I’ll be honest.
There’s a ton of information out there on learning to surf.
From step by step tutorials to blog posts, all of which can teach you how to learn to surf.
They can educate you on the mechanics of surfing, what to do, and what not to do.
Watch and read through them all and you’ll learn pretty much the basics of surfing.
Heck, you might even learn how to move to the intermediate level, quicker than you thought.
But, if you want to know the correct fundamentals, which cuts through all the BS, you’re going to need something more in depth and way more conclusive.
You need a definitive guide.
In this post, this definitive, step by step guide, I’ll share tips used by professional surf coaches which will get you up and riding waves properly within minutes. You’ll learn the secrets to popping up, what boards are best for beginners and much much more.
These secrets many newbies don’t know about. So make sure you stick around for the entire post to learn everything you need to know about starting your surfing journey.
Let’s start with the most obvious question.
IS SURFING HARD TO LEARN?
The short answer is yes.
Surfing is one of the hardest sports in the world to learn.
A constantly changing environment with an unstable and moving surfboard.
That’s enough in itself to make it difficult. But, don’t let this put you off.
Learn the right way from the beginning and you’ll improve quicker and surf with more confidence, than your buddy who is still nose diving in whitewater (3 years on).
For whatever reason, beginner surfers never listen to this really simple, but crucial piece of advice and end up stuck and frustrated with their surfing for way too long.
Don't be one of them.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN TO SURF?
How quickly you’ll learn to surf will depend on a number of variant factors.
For the lucky and coordinated ones it can take only a few hours and for the not so lucky and less agile ones it can take a lot longer (months even).
The spectrum is vast, here are some important factors which will help:
Each person surf development is uniquely different.
I’ve personally witnessed first hand - in shape young guys struggle to stay balanced. Alternatively, I’ve seen larger frame women get up to their feet within their first lesson.
It’s important to note here:
Learning to surf is very different from improving your surfing.
Most people (on average) take a few lessons to grasp the foundations of surfing.
From complete novice to a beginner surfer is where most people see their quickest development.
What happens after that could take years.
CAN I TEACH MYSELF TO SURF?
Nowadays, there are so many tutorials and blog posts written on learning to surf, it’s fair to say you can teach yourself without even leaving your home.
Well, sort of.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these resources are beyond helpful to learn surfing.
But does it really replace having a hands on experience with a professional surf coach?
No, of course not.
Because when you're learning anything new, there are always a few key foundations you must know, in order to move forward to the next stage of your surfing development.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you're in it for the long haul.
And, I don’t blame you.
After all, surfing is insanely addictive, more on that in just a sec...
Always remember quality coaching will always surpass quantity coaching.
So grab yourself a well respected surf coach in your local area, invest the time and the money and learn the right way from the very beginning.
Correct technique in the beginning will 10X your progression further down the track.
WHY IS SURFING SO ADDICTIVE?
There is a term in surfing known as ‘surf stoke’.
And, it’s this precise feeling what makes surfing so crazily addictive.
According to surf historians, this expression (to describe how one feels after a surf) is said to have originated back in California in the 1950’s.
The compelling nature of surf stoke has been linked to feeling similar to euphoria.
It's little wonder why surfing is so addictive.
Don’t just take my word for it, over recent years more and more people have been curious to find out what it is, that makes surfers so stoked.
And the results might just surprise you.
Here's what the Inertia had to say:
“While surfing, we experience elevated levels of Adrenalin and Dopamine. Adrenaline raises your heart rate and increases your reaction time (the fight or flight reflex), while Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter triggered in your body when you are doing something you like. “Adrenaline junkies” – such as big wave surfers – get used to higher levels of these chemicals, as demonstrated by Keanu Reeves in Point Break.”
One thing's for sure...
Once you get a little taste of it, you'll only want more.
IS SURFING DANGEROUS FOR BEGINNERS?
