Becoming A Surfer

April 13, 2016

paige hareb

So you want to become a surfer?  Here’s how you do it.

Your first step is to watch other people surf.  You could start off by watching a surfing movie, or just go to the beach where people are surfing.  Indeed, maybe this is what brought you here in the first place – inspiration!

At some point, you’ll want to head down to the beach.  That would probably be your best bet because you might even meet a surfer and be able to ask important questions about this exciting and potentially dangerous sport.

Alternately, you could just hop on YouTube, and watch a video like the ones we’ve got here on this page. 

In fact, the surfing video below says that in 25 minutes you’ll be ready to ride the waves, and yes it does contain tons of useful surfing tips which can get you started, and that’s great…BUT!  Of course watching a video simply doesn’t have the same effect as standing on the beach with a board, and looking out at the water, feeling the full force of nature.  Still, check out this video when you get the chance…

The Surfing Mindset

kids swimming at the beach

A surfer must be a great swimmer and have a fierce personality.  Is that you?  Just because you’re fierce, that doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you’re a strong-willed, unique individual, and up for an adventure.  Even the most laid back surfer types still have that urge to get out there into the unpredictable water.

Swimming is a must for surfing.  If you’re not the best swimmer, or even a half-decent swimmer, there’s no time like the present to learn this valuable skill, that can help you with surfing.  Read this article on how to be a better swimmer if you need some swimming tips.

You will probably do most of your surfing in the ocean, where the waves can change in an instant.  Never under estimate the ocean, and its waves.  They can literally pick you up and throw you through the air, or push you down to the bottom of the sea with tremendous force.  Surfers have been known to get seriously hurt, and a few have even died. 

Not everyone is up for taking that many risks.  There are smaller waves, and surfing can be laid back as well.  It’s not just for adrenaline junkies like these pros – surfing can be fairly relaxing to, if that’s how you like it. 

Beginners, or anyone attempting surfing, should just know that wipeouts are going to happen, especially when you’re just learning.  Here’s another “how to” video that shows the more laid back side of surfing, with more great tips.

Learning The Basics Of Surfing – Pop Up Technique

learning to surf

As you can see, there is more to this sport than lying on a flat board and paddling out beyond the break waters.  When you finally see the wave coming that you want to ride back towards shore, you must quickly turn your board around, and be ready to paddle like hell once the wave is upon you. 

This is one of the hardest things to figure out as a surfer.  When do you start to move with the wave?   So you are paddling with the swell and things are speeding up.  Again, at the right moment, you must spring to your feet (popping up, as they call it) and begin to “dance” on your board, controlling your body weight and balance in order to ride the wave, and make the ride last as long as possible.   Oh, and by the way, if you do fall off the board, be aware of the sharp coral hiding below the surface, or the giant boulders that are camouflaged by the colorful sea water.   

Here’s a quick video that shows proper “pop-up” technique…

Surfing Lessons – Something To Think About

surfing lessons

Maybe you should take a few lessons before you give this sport a try. 

You might even want to borrow a beginner’s board from a friend.  Those boards tend to be longer and wider and heavier, making the act of surfing somewhat easier.  Try and borrow an 8 or 9 foot foamy board.  A foamy board has a soft top, making it easier to find your balance.  They don’t hurt as much when you fall off and the board crashes down on your head. 

If you begin by purchasing your own board and maybe a wetsuit, even if you get them second hand, your investment will be pretty steep and expensive.  What if you don’t like the sport or maybe you can’t even get up on the board no matter how hard you try?  This sport can be very frustrating, and surfers must be patient and determined.  You might decide that surfing just isn’t right for you, or that it is the most fun that you’ve ever had, and you plan to invest in it big time.

The Gear

Now that you have decided to become a surfer, you might want to purchase some equipment i.e. a board, a wetsuit, a leash, wax and maybe a fin.

The Surfboard

Bigger is better for beginners.  Look for an 8 or 9 foot board.  Make sure you can carry it.  You will need a stable surface to stand on, to practise your balance and moving around from the front of the board to the back.  You might want to consider foamy or soft top board which will help with stability and buoyancy.  Be prepared to fall off a lot, and watch out for the board coming down on your head.  If you can’t find a soft top board, ask the experts in the store or look online for a beginners’ board.

