How to Surf : The Ultimate Guide for Beginners October 27, 2017 – Posted in: Blog
If you ever wondered what it was like to cruise big waves with nothing but your board, the sun and the blue sky, this is your chance to dive into the best tips to do it right from the start.
GETTING READY TO GET READY
The first thing all surfers have to be aware of is that surfing is a sport, which means that the fitness level you achieve before hitting the water is crucial for a good performance. Another key element to learn how to surf is to have good balance; which is another skill that can be practiced and mastered outside the water as a previous step.
Be in shape
You might already be a trained athlete with endless endurance and a six-pack in the spot where the beer-belly is for most of us. If that´s the case, then skip this and go straight to the exercise routine that´s exclusive for surfing, if you´re not, then keep reading.
The time you spend in the water is the fun part, the time you spend recovering from a surfing session is the down time in which your body recuperates from the cramps and the tiredness of specific muscles. Believe me that you cannot get back on the board unless your body is back to feeling comfortable. It really hurts, especially the first time. Surfing is a very physical sport, but it works with intervals of intense adrenaline and extreme effort and relaxing while sitting on the board, just like waves that rise and retire all the time. Intervals between waves might last up to a minute and action may be three or four, so you should be ready to catch your breath in-between waves and go full-on when the big ones come.
Surfer Tip! – When training to reach the needed endurance, don´t do any kind of continuous exercise like running a marathon or cycling for long periods of time because the actual surfing activity will have nothing to do with that.
Before going any further, you know that you have to be able to swim to practice surf, right? If you don´t swim, stop reading, stand up and go for lessons right away, we´ll see each other in two weeks. Now, once you are a swimmer, your arms and shoulders are going to be your main target. The front crawl is basically a must when you are intending to catch a wave. Make sure that you start slow but steady to have intense explosions of maximum speed, that´s what it takes to get on that sweet spot and ride the wave. The proper hand technique for maximizing your pull is very handy, don´t forget to ask your swimming instructor about it.
Surfer Tip – Learning how to swim is like riding a bike, even if you haven´t done it in a while, you won´t forget, but building up the strength and endurance of those arms and shoulders is something you have to do a couple of weeks before going on that surf trip.
This is the basic movement every surfer (or aspiring one) does to stand up on the board, it´s a movement you have to learn how to master and repeat. At first, it´s going to be hurtful if you haven´t done it in a while, especially after you finish your first, second and third session. Don´t give up on it! Your muscles release lactic acid because they´re moving! The acid generates a sense of overall “stiffness”. It´ll go away just like the pain, you just have to keep on doing it. Remember that it´s always better to feel that pain at home and before going on the surf trip rather than after your first lesson and during the next ones.
Surfer Tip – Be sure to do the press ups on a daily basis for at least two weeks before the trip, your muscles will be thankful. Having days off from surfing when you´re at your destination is something that will make you really angry with yourself.
Warm up & Stretching
When your muscles and articulations are under heavy labor, a lot of the tissue becomes really tight generating enough power to move your articulations as hard as your brain tells them to. If you intend to do that when you’re cold and not-stretch the muscle, you´ll end up injured, tearing up the fibers of your muscle tissue. So, every time you exercise, warm up and stretch all involved muscles before starting. For surfing, the most critical are your arms, so make sure you take good care of them.
Surfer Tip – There are a million ways to stretch your muscles and they are all correct and helpful, you can even learn through YouTube, just make sure you give as much importance to that as you give to exercising itself. Delaying your surf trip because of an injury is absolutely depressing, so stretch and enjoy.
This is where we welcome our athletes back into the game. Just like Mr. Miyagi teaches balance to Daniel San because it´s Karate´s key on that famous movie, if you don´t learn to balance before you stand up on a surf board, you´ll end up falling even more. Your body isn’t naturally prepared to stand still in a straight line with both feet aligned over a moving surface, it´s yet another skill to be learned with practice. How do you learn to balance? Easy, start on the floor, stand up on your surf board over a firm surface and practice balancing your body weight to keep it straight and even. It´s going to be way more difficult doing it over a moving wave, but repeating the exercise at home, you´ll be halfway there.
Surfer Tip – There are some video games available for Nintendo Wii (with the Wii Fit), Microsoft Kinect and XBOX Fitness that can help you practice this skill at home. In fact, there are plenty of options for every console and they are all very helpful, you can combine them all.
It is time to make a decision about how serious are you going to be about surfing: you can buy it, borrow it or rent it. If you´re decided to go for it and never look back no matter what it takes, then buy it and use it as another motivational reason to go surfing. If you´re just going to taste it to see how fun it´ll be, then borrow or rent it. Getting the right equipment is just as important as being fit to use it; the only difference is that you can do it with less time in advance. Let´s take a look at the basics.
As cool as it may look to be standing on the sand with your best “I don’t give a damn” pose holding your small state-of-the-art new board, you should start off with a big and wide one, preferably something over 9.6”; in fact, if you can get a foamy, it´s even better. The soft top surfboards will help you find your way on the ocean quicker and easier. To clarify it even more, the concept is as big as you can carry.
Surfer Tip – Achieving balance over a bigger surface is much easier than doing it over a smaller one. You will definitely be losing some speed and maneuverability, but first things first, don´t get anxious and skip ahead and try a short-board.