You’ve seen the gnarly wipeouts on YouTube, you’ve heard the scary stories of shark’s surfing under peoples boards and you’ve probably seen one too many Bondi Rescues at your local beach.
But, is this standard?
In general, these are exceptions to the rules.
As with all fear, it circulates on the tongues of many. So, it becomes common to hear more about the death defying surfing stories and little about the surf stoke stories.
Most of the time surfing is a safe sport.
Unfortunately, not many beginner surfers stick to surf safe practices.
And, this is where surfing can quickly get out of hand.
In particular below, are three really unsafe practices you need to avoid.
SURFING OUT OF YOUR DEPTH (TOO EARLY)
If you've had a surf lesson (which I highly recommend) then you’ll know the first few lessons are held in the white water.
This is because it's the safest part to learn surfing.
It has a number of benefits:
So it goes without saying, don’t move out of your comfort zone until you're absolutely sure and confident you know what you're doing.
BAD BOARD MANAGEMENT
If you're new to surfing , then you're equally new to handling a surfboard.
And, this isn’t your average surfboard.
This is a huge 8-9 foot foamie with fins and legrope.
When you’re getting bashed around in the white water strapped to a surfboard it can quickly become a little dangerous.
My first suggestion is simple. Know how to carry your surfboard properly from the beginning.
Always carry your surfboard from the nose (the very front of the surfboard).
Hold the board under your arm, close to you, with the deck (the top of the board) facing you.
Never hold your board with the legrope first. You simply have zero control over your board and there's a high chance you could do some damage to yourself.
Surfing alone is like launching a boat and not radioing to the harbour master beforehand.
It’s something you never do.
As you get more experienced, than feel free to use your discernment.
However, in the beginning of your surfing journey I would never recommend surfing alone. There are too many variables which can turn ugly, quickly.
From flash rips to a board to the head to hitting into a rock, anything can unexpectedly happen.
If you're not with a friend or (at the very least) at a beach with other beachgoers, then you can only imagine what kind of situation you could get yourself in.
To add, the beaches which are the most popular and often the safest to learn surfing and are usually occupied by either lifeguards or other surfers.
Stick to the right surf breaks for your level and you can’t go wrong.
MY THOUGHTS FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH...
This list could go on.
But, I want to keep it short and sweet and I’m hoping you understand my general point.
Surfing can be a lot of fun.
Just be mindful and more importantly respectful of your environment and your equipment and you’ll really experience the true joy of what surfing has to offer.
WHAT ARE GOOD SURF CONDITIONS FOR BEGINNERS?
Surfing the perfect wave is the ultimate surfer’s dream. Unfortunately, these waves are few and far between.
Most of the time you're battling against white water, onshore winds, cold water and a ton of nose diving.
Having said that, there are best surf conditions for beginners which can really help you get more success with your surfing.
Let’s dive in to some of the basics:
This is every surfers perfect surf conditions because the wind is blowing off the land to the sea.
This type of wind makes the waves face clean and nicely shaped. Making it easier for new surfers to read the waves.
The smaller the better. But, not too small where you can’t even surf.
Around 1-3 foot range is ideal.
Any higher than 3 foot at this level, could set you back with your development.
One fearful experience could eat away at your confidence for long time.
It’s better to become an expert in the 1-3 foot range first and then look at surfing some bigger waves later.
WHITEWATER OR GREEN WAVES
White waves as mentioned earlier are perfect for the learner surfer. They are safe, fluffy and easily negotiable so you can catch as many as waves as you want.
As you move ‘out the back’ to surf unbroken waves or green waves as they are also known as , things get a little more intricate.
Out here, a different set of rules apply.
Reading binary waves is a whole another skill set, which take years to perfect.
MY THOUGHTS FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH...
If you’ve had between 0 - 20 surfs weather that be in a structured surf lesson or hiring your own board, stick to the white water for now.
If you’ve had 20+ surfs and are **confident and can swim! Then moving onto unbroken waves (as long as they are a. Offshore b. 1-3 foot) will be suitable.
