Beginner Surfing Tips
The first thing I will say about learning to surf is that getting in the water is a good start. Which may sound like a silly statement, but I know from experience it was on my ‘to-do’ list for a long time, but I never gave 100% into actually doing it. Mainly because I didn’t want to learn on my own, and doing things with friends is always more fun, but then I realised that the majority of surfers end up surfing alone anyway. You make friends and see familiar faces in the line up, so if learning on your own is stopping you from getting in the water, don’t let it. Surfing instructors are always super friendly and welcoming, and you’ll end up making friends in your lesson too, which is great because you will instantly have a crew that are all at the same level, perfect!
I will always recommend starting your surfing journey by taking a few lessons first, understanding the basics from the professionals, because if you learn a bad technique from the start it’s so hard to break that habit. They will also teach you water safety, breathing techniques, how to paddle, pop-up, correct stance, surf etiquette and how to navigate those pesky breaking waves. It sounds like a lot to learn, but it’s all important stuff that you don’t want to skip out on.
If you have had a few lessons using hire equipment, and you’re pretty much hooked then I’d suggest scoping out your local surf shop. They are likely to have all the info when it comes to what you need to get yourself kitted out, and if you’re surfing in these Cornish waters it’s likely you’re going to need a snug wetsuit, boots, gloves and a hood to keep the cold at bay. Our seas can get pretty chilly! You should also check out our very own Captain Fin changing robe, making it quick and easy to get dry and warm post-surf. When it comes to boards, stick to a wide, 8ft plus foamie. Easy to paddle, easy to balance, they are the best at catching the waves and they will give you a solid base to learn from.
Chances are that if you have taken some lessons they would have been held at a beginner friendly surf spot, usually a beach break with a soft sandy bank to bail on. But once you start exploring new spots it’s always handy to do some research to see if they really are beginner friendly. Keep an eye out for rips, hidden rock formations, changes in tidal ranges and lifeguard cover. You don’t want to be caught out with no one to help. This is also why we recommend not surfing alone when you first start out. Go with friends, family, more experienced surfers that can give you tips along the way, it will help build your confidence.
When you start checking for new breaks, you’ll also have to become familiar with the famously temperamental surf forecast. Hours spent analysing a variety of different sources, messaging friends to get their take. It takes dedication, but when you get used to the styles and language, as well as the charts used and weather forecasts predicted, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal. If you learn how to read waves in and out of the water, it will only help you on your way to becoming a better surfer. Respecting the water, how she changes and shifts with tides and seasons, noticing what dangers to look out for and why they are happening, all of this information will keep you safe in the long run, and help you become a pro at predicting where the best waves will be!
All the above can be learnt from others, or you can self-educate through books and videos. Below are a few to stick on your reading list that are all about surfing, be it reading the waves or just getting inspired to ride them.
- Mindfulness and Surfing - Sam Bleakley
- Barbarian Days - William Finnegan
- Waves - Fredric Raichlen
- The WetSand WaveCast guide to Surf Forecasting - Nathan Cool
Every surfer reaches a point in their beginner journey where they feel like they are no longer a beginner, like they no longer need their 8ft foamie in order to catch waves. I’m here to tell you you’re wrong-ish. A tip I have heard time and time again, is do not change equipment too early. If you’re riding a foamie but want to switch to a 9ft log, or a shortboard, then do so gradually. If you switch up too fast you’ll likely bail, lose confidence, injure yourself or someone around you and you’ll feel like you’re back to square one! You will have to retire the foamie at some stage, but don’t be too eager. You’ll get there.
Regardless of if you are still hiring your foam boards or you’ve taken the plunge to buy one for yourself, remember to use the leash! Depending on what stance you are, attach it to the back foot around the ankle securely. Nobody wants an 8ft board flying towards them in the surf, it may be made of foam but it will still make a dent. If you need to bail, jump away from your board and protect your head with your arms. Bailing is part and parcel of surfing, regardless of if you are a beginner or an advanced surfer. Learning to do so is important, for your own safety and that of others.
Surfing is definitely a way of life, it’s an outlook, a mindset, and hobby that is way more than a hobby. It’s addictive and wonderful. And whilst all these rules and stepping stones and etiquette lessons sound like a lot of admin, they are part of it, but so is having fun. Surfing is so much fun. So get out there and give it a go!