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Lately, I’ve noticed that more and more people are interested in learning to surf. I love that everyone wants to try surfing, and I always encourage people to give it a shot, but I also make sure to explain the importance of taking the proper steps to learn, because surfing can be very dangerous. I was lucky enough to learn to surf when I was very young, so I can’t say that I’ve partaken in this exact process, but I came up with a few steps to help you start catching waves.
1. Take Lessons
I cannot express enough how important it is to take lessons when you first start surfing. Paying for a few lessons is a small price when it comes to having a skill for a lifetime. Surf schools will not only teach you the fundamentals of paddling and catching waves, but also go over safety and etiquette - two of the most crucial aspects of surfing tounderstand form the get go. If you go to a surf school or hire an instructor, you will go from total beginner to capable learner very quickly, but if you try to teach yourself to surf, you’ll likely be stuck at the beginner stage for quite some time (and make yourself frustrated enough to just give up). Plus, most surf schools include surfboard rental, and often offer wetsuits as well, so you can try it all out before investing in expensive gear.
2. Start With Foamies
So now, you’ve taken some surf lessons and you are now capable of catching whitewater waves and standing up on your own. You are definitely into surfing, and you’re ready to buy a board. You might see some really cool boards in the surf shops and onthe web, but I assure you, it is best to start surfing on a foamie, just like the one you rode during your surf lessons. Not only are foamies super floaty and easy to stand up on, but they also protect your noggin from getting concussed. Sometimes, learning to surf means getting knocked around a little, and if you start out with a hard board, one wipeout could seriously injure you. Once you’ve gotten comfortable enough on the foamie to catch open-faced waves, turtle under waves, and paddle out of the way of others, you’re probably ready to go pick out a proper hard board, which will bring you tothe intermediate level of surfing.
3. Wear a Leash
Congratulations on your new surfboard! I’m sure the workers in the boardroom helped you pick out the perfect board for your next step in learning to surf. Most likely, you’ve gotten a funboard or a longboard, between 8 and 9 feet, which is great, because you will still be able to easily catch waves and keep your balance. You might want to try riding shorter boards in the future, or stick with longboarding and maybe even get a larger, heavier board. When you see longboarders out in the water, you may notice they aren’t always wearing leashes. Those who are more advanced at longboarding will cross-step up and down the board, so wearing a leash would trip them up. However, these surfers generally don’t fall, and if they ever do, they are capable of grabbing their boards before
the wave can sweep it away. This means that until you are at that level, you MUST wear a leash! If you are surfing and you fall, you don’t want to swim all the way to shore tograb your board, and you certainly do not want your board to hit someone else as it flies through the line up.
4. Don’t Bail Your Board
I just told you to wear a leash, but I want to emphasize that wearing a leash does not give you a free pass to let go of your board willy-nilly. Leashes are for catching your board when you wipe out on a wave, not for ditching your board when a wave comes toward you. Good thing you took surf lessons, so you learned the proper way to turtle your board when a wave comes. I understand that it can be scary when a big wall of white water is coming toward you, but bailing your board is so extremely dangerous - I cannot express this enough. Also, if you let go of your board and dive under a wave, your board can drag you along, forcing you to stay underwater longer than you may be able to handle. If you hold onto your board for dear life, you are attaching yourself to a buoyant object that will bring you right back to the surface. Science!
5. Be Respectful
Just like in any other life situation, remember to be respectful. When you surf, you are accepting the responsibility of respecting the ocean, respecting others, and respecting yourself. Respecting the ocean is simple. Never litter (duh), try to pick up trash when you see it at the beach and in the water, and always be conscious of your single-use plastics. Respecting others is a little trickier. Everyone in the lineup has the same goal: catch waves. Maybe some people are a little more happy to sit on the sidelines and chit chat with friends, while others may just keep their heads down and try to get their share, but we all are out to catch and ride waves - that’s why we surf. Again, good job on taking your surf lessons, because your instructor definitely taught you to never, ever cut people off. This is a huge no-no in surfing, and unless a person on a wave tells you to go in front
of them, do not take off. It can be dangerous, and it’s just plain rude. You can end up hurting someone or yourself, and people might get angry with you. By respecting yourself, I just mean that you should know your limits. If you get to the beach and see that the waves are much bigger than anything you’ve ever surfed, take a step back and ask yourself if you will feel safe. Don’t try to be the cool guy, because it wouldn’t be too cool to drown, would it?
By no means do I want this advice to discourage anyone from surfing. In fact, I hope it gets everyone hyped up to start taking some lessons and getting in the water. I love to see our local surf schools thriving, while also helping make the lineup a safer place. Surfing is meant to be fun, and learning to surf will likely be a lot more enjoyable if you follow these steps. Plus, you’ll progress a lot faster, so you can start shredding sooner. Good luck out there!
For Surf Lessons -
Fox Surf lessons - http://www.foxsurflessons.com/
Maui Surf Academy - https://www.mauisurfacademy.com/