You’ll thank me later.
Bonus tip: Scrub up your knowledge on surf etiquette before you do.
At this stage another type of surf break ie; point or reef ect is going to be too advanced for your level.
A beach break is the perfect starting point for all beginners.
This is due to a number of favourable factors:
There’s a reason why surf schools the world over choose to host their lessons at beak breaks. It’s safe, it's fun and it’s where most beginner surfers will have the most success standing up on their surfboard.
Choosing the right surf conditions for a beginner surfer can literally be the difference to shakas all round or a nightmare.
You simply, catch so many more waves.
And we all know...more waves equals more practice and more practice helps you surf better.
Rinse and repeat.
HOW DO YOU GET GOOD AT SURFING?
Good surfers make surfing look effortless.
They pop up, take off down the line, carving up the waves face.
Ah! “I want to surf like that”, I hear you say.
Beginner surfers spend a large percentage of their time battling it out in the white water.
This can be very frustrating.
Let’s face it.
We all want to be good...now. Without having to go through the many years of learning.
But, it doesn't work like that.
Here’s the thing.
Getting good at anything takes a lot of dedication. Most of the surfers you see out the back ripping, have spent years perfecting their craft.
Coupled with the right equipment and the right instruction you too can see quicker improvements.
Here’s a plan for you to follow to help you break through the early stages of surfing quicker and to help you realise your more on track than you think.
Learning to surf [action plan] to actually get good at surfing
THE LEARNING CURVE IN SURFING IS UNIQUE
If you’re still reading this post, you know more than anyone surfing is hard. Really hard.
And, unlike other sports the learning curve in surfing is slower.
Take a look at the graph below, it will make you feel better.
What this means is, you stay at the beginner level longer, than in any other sports.
Because, surfing has a unique set of variables which makes the sport extra challenging.
The good news, having an understanding of the unique learning curve in surfing, allows you to lower your expectation.
It’s a long road ahead and with this new found knowledge, you can attack any frustration days with a new sense of appreciation of where you’re already at.
SURF THE RIGHT SURFBOARD FOR YOUR ABILITY
I’m going to make a bold statement here and say - Most people are on the wrong equipment for their weight and ability.
Och! That hurt.
There’s a lot more that goes into choosing the right surfboard than walking into any surf shop and buying a board straight off the racks.
It’s part science (or is it math).
I’ll talk about the first one.
Each board has something called volume.
This volume determines its function.
This volume is key to a boards buoyancy.
When you're starting out as a surfer, volume is EVERYTHING.
The more buoyant your surfboard is, the easier it is to catch waves and practise your pop up.
Nowadays we all want the latest snazzy little number from Al Merrick or JS, unfortunately these boards don’t cut it for a learner surfer.
They offer the same volume but are a little more practical than a big foamie or a longboard (that’s of course your interest in short boarding).
Let me finish with this.
In the long term, this will only going to slow your progress down and add to your frustration.
GET SOME REALLY GOOD SURF COACHING
Before you ask, I’m not talking about a two hour Learn to Surf lesson.
Granted, they have their place in everybody's learning journey but they are also pretty limiting.
Spending a little bit more money on hiring a private surf coach, will literally transform the early learning stages of your surfing.
Your bad habits will be picked up straight away and replaced with the correct fundamentals.
There are 101 ways to teach the pop up. Some good. Some bad and some downright stupid.
There is one technique which we have used at the House of Surf for over 10 years and it’s known as the Aussie Method, more on that later.
This method requires the least amount of effort with the maximum amount of success, popping to your feet.
Here’s the thing.
You take a surf lesson with at least seven other students and your surf coach has one objective.
Get everybody standing up and riding a wave. Even if this means you're using all the wrong technique.
Knees on the board?
Don't get me started.
A good surf coach will invest the time and show the exact nuances and intricacies to the fundamentals of surfing.
Changing old habits is really hard, so learn the right way from the beginning and see your surfing benefit immediately.
STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH
I bet you can't touch your toes?
No. Thought not. Most people can’t.
You can only imagine how hard it is for people to 'pop up' to their feet.
Yup. You guessed it. Nearly impossible.
Not only is stretching insanely beneficial to your mind, body and soul but it’s an absolute necessary for your surfing.
Surfing uses certain muscle groups which are unique to surfing.
Opening and stretching these specific muscles, elasticating the body helps to be more bendy and flexible through all your turns.
A quick 5 minute stretch before paddling out, doesn't cut it.
I’m talking a couple of times a week .
JUMP ON A SMOOTH STAR AS QUICK AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN
It used to be really hard replicating the same movements as surfing on land.
Thankfully, nowadays you can.
Smooth star skateboards have been an absolute blessing for surfers.
Unlike ordinary skateboards, smooth star skateboards allow you to mimic the exact movements (within reasons) which correlate to when your surfing.
From weight distribution to balance to hip rotation through your turns.
Similar to video coaching, a smooth star will highlight all of your weaknesses, but this time, you won’t be able to blame the waves or the tides or the crowds.
One of the (many) difficulties about surfing is the inability to practise the same repetitions over and over again.
This is where a smooth skateboard comes in handy.
Go to any empty car park with a nice smooth tarmac , set some cones up and off you go.
Have a go at practicing weaving in and around the cones. Generating speed, rotating your hips and opening your shoulders for bigger more drawn out turns.
This will really help you understand the mechanics of your body and will seriously help when you're next out in the water.
See you at the back?
If only it was that easy, right?
Well, it can be within reason.
Have you heard the saying ‘work smarter’ not harder.
The same is true with your surfing.
Work with an action plan like this, give yourself an achievable goal to reach, something like this one - (I will surf my first green wave in 6 weeks) and go out and there, practice what you’ve learnt here and start making the changes.
I promise you, surfing smarter will 10X your progression.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF SURFING?
There are so many moving parts to surfing.
Even with some basic coordination, this sport is damm hard.
Granted, you have your good days. Everything just falls into place.
You nail the pop up, your catching waves like you’ve been surfing for years, heck you’re even starting to turn…
Then there are the bad days. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to find your rhythm.
This is the hard part of surfing. Reading waves and catching them.
And, this is what takes years to master.
To put this simply.
If you don’t catch waves, you don't get to surf them.
The more you can study and learn how waves break, the easier it will be to position yourself in the right spot to be able to catch them.
Let’s break these two factors down even further.
BROKEN WAVES OR WHITE WATER WAVES
Most surfers assume, all white water is the same and this is true most of this time.
But, there are some expectations.
When you're heading out at your local beach break, you’re looking for areas where the white water is breaking and moving towards the beach in one straight line or in a uniformed shape.
When the white water surges forward in this way, you’re not going to get any surprises with side waves or double ups knocking you off.
Usually the best place to find this white water is on a sand bank.
Look for the horseshoe in the tide line and this will help you find your nearest sand bank.
UNBROKEN WAVES OR GREEN WAVES
This is where things get a little tricky and a whole lot more interesting.
One of the key factors that goes into reading unbroken waves is predicting how they are going to break.
First up unbroken waves, break in three different ways:
A left when you look at it from the beach, breaks towards the right. The reason why is called a left, is as the surfer turns to catch the wave they are riding towards their left.
A right is the opppostie. It breaks to the left when you’re looking at it from the beach. But out in the water, your first directional change is to the right.
Don’t be. I still get mixed up.
A CLOSE OUT
A closeout is when the entire wave breaks at once. These types of waves, you won't to avoid. As they give you no face to work on.
Now you’re probably wondering which direction the wave is going to break before it actually does.
This comes down to two things.
Lets start with the first one.
If your surfing a point break like J Bay, South Africa, it’s safe to say you can acuretly predict the wave is always going to break as a right hander.
Surfing a break break is another story.
