Have you always imagined yourself riding on a surfboard and gracefully maneuvering at the waves? Or were you in awe every time you see surfers gliding on the ocean and riding on a big wave? Surfing is a fun sport but it is not as easy as you may think.
But is it possible to learn surfing by yourself? Yes, it is but you must be prepared because it may be harder learning on your own. Learning to surf with a surf instructor will make your life a lot easier. But don’t be disheartened easily, if prefer to learn without the help of anyone, here are some things you need to know.
What You Need To Know Before You Learn To Surf
So before you go rushing to buy a surfboard and knowing the basics, there are some things you need to know first and consider if you are really serious about learning to surf on your own. This will somehow help you decide if you should carry on with your decision to join the surfing world.
Safety should be your number one priority
There are a lot of risks involve when surfing and it won’t hurt to be cautious at all times, especially when you’re still learning. Surfing is not all about fun but can also be dangerous for a beginner. So how much more if you have no one to teach you?
One way to keep safe is by understanding the water where you plan to train. You need to know if there are dangerous sea creatures that may harm you like sea urchins, stingrays, jellyfish, and even sharks. You also need to learn about the tides, surf forecast, and if there are rocks where you can accidentally hit your head and even rip.
You can find out this information by asking the locals, fishermen, and even other surfers. You can also watch the weather first. Don’t be afraid to ask around, always remember your safety (aka your life) should be your main priority.
Your fitness level matters
You need to be physically fit in order to successfully learn to surf. You will be moving your arms and legs more so prepare to get sore arms and legs if you’re not used to working out.
It is important to have legs and arms strength when surfing, especially if you are doing it alone. Remember that you’ll be paddling and balancing a lot on your surfboard so you need to have enough strength to do those things.
If you think you don’t have enough endurance to surf, it’s best to work out first to avoid physical fatigue. Body conditioning is the first step towards surfing fitness. You’ll also be able to enjoy surfing more without the pain.
Every beach is different
If you love the beach, you probably know by now that they are all different. Not all beaches are meant for surfing and there are also places unsafe for swimming.
It is important to choose the right beach. There are many beginner-friendly beaches with smaller waves, so best to train in that spot first. A wave of about one to two feet high should be good enough.
Another important thing to consider is finding your spot. Try to avoid areas where there are many surfers. These are usually the spots where there are bigger waves, so as much as possible steer clear of those areas.
Aside from it can be dangerous to a newbie, since you don’t have enough experience yet, most surfers are protective of their spot and waves. You wouldn’t want to get in the way of other surfers.
A regular swimmer beach is a great place to start. Just make sure the area is not too crowded and that surfing is also allowed.
Not all surfboards are the same
You might be tempted to get a surfboard like the ones you normally see professionals are using. While they look cool and nice, you might not be on that level yet. Consider getting a beginner-friendly board first.
They may all look the same for someone who’s not into surfing. But boards vary in sizes and shapes so it is important that you choose the right board when you’re still in the learning phase.
Usually, a soft-top board works best for beginners and the right size would be a few inches longer than your height. It might be more challenging to use a big stand-up paddleboard or even a windsurfing board as your first surfboard.
There’s really not much equipment needed when surfing. All you need is the right surfboard with fins, a leash, and proper attire when surfing. If the place you are surfing on has unfortunately cold water, you might want a neoprene wetsuit.
Other equipment that some surfers use but not totally needed are earplugs, rashguards, and sunscreen. Although the latter is a must even if you are not surfing.
Some people wear rash guards also as a sun protector. Depending on the kind of board you have, a wax may also be needed.
Expect to fall numerous times
Don’t be discouraged easily when you fall off your board. That’s only normal in this sport, especially since you do not have enough surfing skills yet. But be prepared for this so you won’t feel bad about yourself and quit easily. Remember surfing is not easy. It is something that would require a lot of practice, patience, and determination.
Also, even the best surfers still fall off their boards and they don’t always catch the waves. So, don’t be too hard on yourself for falling. It’s all part of your learning process. Plus, it will be your motivation to be better and to practice more. Once you see your surfing progression, you’ll be glad you fell a couple of times.
Are you still interested to learn how to surf by yourself? If you still are, another lesson you need to learn to surf is the rules. If you’re a beginner, learning surf etiquette will save you from a lot of trouble.
Being new to the surfing world, you probably wouldn’t know about this. But this is a big no-no in surfing and might even cause you big trouble with other surfers.
Dropping in is when another surfer drops in or hops in a wave that a surfer is already riding down the line. To avoid this, you must be aware of your surroundings and understand the priority. If you already see someone is paddling in for a wave, then stay away and let this person take on the wave.
Another thing to avoid is being a snake. It’s like being a wave hog. Snaking is trying to paddle past other surfers just to be the first in the lineup to get the first wave.
To prevent this, always look around your surroundings to see if there are any surfer nearby who’s already paddling for a wave and avoid it. You can also opt to look for other surf spots that are less crowded or to just wait for your turn.
Don’t get in the way of another surfer
After getting out of the wave and getting back to the surface, don’t get in the way of another surfer who’s preparing for the next wave. Be sure to paddle back out and away from the other person.
