Surfing for Beginners

surfr_410aYou’ve seen them before, slicing effortlessly through the ocean waves on their technicolor boards. Surfers flipping and weaving over white cresting peaks simply by adjusting the lean of their body.

It looks easy, right. But experts like Kelly Slater didn’t just wake up one day knowing everything about surfing. They learned the right technique.

If you’re interested in learning how to surf but aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few tips to get you ready to ride the waves. Then it’s all about practice.

Whether you’ll try surfing while on vacation, or you live near a great surfing spot, it’s important to find a surf school with a solid reputation. Many surf shops advertise lessons, so do a little digging — read reviews online or local brochures, visit your hotel’s information desk or ask others who you’ve seen out surfing. Convince a friend or partner to sign up too so you both can enjoy the water.

On the day of your lesson, don’t forget to eat and drink enough beforehand. You may be excited to hit the waves, but given lessons can last anywhere from one to four hours, you’ll feel better fueled up and hydrated.

Pack your beach bag with the right gear. You may like that old pair of swim trunks or string bikini, but you’ll be happier wearing a swimsuit that won’t fall off if (or when) you take a spill off the board.

For comfort while practicing, bring along a rash guardrash guard top and diving or surf bootiessurf booties. Surf shops don’t always provide these to students during the lesson. Reef walkers aren’t recommended since they tend to fall off and get lost in the waves (yes, this is experience talking). And check off the basics: waterproof sunscreen, towel, water bottle and lots of enthusiasm.

When you walk onto the beach, your instructor will likely first teach you how to position your feet on a surfboard. A long board laid out on the sand. Next, you’ll learn how to stand up and bend your knees correctly, lean to change direction, and maintain balance using your arms (finding your balance may be easier if you’ve ever snowboarded or skateboarded).

Pay attention to the land demonstrations from the instructor. Even if it looks awkward, it will help you remember the right movements when you try on the water.

Students normally start on the lesser waves. If you go with a small group the instructor may paddle behind each person as they attempt to stand and ride to the shallows. Expect to fall a lot and have patience with yourself. It’s all part of the fun.