Trying to predict these waves brings me to the second point. These waves are not as defined as a point break and there are a mixture of rights and lefts.
To successfully predict where and which way the waves are going to break your looking for a distinct difference in the waves height as it aprocahes you.
When the wave reaches it’s peak, it will slowly start to feather. This is where the wave will disappaite it’s energy first.
From this point, the wave will taper of to either a left or right or both and when it breaks both ways this is commonly refered to as an A frame.
As you look from the peak (highest part of the wave) and the shoulder of the wave, the size difference indicates a time lapse between the breaking of the peak and the breaking of the shoulder.
It’s this time difference which surfers are looking for, to see if the wave is ridable and if your able to ride across the face of the wave.
The more you are able to predict where the waves are breaking the more waves you’re going to be able to catch.
As you approach any break have a go at mind surfing (visualising surfIng the waves). This will help to distinguish where the waves are breaking best.
WHAT ARE THE RULES OF SURFING?
As a beginner, your first handful of experiences in the water can be intimidating. It can also be pretty dangerous.
Which is why there is a code of conduct in place to keep surfers safe, be respectful of one another and to maintain all round good vibes in the water.
This code of conduct is known as surf etiquette.
As a beginner, knowing what the rules are, will make way for a more enjoyable experience.
Here’s the rules you need to know.
DON'T DROP IN
The surfer up and riding closest to the curl of the wave first, has right of way.
If you don’t adhere to this rule and you're surfing a notoriously localised surf spot, you could potentially run into a lot of trouble.
Nobody looks kindly on any surfer who drops in.
CAUGHT INSIDE, STAY INSIDE
If a surfer is up and riding and coming towards you, they have the right of way.
To avoid a collision or interfering with their ride, what you need to do is paddle towards the breaking wave so they have a clear path ahead.
If you are really unsure, the easiest and safest option is to stay where you are and let the surfer ride around you.
When you’re paddling out the back, you want to make sure your paddling on the shoulder so you allow the surfer up and riding to make full use of the wave.
It’s important to show respect to the surfer up and riding and give them the space, so they can turn and maximise the entire wave face.
When a surfer (known as surfer A) is already paddling for the wave and getting themselves into position another surfer (surfer B), goes behind surfer A - who has their full attention on catching the wave, and calls surfer A off the wave.
This is a really dirty tactic in surfing.
There are times in competition you see this behaviour, although it’s not respected, understandably the stakes are higher and surfers have used this to get heat wins over another.
But, in recreational surfing this is an absolute no go zone.
DON'T THROW YOUR BOARD
A big wave is approaching… What do you do?
Throw your board?
Attempt a duck dive?
If you answered No.2, well done. You’re right.
For safe practices, never ditch your board.
Instead, learn the correct techniques 1. The pushing through 2. Turtle Rolling. Or, go one step further and learn how to duck dive.
Learn the right way first.
Grab a copy of the The Surfers Rule Book and take it with you for your next surf.
WHY DO SURFERS SURF EARLY IN THE MORNING?
There is an ancient proverb and it goes something like this “the early bird catches the worm”.
You see this proverb refers to the person who takes the earliest opportunity to do something, will gain the advantage over others.
Have you heard of it?
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to surfing early in the morning.
You see there are few favourable factors which help to get your arse out of bed at 5 am in the morning.
Unless your local break is somewhere like Snapper Rocks then there’s a high chance when you set the alarm clock for 5am it will be worth it.
An uncrowded lineup is the holy grail for surfers.
Just you, your surfboard and mother nature.
Off shore winds make the wave clean and glassy. This type of wind allows beginner surfers to read the wave better.
NO FOMO HERE
There’s nothing better for your psyche than going for a surf in the early morning. It literally makes you feel good for the rest of the day.
It also helps with FOMO.
You know, when your friends are texting you about how good the surf is and you're stuck at work.
There is nothing worse.
THE LIZARD LOOK
If you're reading this and it’s a rainy cold day outside, you’re going to think what I’m about to say is ludicrous.