When it comes to wetsuits, the idea of beginner and advanced are inverted: if you´re a beginner, you should buy the best suit you can afford and if you are advanced, you might surf with whatever you can get your hands on. The quality of the wetsuit is key for the ease of moving, those which are better (mostly more expensive too), are more ergonomic and easy to move around with than the cheaper, less specific ones. Another major thing is the weather that you´ll be surfing in, since the water temperature will be crucial for the whole-body, half-body or just-shorts approach.
Surfer Tip – The last thing you need when learning how to surf is something to be in your way between you and a successful ride. Invest your money wisely and choose the surfing spot according to your budget. The more time you can spend in the water, the faster you´ll learn.
Once the basics are covered, all the rest is mostly dispensable, nothing you can´t hit the water without. Nonetheless, there are some surfer supplies you can buy like surf wax, a surfboard leash and some sun block (are all a definitive must).
Now that you are ready
Now that you´ve covered the basics and you´re set to go surfing, let´s review the most important techniques you´ll need to master to absolutely kill it.
- START ON THE SAND
This is the perfect way to start. Draw a line vertically that will simulate the exact middle of your board and once the line is drawn, lay down in it with both hands parallel at the height of your shoulders. Your feet should be together and facing down, don´t worry if you think you look a little goofy, we all did on our first days. Believe me; it hurts in the water, it´s safer on the sand. Try to pop-up, which means jumping from a laying position to a standing position in one move. Your torso should be straight, your knees angled and your waist to the back. Try and pay attention to your feet once you´re in the stepping position, the arch of your forward feet should be on the line and the back feet should be perfectly perpendicular to it. A very important thing when performing the pop-up is not to look down, but instead trying to look forward, because if you don´t pay attention to what´s coming you might get into some serious trouble and also lose balance. Do it until it works and feels natural to you, remember that it´s ten times more difficult in the water attempting to ride a wave.
Surfer Tip – It´s very important that your palms are facing down on the sand, so once you´re on the board you will not tend to grab it. All your strength should be applied to pulling the weight of your body upwards in one jump instead of grabbing the board as a reflex to be more secured
- SIT ON IT AND LOOK AROUND
Well, it might seem as a no-brainer to you, but believe me, sitting on a surf board isn´t the most common or comfortable thing in the world. First, you have to balance the upper part of your body (yes, balance, balance and more balance) to avoid falling to the sides and be steady enough to wait for the perfect wave. Once that is accomplished, look around, check what other surfers do and get in sync with the sea rhythm. Feel it and understand it, then you will know when to act.
Surfer Tip – Remember the soft-top board thing? Well, it´s very related to the fact that you´re going to spend a lot more time sitting on it than standing on it. It´s not a bad thing, it´s just the correct way to learn.
- PADDLE, PADDLE AND THEN PADDLE SOME MORE
The strong shoulders and arms you´ve prepared for the last couple of weeks are going to be definitive in this moment. The balance you have mastered while playing video games and popping up on the beach will also play a key role here. When you get ready to catch the first waves, your body should be as close as possible to the board and aligned with the center of it. Avoid placing your legs inside the water and make sure you´re not losing balance to the sides by paddling with one arm stronger than with the other. Keeping the whole body on the board and centering it from the sides and the vertical extremes is not an easy task, make sure you get it right before attempting to pop-up. The correct way would be with a straight shoulder-to-elbow and a strong, deep dive of the hands and forearms. Once you have mastered this skill, then you can follow the steps you did on the sand and step up on your board on the right timing.
Surfer Tip – The more patient you are when it comes to paddling, the better it will be. Try to keep your chin up and don´t forget to pay real close attention to your body´s balance. Remember that if you try to step up from an unbalanced laying position, you´ll have an unbalanced stepping position and last less than a heart-beat on the board.
- PREPARE TO FALL
If I can assure you one thing, and one thing only is that you will fall, fall, fall and then fall some more into the water. A million times! It´s not a bad thing, even the most experienced surfers in the world fall from their boards all the time, it´s the only way to surf. So, how do we prepare to fall? Very easy, be mentally prepared and don´t let it get to your self-esteem or your enthusiasm, it´s part of the fun. Once you´ve fallen the first ten times in the same session, you´ll understand that frustrating about it is not a choice if you really want to learn. Instead, try to understand that bruises, crazy hair and being wiped out by waves is an essential part of surfing and if you don´t have fun or appreciate it, then you´re not into surfing.
Surfer Tip – Falling is a fact when surfing, but being harmed is a choice. When trying to surf as a beginner, choose sand-bottom beaches away from rocks and other surfers as well as small waves, it will help you develop your basics before facing bigger challenges.
This is the definitive and most important advice from all of them: surfing is a sport, a very physical and dangerous one at times, but there´s no point in practicing it if you´re not going to enjoy it. Learning new skills is always frustrating at first, but if you get past those first steps with a smile, the greatest times in the water and on the board are yet to come. Don´t take it lightly but don´t take it too seriously and always remember that safety and fun should go hand in hand.
One more thing before concluding: always learn how to surf with an instructor, an expert friend, a tutor or a teacher (a very good and experienced one). Your life and your physical integrity as well as the one of those around you might be endangered if you don´t.
Now put on that sunblock, go surfing and have lots of fun!