Always check if there’s another person or swimmer around
When you’re surfing on a regular swim beach, assuming you are allowed to surf, always be aware of other swimmers or surfers if any. Before paddling out, check on all directions to be sure you won’t be hitting someone with your surfboard.
You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone or even yourself while trying to learn. This makes life safer and easier for all the people around the spot.
Learn to communicate
Sometimes it is possible for a wave to break on both right and left. When this happens, two surfers can ride this wave. However, be sure to make it clear whether you’re aiming for the left or right wave. Communication is the key to a safe and fun surfing experience.
Learn to share the waves. Just because you can catch most of the waves doesn’t mean you should. Let others in the area catch some, too. Practice taking turns. The ocean is for everyone to use, let others get a beach break also.
Don’t let go of your board
Whatever happens, don’t let go of your board even when a big wave comes crashing on you. You’ll never know if are swimmers nearby and the board accidentally hits someone. As mentioned earlier safety is the first priority – yours and the safety of other people.
Most surf accidents are caused by surfboards since they are hard and they have sharp fins. Using your leash can help prevent accidents as long as you have a tight grip on it. But also keep in mind that leash breaks can also happen.
This does not only mean respecting people but also the beach itself. Be respectful to other swimmers, surfers, locals, and the beach. Don’t litter, don’t leave anything behind, and if possible try to pick some trash along the way.
Basic Surfing Skills to Learn
The first thing you need to find out is your stance. Stance is how you would stand on your surfboard. There are two kinds of stance, the regular and goofy.
- Regular – your left foot is in front or forward and your foot at the back. This is more common.
- Goofy – left foot at the back and your right foot forward. This is less common, but those who can do both stances usually still prefer this stance.
To find out if you’re goofy or regular, have someone push you lightly from the back. The foot that you put forward to prevent you from falling will be your strongest foot and the one you’ll put forward on your stance. The right stance is normally your feet should be around shoulder-width apart.
Just like with any board sport, balance is the key to perform well. It is one of the first things to master. It’s challenging enough to stand on a small board and add up the ever-changing water current.
You must be able to hold up with any kind of wave that will come your way. You need to have strong legs and core to maintain good balance. Core exercises play a big part in your balancing.
Paddling is not just about moving your arms on the side and trying to move forward. In surfing, you need to find the right position and balance your body while lying on your board in a prone position. When paddling there is a right amount of pull, pace, and reach, which is why you need strong arms when surfing.
If you’re still not too confident with your paddling skills, a great way to practice would to be try on flat water first. A pool or lake will do since it’s easier to learn to paddle on steady water without waves.
One more thing to learning to sit comfortably on your board while waiting for a wave to come. It is one of the fastest ways to get the board to move towards the peak and take off into the wave.
Pop up is when you are in your lying prone position and change into a standing position. It’s like doing push-ups on your surfboard. If you’re observant enough, you probably notice several beginner surfers do push-up style popups a couple of times. You don’t have to be in the water to practice that.
Learning to surf does not always require you to be on the beach. Sometimes you can do it at home with your surfboard, or if you don’t have one yet, you can simply draw a surfboard on a floor or use a mat with almost the same size as a board. Lay down on it and try pushing up and bringing your legs into your surf stance.
Do it over and over again until you got the hang of it and are able to position yourself in your stance without trouble. You know you have successfully mastered the pop up when you don’t feel your knees touching the board and without the need to adjust your feet as you go up in your surf stance.
The next step is to try this on water which is a bit challenging. You should check first the wave conditions at your surf spot and start with mellow whitewater waves. Even if you have perfected your popups, don’t expect to be able to do it on your first try on the waters.
Riding Green Waves
When you think you are confident enough with your surfing skills, you can now try the real thing, which is riding an unbroken wave or what is called green waves. Some people would need more or less 20 whitewater before they progress to riding a green wave.
This is probably the most challenging part of learning to surf. This would be easier if you have a family member or friend that can show you how. However, it is still possible to learn on your own, but expect that it would be harder.
Timing is very important when riding the waves. You need to know the right time to stop paddling and when to pop up on your board. Popping up too early or too late will either result in the wave leaving you behind or it will be broken in the whitewater leaving you stuck in it.
The key here is to keep on practicing until you see progress. Learning to surf is something that takes time. Plus, practicing will improve your muscle memory.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it hard to learn surfing?
Learning to surf can be easy if you have the determination and someone to teach you about this sport.
Is it safe to go surfing alone?
You can never know the wave conditions and it is always best to have someone nearby when you go surfing, especially if you are still trying to learn to surf. You can use surf spots that have lifeguards.
Is surfing dangerous for beginners?
The truth is surfing can be dangerous for both professionals and individuals who are trying to learn to surf. The key is learning all the basics like swimming, balance, and handling wipeouts.
How do you train to surf at home?
You can learn to surf at home even without the waves. Before you start riding on green waves, you should practice your paddling and pop up first, which you can do at home with boards or mats.
So, what’s the bottom line on this? This hobby can be learned by anyone even without a surf instructor, but it will be more challenging. However, as long as you are determined, know the surfing etiquette, have an idea about the basics, and how to find the right surf spot, you’ll soon be able to catch waves. Some beginners forget that riding green waves is a process that can’t be learned overnight, so be patient and you’ll be able to ride a green wave perfectly and who knows, you’ll soon be able to duck dive, too.