Let me explain.
Having grown up most of my life living in a subtropical country with fair skin it’s safe to say, getting up early and escaping the heat is a big motivator to get up for an early surf.
No need to apply the thick layer of zinc, the annoying surf hat and you can leave the lycra at home.
Ladies, early mornings are all about the bikinis!
The sun rays are soft and it's safe to expose as much of your skin as you desire and thankfully you won't look like a lizard when your older.
You know when you're addicted to surfing. It becomes really obvious.
You start to cancel social engagements in favour of early morning dawnies.
You might even cancel a date night.
I mean, if the surf is going to be pumping, then the boyfriend can wait.
CAN I SURF WITHOUT LESSONS?
Rent a board and a wetsuit, hit up your local break and boom your away…
It's that easy to surf, right?
Going it alone is fine don’t get me wrong, but there are a few things you should be aware of, if you choose this route:
There’s a very good reason why most people take a couple of surf lessons first before they go it alone.
Is it essential?
Is it recommended?
CAN YOU LEARN TO SURF AT ANY AGE?
I hear this all the time.
“I’m too old to learn to surf”
The truth is. You’re never too old.
The only limitation surfing has, are the ones you place upon yourself.
Most people give it a go for a few weeks.
But learning to surf (especially as you get older) takes patience and persistence.
This story might inspire you…
A couple of years ago, I used to work as a surf coach in Noosa. During a coaching session teaching school kids, I was introduced to one of the helpers.
Her name was Sue and she had recently reached her 70th birthday.
During the lesson, Sue spoke passionately about her surfing. She openly told me how she began to surf at 62 and how this never held her back. It only inspired her and you could see , surfing had changed her life.
A few weeks later I read in the local newspaper, that Sue had competed in the over 70’s men division at the infamous Noosa Longboard pro.
Now, if Sue doesn't motivate you to grab a board and have a surf lesson, then maybe it’s not for you.
Having said that, what I love about surfing , it’s not your performance but rather how it makes you feel.
The fact is, surfing is very good for your wellbeing.
Introducing surfing as part of your regular routine , will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
BEST SURFBOARD TO LEARN ON?
The answer to this, is going to exponentially improve your surfing.
There are few options to choose from and I’ll tell you why.
If you’ve had a few surf lessons, then chances are, you’ll be pretty familiar with these surfboards already.
These boards are the number one choice for surf schools around the world.
I would highly recommend these boards if you're starting out or if you've been surfing a handful of times.
What makes these boards so good for learners are:
Anytime you fall off or a wave thrashes you, you’re not going to get hurt by your equipment.
This is a big deal.
And, let’s face it. If you're learning, you’ll probably be falling off a lot.
When you're learning to surf, buoyancy is your best friend.
Because buoyancy, is what really helps you to keep the board stable.
And, the more stable your board is, the higher chances of successfully catching waves and popping to your feet.
Keeping the prices down helps when you have to invest in buying equipment to get you started.
Prices range between $150 and $700 US
They are available in most surf shops or online.
Foam boards are a great entry level surfboard. They are relatively cheap, readily available and get the job done.
They are hard to carry, difficult to repair and offer zero rocker . Meaning your body position or your paddle game needs to be on point to avoid nose diving.
They're also pretty limited with functionality.
Once you’ve pop up and are comfortable trimming there’s not much else you can do on these boards.
FIBERGLASS SURFBOARDS (BETWEEN A MINI MAL AND A LONGBOARD)
Fiberglass surfboards are the next natural progression once you’ve been surfing for a while.
These boards have more functionality and are far more responsive. Making manoeuvres easier and you're able to fit into tighter parts of the wave.
These boards are perfect for surfing unbroken waves.
Without getting too technical, these boards have features such as concaves, rockers and channels.
In a nutshell, this allows the board to turn differently through the water.
The fiberglass fins also change the way the boards flows through the water.
