We’ve all been there before.
Every single surfer- pro, amateur, longboarder, shortboarder- they’ve all fumbled on their board, taken hundreds of falls, felt exhausted at the first paddle-out, mistaken seaweed for sharks— everyone had to learn how to surf with one wave at a time. Here are a few surfing tips picked up from endless wipeouts and epic sessions.
Start paddling before you think you need to.
You want to get enough speed so you’re going as fast as the wave when it arrives. When you see a wave forming, begin paddling in a consistent rhythm and look back once or twice to make sure the wave is worth the effort.
Alternate with smooth, strong strokes before the big push.
When paddling for a wave, cup your hands and alternate strokes in a swift, even rhythm so you’re gliding along at a good pace. Once the wave is just behind you, use both hands at once for one big speed boost to propel you into the wave.
Start with whitewater, work your way to the curl.
Waves that have already crashed are the best waves to learn on, as you can focus on learning how it feels to catch a wave, feel stable while lying down and being propelled, and learn to pop up on your feet while being pushed. Confidence comes from feeling comfortable, so focus on learning how to stand before paddling further out.
Learn Rip Tides.
When the waves look a little choppier than usual and they’re coming from different directions to form a churning area, it may be a rip tide. Rip tides can be hard to spot and dangerous, so it’s important to be aware of them and get out of one. If you feel like you’re drifting out to sea, no need to panic- keep calm to conserve energy and breathe. You just need to paddle horizontal to the shore in a smooth motion, towards breaking waves.
Read the surfer’s code.
12 simple reminders for surfers from Shaun Thompson. Classic and timeless.
Skip the knees.
After paddling and being scooped up by the wave, hold the side rails of your surfboard on both sides of your torso and push up just enough to place your feet where your waist was on your board. Your feet should be shoulder-length apart, knees bent. One quick pop-up. Yes, you’ll fall more than using your knees to get up, but you’ll quickly adapt a sense of balance while standing, rather than learning to balance while on one knee, than two knees, then gradually standing on your board.
There’s no substitute for experience.
Sure, you can watch surfing YouTube tutorials, read surfing mags (or top 10 blogs), but there’s no better way to learn how to surf other than simply paddling out. With every wave brings a new lesson, and I like to think about the last wave while paddling back out for the next one. No wave is the same, so you’ll never stop learning and improving- just get out there and take something away from every wave.
Learn from every wave.
You’ll learn something new with every wave that you catch, don’t catch, fall on, fall off, think you caught but didn’t, let someone else have, or never saw coming- there’s always something to learn with each and every wave. There’s always time to reflect on the previous wave while paddling back out or sitting on your board, waiting for the next wave. Try and apply it to the next wave. Repeat as necessary. Forever.
Patience is a virtue.
There will always be more waves. Take deep breaths and appreciate the ocean.