- Luckily, we're not as equipment-heavy as, say, skiing or
windsurfing. You're going to need:
Most of these can be found at your friendly neighborhood surfshop.
- A used board is generally your best bet when starting out.
Chances are good that you're going to ding it up just carrying it
around. There are different types of surfboards.
Something to wear.
- Hopefully this is nothing more than a bathing suit. But if
its necessary, and you can afford it, a new wetsuit can be a pretty
good investment. See the upcoming FAQ on wetsuits for recommendations.
[Mary Ann Davidson / email@example.com / adds
As a hard core surfette, I would add to your FAQ
for the gals interested in surfing - stick to one piece suits when
starting to surf, unless wearing a wetsuit (in which case it doesn't
matter.) You can quite easily find yourself wearing a one piece suit
after a wipeout if you insist on wearing a two piece suit as a novice.
- Once upon a time, boards had no leashes. If you lost your
board, you swam to shore. Only the best surfers could venture out to
some breaks because losing your board could mean the destruction of
you or your board. Surfers were stronger swimmers and more all-around
watermen. It also meant that there were loose boards flying all over
the place at some breaks.
For good or ill, those days are gone. Just a word of advice for
the beginner: Treat your leash as if it were not there. Do
not rely on it to always bring your board back to you. If the section
you're riding starts getting gnarly, pretend you're going to have to
swim to shore if you bail.
- You can usually wheedle wax out of a surfshop owner if you
buy anything there. Some surfers pride themselves on never having
bought a bar of wax. If the deck of your board has some form of
traction pad, you might not need the wax.
- For those surfers living in areas other than Seattle or
England, sunblock is often necessary - the net.wisdom on this is
Bullfrog, with Aloe Gator also getting favorable reviews.
- IMHO, one of the most important things to have in learning to
surf is someone to surf with. Aside from the obvious safety reasons (it
cuts your chances of being eaten by a shark in half :-) ) a partner
will give you moral support, keep you stoked when you get frustrated,
keep you from sleeping in when its good, talk you into paddling out
when its big, and mostly be a friend.
There are two schools of thought here:
- Find someone good to teach you to surf. and
- Find someone else who wants to learn and teach each other.
I subscribe to the second approach, because that's how I learned
and because when one person is better than the other, someone is
usually not having a very fun session. Don't get me wrong, I really
enjoy teaching people. But if its cranking on the outside, either I'm
gonna be bored on the inside with the beginner, or he's gonna be in
over his head on the outside.
[Ken Strayhorn Jr. / firstname.lastname@example.org / accurately
Your friend you must choose carefully. He will
become your brah, and over time will mean more than anyone else on this
planet. Besides surfing, you will drink copious amounts of beer, smoke
pounds of pot, and chase boxcar loads of women together. You will lend
each other money when times are tight. You will never ask each other
for gas cash. You will inform him when his ass crack is showing over
his pants. If he doesn't like the woman you are seeing you will drop
her like a hot rock. Conversely, if your new woman thinks your brah is
a jerk, that's a sign that she's a bozo and should be avoided.
Boards and wetsuits will be shared. You will hoot for each other
on fine days. You will badmouth anyone who drops in on him. People will
come to view you as a team. Surf nazis will avoid you because they know
that to fight one of you is to fight both of you.
And, years later when you are 40 years old and you and your brah
are sitting on a break somewhere listening to the younger guys yacking
it up, you will smile and know deep in your soul that there is nothing
finer than surfing and the people you do it with.
- Go to your nearest surf shop and ask people where a good break
to learn is. Be honest about your abilities, surfers are a pretty
friendly lot. Also, watch for the upcoming FAQ - "Where can I learn to
surf without being killed, beaten, or eaten?"
- Sit and watch the surf for a while. Watch what people are
doing. Where is everybody sitting, where do they paddle out. Where do
the waves break? As waves get bigger they break further out, so if
everyone is sitting farther out than where the waves are currently
breaking, it means that there are bigger sets coming. Watch for them.
Stretch. While you're watching the break, stretch your arms and
back. Limber up.
- You've noted where other people head out. Wax your stick and
head down to that spot. Put your leash on. (Digression: Decide whether
you're going to be a regular-foot (left foot forward) or a goofy-foot.
Try both while standing on shore and see what feels better.) Put your
leash on your back leg. Walk your board out until the water is about
waist deep and hop on. Position yourself on the board so that the nose
is just barely (2-3") out of the water. Too little and you'll be going
under, too much and you'll wear yourself out pushing water.
- Go for nice, even, alternating strokes. When you have to get
through the whitewater get up some speed and then either:
- Plow right through it.
- Raise your chest up with your arms so that the water passes
between you and the board.
- Turtle. Just as the wave is about to hit you, roll over on
your back (roll the board too), and pull the nose of the board down.
Then roll back up.
- Duck-dive. Raise up on one knee, push the nose of the board
under the wave and follow with your body. (This takes lots of
practice). (See following notes on duck-diving)
- Bail. Make sure no one is within 20-30' of you, get off your
board, and dive for the bottom. This is for emergencies only. You lose
a great deal of distance this way, and you endanger people around you.
[By Morgan Perry / email@example.com ]
- I have found a few things most helpful in my
A key is *not* to stay under for as long as possible, just to start
deep and shoot up as far on the other side of the turbulence as
possible. The sooner you get back up the surface and balanced on your
board, the sooner you are able to start paddling again... and that's
the only way you really get outside anyway.