Some boards you can even change the fin set up. From the traditional thruster to a twin fin or quad setup, depending on what kind of response you want to have and of course what kind of waves you're surfing.
You really want to be transitioning to these boards when you feel you’ve done everything you can do on the foamie.
Your catching waves unassisted, your poping up confidently and you're ready to start turning.
Enter fiberglass boards.
Let’s have a look at some of the advantages of these boards:
Once you're confident out the back, these types of boards allow you to take off on steeper waves.
When you take off towards the critical part of the wave, you’re able to generate more speed.
This speed helps you to execute turns with more fluidity and power.
With the harder finish of a fiberglass board, and the lightness of the material, the board becomes more alive.
As a result, turns become easier, direction changes become quicker, and now that your able to manouver the board, you're able to generate your own speed (which is a game changer!).
If you have an extra $1000 lying around then a custom made fiberglass surfboard tailored to your exact weight, ability and preferences is the perfect idea to advance your surfing.
Yup, it doesn't get much better than this.
These types of boards give you three options.
Ideally, the quicker you can get onto these boards, the better it will be for your surfing.
It's a lot easier to carry in and out of the water, your able to surf different breaks and it makes the transition onto a shortboard much quicker (ideally this is where you want to be headed).
There are a lot of crap boards out there, which will be detrimental to your surfing. Please choose carefully. Fiberglass fins can cause some damage, not to mention the rest of the board.
MT THOUGHTS FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH...
If I could suggest one tip for you to take away from this, don’t jump on a smaller board until you're totally ready.
Beginner surfboards are good for a reason. Try not to overlook this.
More litres = More buoyancy
Less litres = Less buoyancy
HOW TO LEARN TO SURF WITHOUT WATER?
It sounds crazy...learning to surf without water.
Can it really be done?
Well, sort of.
You’ll never be able to replace the ocean. That’s obvious.
But, there are certain movements and actions you can perform which will seriously help you when you next out in the water.
I’m going to share with you some very practical tips and advice which you can implement into your routine, if you’re a landlocked surfer.
You have two options to improve your surfing.
So what exactly is muscle memory?
“Muscle memory is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition, which has been used synonymously with motor learning. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed with little to no conscious effort”.
Let’s break this down a little.
Take the pop up as an example:
Let’s say you catch around 20 waves (and that’s on a good day). That would be a total of 20 pop ups, correct?
Now you could take the exact pop up movement and practice on the sand, in your bedroom or in your backyard.
And, you could pop up way more than 20 times...
In actuality, there’s nothing stopping you from practising this movement all the time.
The more you do, the more it will pay dividends to your surfing when you do get back to the ocean.
Now this is only one example.
You can easily put the same principles in place for paddling. If you live near a lake or have access to a swimming pool the exact same concept applies.
The same goes for improving your balance.
What’s important is that you're replicating the same movements as when you're surfing.
Here are two recommendations to help mimic your surfing movements to help you to learn to surf better without access to the ocean.
SMOOTH STAR SKATEBOARD
A smooth star skateboard is the closest you can get to surfing itself.
The good news about this type of training is, it’s never dependent on the conditions.
Which means you can practice till your heart's content.
Indo boards are a great way to practice your balance out of the water.
They strengthen the same muscle groups, so you’ll be more physically fit and balanced when you next jump on your surfboard.
I’ll be honest.
I’m not a gym junkie.
In fact, I’ve never been to the gym. Ever.
But, that doesn't mean I’m not surf fit.
As surfers, we use a completely different set of muscle groups. Strenghten and building endurance in these muscle is hard to replicate unless your pretty spefic with your work outs.
Thankfully, nowadays there are ton of products out there which can really assist with your surf fitness.
Let’s take a look at my top three.
PEAK PADDLE BANDS
Paddling is unique to surfing.
There are only two ways to improve your paddle fitness.
I’ll talk about the latter here.
When you use these bands correctly they are an excellent tool for building strength and endurance in your shoulders.
