If you’ve always wanted to try surfing, then it’s not too late to knock this item off your bucket list. Whether you’ve been hesitating because you’re scared, you don’t think you have what it takes, or you just haven’t had the time, you need to kiss those concerns goodbye and get ready to ride some waves. Surfing is good for the body; it can improve balance, increase strength, make you more flexible and improve your cardiovascular fitness. It’s a complete workout, using your entire body and all of your muscle groups. In addition, surfing is also good for the mind and good for the soul. There’s a reason that you see quintessential dudes looking cool, calm, carefree and oh-so-cool on their surfboards. Ocean water and salt air have healing properties, and the thrill of catching a wave will change who you are and how you feel throughout your day and your life.
But where do you begin? If you’ve never been near a surfboard, or perhaps you’ve never even been in the ocean before, then it seems like an overwhelming road ahead of you. Which is exactly why you need to start small, with baby steps and basic education.
One of the hardest parts of learning to surf is learning to paddle properly, and learning to manage your energy as you paddle. After all, paddling is a lot of work, so you need to improve your endurance and practice the paddling motion before you can actually paddle out to a wave. Not only do you need to paddle into position, which means you’ll be paddling against waves and against the tide, but you also need to paddle with the wave once you’re ready to pop up. So work on building forearm and bicep strength and use long, fluid strokes.
As with any workout, the right equipment makes a big difference. As a beginner, it might not make the most sense to buy your own surfboard or wetsuit, considering that they are pricey and you might not like surfing after all. Try to borrow or rent gear for a few trial runs before you invest in any major purchases. Once you have your wetsuit in hand, you should do a few test runs just swimming in your wet suit to get used to the way it feels on your body and the way it affects your weight and ability to move in water. As for your board, bigger is better for beginners. The experts at Surfing Waves suggest that “you should be aiming for at least an 8′ board but preferably one over 9’6”. If you can get a foamy, then that’s even better. Big foam surfboards will ensure that you catch the waves easily and that you don’t get hurt as you spend your days falling off and onto your board.”
Lock Down Your Stance
As with most sports, you will have a dominant foot that will lead your movements with the surfboard. For most people your left foot will be in front (this is called riding regular, or natural) and for some your right foot will be the front foot (called riding goofy). According to an article on Active.com, “usually your dominant foot is whichever you’d use to kick a soccer ball or to start a cartwheel. The leash strap attaches to your back foot, and can be switched in shallow water if you decide you want to try leading with the other foot.”
Get in Shape
You can’t go run a marathon without training first, and you can’t expect to catch a perfect wave if you are out of shape and unprepared. So do some training to get your cardio levels up and your leg and core muscles strong.
Master the Duck Dive
If you’ve ever seen someone surf you know what the duck dive is; it’s when you are swimming/paddling out to catch a wave, but you first need to get past the smaller whitecap waves. So to get out to the good water, you need to dive underneath the oncoming waves by forcing the nose of your board under the wave and sticking your butt up in the air. Mastering this move will help you get out to the waves with ease so you don’t waste energy trying to paddle through the rough water. It also looks super impressive.
Learn Surfing Etiquette
Like any activity, especially water activities, there are rules and understood laws that all surfers follow. Pick up some surfing books, talk to pros, chat with seasoned surf-addicts and learn proper surf etiquette so that you a) feel confident on the water and b) don’t piss anyone off.
The first rule of surfing is to understand that you are going to wipe out. According to surfing legend Kelly Slater, you need to embrace that failure. “Never just wipe out; be an active faller,” he says in an interview with Men’s Health. That means you can’t just get tossed off your board; you need to protect your head, and try to fall into the part of the wave that is calmest and hasn’t broken yet to minimize the damage of your fall. Never dive off headfirst, and always try to fall away from your board.
Last but not least, be patient with the process. There is a learning curve for surfing, and practice makes perfect. You can’t get frustrated or give up when it gets tough, and just remember that when you do get the hang of it, the thrill is worth every spill and every moment of hard work. And as with all sports and skills, there are professionals out there to help you. Look into lessons and surfing schools so you can master your technique and learn from the best.