- Try to have some forward momentum before you give up paddling
to begin pressing your board down. This provides some counter to the
force of the wave in the direction of shore. Even if it is just a
couple of strokes before the angry whiteness consumes you, you will
come out further than a couple of strokes ahead of where you would
have it you had not gotten going forward.
- Push your board as deeply under as possible. The more of your
body that you get above water quickly will result in getting the board
deeper under. Sometimes I even tilt my board to the side in the water
so that there is less resistance to it going down. Some people use
only their arms and their knee(s) to push the board down. I like using
the ball of one of my foot instead and to raise the other one high to
provide more weight on the board.
- Immediately before the surf subsumes you, pull yourself down
to the board and angle the board slightly up to the perceived other
side of the break. Too much angle and the nose of the board will catch
the break and push you backwards. Not enough and the back of the board
will be caught in the suction of the wave as it rushes by you and it
won't help pull you through. If you have the right upward angle, and
your hands are toward the front of the board, probably about where you
press up from, you can thrust the board to the other side of the wave
and it will help pull you through.
- Once you get to where people are sitting around (in the water,
if they're on the beach, you've been paddling the wrong way :-) ) sit
back and take it easy for awhile. Watch what others are doing. A nice
gesture is to say hello to the others in the water. This lets them know
that you acknowledge their existance and will not run them over or drop
in on them. Don't be chatty though. A simple "Hello", "Howzit", "G'Day"
or li'dat is fine.
- This is the first of many hurdles in learning to surf. The
wave knowledge - knowing which wave to paddle for and which to let
pass, and the timing - when to start paddling, how fast, how much to
arch your back, and when to get to your feet, are things that no one
can teach you. They will come with time spent surfing.
One tip I will offer: when trying to stand up, stand up. Don't
get to your knees first, that leads to kneeboarding (A curable
[That said, Clark Quinn / firstname.lastname@example.org /
graciously offers these tips:]
I'm not sure 2-4 are necessary (certainly not for someone who's been in
the ocean on other things, but probably are a good safety precaution.
- Don't go to the most crowded/famous. Start at a mellow beach.
Gentle waves. Sand bottom. Broad sand beach. You can't run before you
- Paddle out, and try to catch the whitewater in while riding
on your belly. (If you've body-boarded or body-surfed before, skip to
step 5) You may have to adjust how far forward/back you lay on the
board. You want about an inch of room between the nose of the board
and the surface of the water. You'll need to be paddling in and have
the wave catch you and push you even faster in the same direction.
Stay on the board as you zoom towards shore. Steps 2-4 may best be
accomplished on a mat or a boogie board or something else easy to get
- Once you can reliably pick a wave and catch it, start trying
to angle this way and that under control. Try going both ways, left
- When you can zoom back and forth at will, you're ready for a
bigger step. Take a wave right before/where it's breaking, and ride it
while turning to keep right at where the wave is breaking. Figuring
out just where to paddle to so as to catch the wave at the right spot
is a major part of the game.
- When you can catch waves reliably, you're going to want to
try riding them standing up. Paddle and let the white water catch you.
As soon as you're moving, jump to your feet. This is difficult. It's
really worth it to practice the jumping from prone to your feet on
land first and get it well-rehearsed before doing it on a moving board
on the water. Foot placement is crucial. You'll want your back foot
near the tail of the board and your front foot somewhere in front of
that, near the middle of the board, say. Look at other surfers.
Practice on a rough template of the board on the ground. Ride the wave
in. Depending on the size of the board either balance on it (bigger)
or move it to stay underneath you (smaller).
- Once you can reliably get up, you want to start angling while
riding the white water. Both ways, zooming back and forth under
- Once you can do that, move to catching the wave right where
it is breaking. This will get trickier, because you'll have a more
vertical take off point and the board will have a tendency to sink the
nose as you go down the face of the wave. You want to catch the wave
by angling in the direction the wave is breaking.
- Surfing tends to be pretty free form but there are certain
accepted rules, mostly based on safety and common sense.
Wave Ownership (The My Wave Rule)
- The person closest to the breaking part of the wave has the
right of way.
Caveat: If someone is up and riding, paddling into the wave
behind them does not give you the wave.
Also note: In many low-key breaks, the first person paddling
for the wave owns it. Do not expect this to apply in crowded
Dropping In (The Thou Shalt Not Rule)
- Dropping in is taking off on a wave in front of someone who
is already up and riding. Don't do this. Ever. No
Paddling Out (The Eat It Rule)
- When paddling out, if you must get over a wave that someone
is riding, paddle behind them (On the white water side). This
generally means getting stuffed for the sake of someone else's ride.
Take comfort in the hope that they would do the same for you. Do not
paddle in front of someone unless you are so sure that you will be 20
feet in front of them that you are willing to bet the well-being of
your board/car/nose on it.
- About 8 or 10 months after I started surfing I happened to
write a little note on my blotter-style desk calendar:
June 9, 1984: Surfed 3s, good day
As the months went by I continued making little notations. I kept the
calendars, year after year. Now, I have a decade's worth of blotter
calendars stacked on my desk. Just looking at the notes can sometimes
bring back the session in vivid detail. I usually would note the surf
heights and who I surfed with.
If you've got a calendar, give it a shot. Years from now, if you
somehow find yourself far from surf, you'll look back on some classic
times spent with great people and say "Eh, mahalo Chrispy, shaka brah".