If you can work out and balance at the same time on one of these, then you’re doing really well.
The same is true for Bosa balls.
These are excellent at assisting with your balance whilst maintaining strength in your legs. Ready for your future power turns.
MY THOUGHTS FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH...
Can you learn to surf without water?
No. You can’t.
Can get fitter, stronger, more balanced?
Yes you can. You can also improve your technique.
Don’t fooled into thinking that all of the learning has to be done in the water.
There’s a lot you can do with other resources.
Get to it!
5 LITTLE KNOWN SURFING BEGINNER TIPS
Lastly, let’s address what's actually going to make you surf better.
Like, there must be some kind of hot tips to take away, right?
Here I’m going to share with my personal 5 surfing beginner tips to help maximize your time in the water.
KNOW YOUR LOCAL SURF SPOT LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT
The advantages of knowing your local surf spot is plentiful.
From fixed rips to the best banks.
The more you develop a relationship with your most frequented surf spot, the more confidence you’ll have.
Confidence in your environment can properly guide you further along on your surfing journey.
When you see advanced surfers, surfing their local surf spot, they are in rhythm with each set, they know exactly where the waves break best and are familiar with the easiest and safest places to surf.
Ideally, you want to do the same.
The more consistent you are with surfing your local surf spot the more playful your surfs will become.
THE NO.1 SECRET TO CATCHING WAVES
Once you understand waves and how they work, catching them becomes a lot easier.
Let me explain.
When waves approach you out in the line up, they are moving at a considerable speed.
So, for you to be able to catch these waves, you too need to move at least the same speed if not more as the wave is approaching.
It is this momentum that propels you into the wave.
The other factor is gravity.
And, before you ask I’ll keep this as simple as possible.
Catching unbroken waves requires two important things:
A waves face that is steep
Steep waves pull you down the waves face due to gravity. The steeper the wave, the greater the pull downward.
Therefore steeper waves require less paddle speed to catch them.
Softer waves with less steepness require more paddle speed or forward momentum to catch them.
THE AUSSIE POP METHOD
Over the years there have been many variations of the pop up.
All with one goal in mind - to make it as simple as possible.
The fewer the adjustments the better. Consistency and accuracy of the pop up is far more important than the speed.
The Aussie Method is what I’ve seen the beginner surfers have the most success with.
THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT NOSE DIVING
Imagine if you could catch any wave without nose diving.
How many more waves would you surf in your session?
At least double, right?
Beginner surfers nose dive a lot.
In fact, they spend a huge part of their surf session face planted into the oncoming water.
This is comes down to two reasons:
You haven't stood up correctly
You haven't paddled fast enough
Most nosedive dosen't happen because you're too far forward.
With that said, bear this in mind.
If your paddling nice and fast, you can get away with having weight on the front of the board, without nose diving.
If you’ve had a few surf lessons you’ll be familiar with your surf coach yelling '5 extra paddles'.
These extra paddles are really important.
They get you into the wave so the nose can drop with gravity down the wave and you can pop up.
Bonus tip: If you're in the correct body position but you're not paddling fast enough, you’ll still nose dive.
WHERE YOU LOOK IS WHERE YOU GO
It sounds simple.
But when you're popping up and struggling to find your balance, the first thing you do is look down at your feet.
When you look down, you go down.
Remember, wherever you want your board to go, you'll need to look in the same direction.
Weather that be on your pop up or eventually your first cutback.
Odly, this last tip is the least technical, yet the most important to introduce to your surfing.
If you only use this one tip, you’ll have double the success in the water.
Over to you...
The process of learning to surf can take a lot of dedication and persistency.
I’ll be honest.
There's a long road ahead.
Once you master a few of the basics, it can be one of the most pleasurable experiences of your life.
Grab your board, bookmark this definitive guide (share with your friends) and go out and surf till your heart's content.
I’ll be rooting for you.
Lauren is the founder and head technical coach of House of Surf.