The Wetsuit

If you think that surfing is the sport for you, and that you might surf in cooler waters, a wetsuit is a must.  It will allow you to spend long hours in the water without getting cold.  It is a full body suit that fits skin tight.  You won’t need board shorts.  The suit will be made from a product called neoprene.  Neoprene comes in various thicknesses and offers a variety of stitching.  The thickness and stitching have to do with how warm the wetsuit will keep you.  Before you shop for the suit, know all your body dimensions i.e. hips, chest, waist etc. and have an idea of where you will do most of your surfing, so you can check out the water temperatures there.

The Leash

The only other real surfing necessity is the leash, or foot rope.  The main function of the leash is to keep you and your board together at all times.  You wouldn’t want to have to chase your board to the beach after each surf ride, and you might need the board to rest on, just in case you get a cramp.  The tail of the surf board has a leash plug, and one end of the leash is attached to this plug, and the other end wraps around your ankle or above your calf.   This cord, rope, or leash is made from polyurethane.  The thicker the poly …, the stronger it is, but it will have more drag.  You decide.  As a beginner, it is suggested you get the thickest leash possible.  The cuff part of the leash that attaches to your leg uses velcro to secure it.  Get the right size for your leg, and buy a cuff with a key pocket, so you can keep your vehicle key with you at all times.  There are no pockets in your wetsuit.  One more thing to consider is the length and thickness of the rail savers, that run along the side of your board.  They protect your board from the leash.  Their length and thickness will create more drag, but get the longer, thicker ones for your first surf board.  Oh, and make sure your leash comes with a swivel, so the cord doesn’t tangle around your feet.

The Fin

The fin is the part that pokes out from the bottom of the board at the back, and is used for steering.  They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flexibility.  There are two types: the glassed-on and the removable.  They are pretty much the same, except the removable one will allow you to take it off the board, if you don’t need it.  That will come as you get more proficient steering the board with your feet and body weight.

The Wax

The wax is applied to the top of the board not the bottom.  The wax needs to give you traction, so you don’t slide off the board.  Don’t worry about the bottom of the board.  The ocean will definitely keep you moving at a good clip.  A new product has come on the market that might replace the wax.  Tail pads are now popular.  Traction can improve your grip, and cut down on board waxing time.  While online or in the surf shop, again listen to the experts, or read the reviews of the products for help, when deciding on the wax or tail pads.

Etiquette

As in most sports, surfing has a set of rules that you should follow in order to avoid chaos, injury, and bad feelings among the participants.  Once out on the water, and waiting for a wave, those who are furthest out, go first, or the surfer who has waited the longest, gets wave priority.  It also is understood that the person who is on the wave peak first, has the right away.  As well as the person who can get up first, goes first.  If you are riding a wave that is dual peaking, you should call out, “left” or “right”, indicating to others what direction you will take.  Do not cut in front of others, otherwise you will upset the locals, and you will be told off.  Snaking or paddling around other surfers to get into the best position, is also a big no no!  And most importantly, share the waves and always be quick to apologize if you find yourself making a mistake.  Someone will hear you, and pass your apology on to the others for sure.  Surfers are truly environmentalists.  They respect others, the water, and the beach.  Only leave footprints.  Take all your garbage away with you, and choose surfing locations that suit your skill level.

Training

Surfing is very demanding.  As in any sport or exercise, warm up before you begin to surf.  You will be using your big muscles like quadriceps, and back muscles, so never forget to prepare these muscles before you hit the water.  Your arms will be used extensively, so warm up your shoulders.  The internet has lots of suggestions for surfing warmup exercises.  Core training is vital for every sport, especially surfing.  Not only do you need strength, but balance too.  Your core muscles like your transverse abdomens, gastrocnemius and your kegel muscles in your pelvic floor should be worked on daily.  Aerobic exercises will prepare your heart, and yoga exercises will enhance your flexibility. 

Safety First

Think back to when you were very young, and your parents and teachers taught you the safety rules.  Surfing needs you to think about them always.

Start with easy waves, and move gradually to the more advanced ones.
Know your location well.  Be aware of obstacles such as rocks and maybe jellyfish.
Never surf alone.  There is safety in numbers.
Don’t show off.  Unless you are in a competition, surfing is a solitary sport, meaning that you are competing only with yourself.  
Respect the elements, so always check out the weather before you hit the beach.  
Try and make sensible decisions.  

Have fun!

 

Beach Baby Bob

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Beach Baby Bob