Do you want to learn how to surf? But don’t have the time or money to take a one or two-week trip just to learn how to surf? Well, you’re in luck because over the next month I’ll be posting a series of 5 blog posts intended to serve as a guide for learning how to surf on your own. The series will cover a lot (not everything, but a lot), from essential equipment and preparation, to tips for paddling and standing up, as well as safety and surf etiquette.
All you independent learners be sure to subscribe to the Bodhi Surf + Yoga Blog to receive all the future posts.
Surfing Is Simple
Surfing is a great activity not only because of the physical workout that it provides but also because of its simplistic nature. There’s no need for a man-made court or field, a team or opposing players. All you need are some waves, a surfboard, and the desire to get out there and ride them.
Surf Equipment: What You Need To Surf
The surf equipment you will need will depend on your location. If you are at a warm water beach the only essential equipment you will need is a surfboard with fins, a leash, some board shorts, and possibly some wax (this will depend on whether your surfboard requires wax or not). The unlucky individuals who have to endure cold water during the learning process will require all of the above, plus a neoprene wetsuit.
The most important piece of equipment is obviously the surfboard. It is highly recommended that beginners learn on a soft surfboard, aka “softboard” or “soft top”. While these types of boards don’t have the same feel or response as a normal, fiberglass surfboard, there are two major advantages that softboards provide beginners:
- Safety – as a beginner you are likely to get hit by your own board or hit another surfer with your board. This is part of the learning process, so to avoid getting stitches or having an experienced surfer hassle you about the damage your surfboard just inflicted upon his favorite board, get yourself a softboard.
- Reduced surfboard maintenance – fiberglass surfboards are quite delicate and can suffer significant damage while you learn proper surfboard care and management. Repairing surfboards can get quite expensive, so get yourself a softboard for the learning process and save yourself some money.
Other equipment which is good to have but not essential:
- Rashguard (for sun protection)
- Ear plugs
Before You Reach The Beach: Safety and Awareness
While the only prerequisite for learning how to surf is knowing how to swim (you should be a strong swimmer and feel comfortable in the ocean; if you don’t, please work on that first or enroll in a surf school to ensure your safety) it is important to become knowledgeable about the beach where you are going to be learning. Take some time to find out which beaches in your area are better suited for beginners, if there are potential dangers or hazards (are there rocks or reef?, is the beach known for having strong rip currents?), find out if there are lifeguards on duty, and check the surf forecast. There are plenty of online resources, such as Wannasurf.com and Surfline.com, with information on all the most popular surf breaks around the globe.
The most important thing for staying safe when surfing, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, is to always be aware of your surroundings. Get in the habit of observing before jumping right in, especially if you are unfamiliar with a beach or surf break.
Once you know what beach you will be surfing at, go there and check out the scene. Observe the waves, try to identify if there are experienced surfers, as well as beginners, and watch them for a few sets. Try to scope out an area that is less crowded where you can paddle out. When learning it is important to have some space between you and other surfers so:
- You have a better chance of catching your own waves
- You are not hindering other beginners, or in the way of experienced surfers
- There is less risk of you getting hit by another beginner’s board, or your board hitting another surfer
At some locations finding your own space will be nearly impossible, requiring you to be even more aware of your surroundings, other surfers, and possibly even swimmers. If this is the case, consider surfing at another time. Mornings or late afternoons tend to be less crowded at popular beginner beaches or try surfing during the week if possible.
That’s it for equipment and preparation. So get your stuff ready, read up on beginner beaches in your area, check out the beach you will be surfing at on your way home from school or work, and stay tuned for the next post on how to stand up.