water.
Granted, sometimes you can watch a surf movie, get super amped and think you're going to tear it up in the water only to completely kook it (guilty ), but nevertheless over time you'll pick things up for the better.
22. TAKE UP SURF SKATING
We've seen some HUGE improvements in a tonne of our students from attending our Surf Skate Programs, and it doesn't take a genius to understand why.
With a surf skate you're able to practice the same manoeuvre over and over again until you get it, and then translate those same body mechanics over to surfing in the ocean.
It's pretty frickin potent if you ask me.
If you've never heard of a surf skate before and want to know what to look out for check out this article on Surf Skating.
23. INCREASE YOUR CONFIDENCE UNDERWATER
Do you get freaked out when you're held underwater?
Like most people you probably do, and that's normal, but there are things you can do to change this.
First and foremost you've got to learn to become more comfortable in sketchy situations, which takes a lot of practice and time pushing yourself (ref the 1% rule earlier in the post).
But you can also increase your breath hold capacity too.
Without bragging (ok, I'm bragging a little bit...) I went from being able to hold my breath from 46 seconds, to 4 minutes and 48 seconds in just 5 days!
Pretty wild hey!
To do that all I did was practice the Wim Hof breathing technique each morning, and voila, a badass breath hold time was recorded.
Having this knowledge that I can now hold my breath for a decent amount of time fills me with more confidence in my faculties in the water.
I suggest you give it a try too.
24. LEARN HOW TO FALL
This is a funny one and slightly counterintuitive, but you've got to learn how to fall well.
You see there's a good way to fall - whereby you don't hurt yourself and you're in control.
And there's a bad way to fall - whereby you'll hurt yourself and you're not in control.
Learning how to fall the right way is all about your pre-emptive, predictive abilities - understanding what's about to happen and preparing for it.
So to become a better faller (if that's even a word), try to think a few moves ahead, and get ready for any and all eventualities.
26. STRETCH MORE
Oh man I'm guilty of this one, I should stretch way, way more than I do.
Not only does it free your body to move in the ways you want it to on the wave, but it also dramatically reduces your chances of injury.
*Note to self... must stretch more
27. DON'T JUDGE YOURSELF
We judge ourselves enough on land, so let's leave that crap there hey, it doesn't need to follow you into the water.
Sure, as you look around you there'll be 6 year old kids absolutely ripping, making you question everything, but you know what, who cares what anyone else is doing.
There's more to surfing than that.
So I say forget about comparing yourself to other people in the water - let that stuff go - and just focus on you.
And the rest will take care of itself.
28. LAUGH IT OFF
There's virtually nothing funnier than watching your friends going over the falls, or getting smashed by a wave (I'm literally laughing right now just thinking of it).
But obviously things aren't quite so funny if you're the one that's getting smashed.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Simply flipping the script, changing the way you look at things can have you seeing the funny side of getting smashed too.
And the result is you, laughing, happy, and chilling all whilst you're getting rag-dolled under water.
Completely calm and chilled.
29. JOIN A LOCAL SURF PROGRAM
If you're not already, why not join a local surf program?
Depending upon where you live you might have access to a whole community of people just like you, learning the sport of surfing for the first time.
There's nothing better for your early stage development than getting in the water with a group of likeminded people, all with the same goal, pushing one another to improve.
*We run a heap of Surf (and Skate) Programs like this, in fact their kind of our signature thing...
Here's the details if you want to find out more: 5-Week Surf Programs
30. GET OUT EARLY
Did you know that generally the best time to surf is in the morning?
Well, it is.
Let me explain.
During the day when the sun is at its hottest the land heats up which in turn sucks the air towards it from the cooler ocean, causing the wind to go onshore and making the waves all choppy and yuck.
Likewise, through the night hours when the sun's not shining the land cools down more than the ocean, causing the wind to flip direction and swing offshore by the morning.
Which means clean, dreamy conditions.
Not a hard and fast rule, but certainly plays out most of the time.
31. GET THE RIGHT WAX FOR YOUR TEMP
The wax on your surfboard is there to provide grip.
But if you're using the wrong type of wax for the temperature water that you're surfing in, then, a lot of that grip gets lost.
If you're using wax that's for colder water then it'll be too soft, and the wax will move under foot slightly which isn't ideal.
And if you're using wax for warmer climates then you'll find that the wax will become super hard, rigid, and lose all it's grip.
So in short, pay attention to the type of wax you're using and pick the right one for your local water temperature.
32. HIT THE WATER WITH A PLAN
Segment intending, that's a term from Abraham Hicks if you didn't know already, and it's all about having a clear, focused intention.
And you can use this to help you with your surfing too.
Each time you hit the water have a plan: What do you want to work on? What do you want to get out of the session?
Having a plan will help you to focus on your objective, and you'll improve as a result.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Surfing is a difficult sport to master for a number of reasons, but primarily due to the fact that the landscape of the ocean is ALWAYS changing.
But the journey of learning to surf can be made easier when you're on the right equipment, like a big buoyant soft top surfboard.
Get yourself on one of these and your beginner surfing journey will be made much easier I promise.
We all learn at different speeds but as a general rule here's what to expect:
1 Month: Standing on your feet, riding whitewater waves unassisted consistently.
2-6 Months: Riding green, unbroken waves unassisted.
6 Months - 1 Year: Taking off, trimming and basic turns on green unbroken waves.
1 Year+: The sky's the limit!
Sure, you can teach yourself to surf - and a lot of people do.
But as with any sport, it's always beneficial to get expert help where possible too.
Is it absolutely essential?
Nah, not at all.
Will it help you improve faster?
Damn right it will
WRAPPING IT UP
Well there you have it.
A whopping thirty two beginner surfing tips to help you on your journey.
Got any other beginner surf tips I've missed? Chuck'em in the comments below
Ex WQS warrior, and all-round frother - Loz is the technical coaching queen at the House of Surf.
She is also a mindset and life coach and has a habit of living in her van way too much.