Surfing Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Surf Sunset

Many people that have always wanted to try surfing are worried they don’t have what it takes to catch a wave, ride it, make it safely back to shore, and all without falling and crashing off their board. If you’re new to the sport, then this guide on the surfing tips and tricks for beginners will show you some effective surfing hacks that can allow you to catch your first wave, do a little tricking, and make it back to dry land safely.

Of course, surfing is a challenging sport and there’s plenty of hard work involved. You can’t expect to jump on a surfboard and catch a big wave your first time in the water. Just like with any other type of watersport, you’ll need to put some effort and dedication into learning the ropes and becoming better at it.

Before Hitting the Water

What type of suit should I wear? Most pros will recommend a good surfing wetsuit, but the right type of suit can dependent on air temperature and water temperature, in addition to where you surf.  A dry suit can keep you dry and warm in freezing waters.  However, dry suits are a better fit for extremely cold temperatures. There are many differences between wetsuits and dry suits that you’ll want to explore to determine which type of suit will work the best for your surfing needs, the water temperature, and the weather.  However, purchasing a suit before you hit the water is just as important as picking out a new board. If you’re not sure what type of suit is right for you, speak with the staff at your local surf supply store for recommendations.

Get Some Guidance

Don’t try to learn how to surf by yourself. You can enroll in a program for beginners or hit the water with an experienced friend. Having some guidance and proper instruction can help you avoid putting your life in danger or injuring yourself.

If you do decide to take surfing lessons, make sure you research the instructors in advance to ensure that they have good reviews and plenty of experience. A good instructor won’t simply teach you how to surf, they’ll also inspire you to get back out there and master the waves.

Surfboard Style

Surfer on Blue

Surfing on a bigger board it’s one of the best tips you can follow. Using a larger surfboard offers a bigger surface for you to learn on, minimizing the chances of you falling in your first time trying to pop up on a wave. You may also want to check out soft-top models. Surfboards with the soft top can also help with the learning process and will be more forgiving on your feet and joints. At the beginning of your surfing experience, you can expect to spend more time sitting than standing, so comfort will be important.

Finding Your Board’s Center of Gravity

Surfboards are designed to float in the water and have a natural center of gravity. If you lay down a board in a swimming pool, you’re going to rest the same way each time.  The goal is to have the board remain in the same position in relation to the water as it did without your weight placed on it. Try finding the balance point on your board and lay on it. Make a mark right at your chin. Use a magic marker a bit of wax to make the mark. This will be a reference point that allows you to put your chin on the same spot each time so that the board will react to your weight the same way each time you climb on your board.

Should your board take a nosedive into the water this is referred to as pearling. If pearling starts,  then you’ll need to adjust the position of your chin and move it back. To do, simply slide back an inch or two from the mark and make a mental note of it.

If too much weight is placed on the back of the board it will begin to cork.

This is a common mistake many beginners make. You will not be able to catch a wave if the board is corking. To fix, move one inch at a time until the board lies naturally in the water. This will provide max hull speed, with minimal drag from the water displacement that’s caused by your weight.

Standing on Your Board

Learning how to stand on your board can be intimidating for many beginners. To do, you’ll lie on your chest, with your head up as you look ahead. Place both your hands on each side of the board, beside your shoulders, keeping the palms down just like you would if you were doing a push-up. Sweep your feet under you and place them on the stringer, at the same time that you push your upper body up.

Once you’re up, remember to stay low. If you stand tall, you’re going to fall off your board. Grip the board with your feet and place them shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be slightly higher than your waist. Make sure you always keep your head up and avoid looking at your feet, which can cause you to fall down.

Practicing standing on your board should be done for several hours. Make sure you have an experienced friend around who can help by critiquing your performance. You can also practice while you’re at home. Try jumping up without making a sound. If you have a board, lay it in the sand or on your bed for this exercise. This way you can also ensure your movements are controlled.

Surf Leash

Man surfer run

Even experienced surfers always surf with the leash. This is definitely an essential piece of safety gear that you don’t want to surf without. While wearing one can take some getting used to and it can also get in your way at times, it will prevent you from losing your board and may even save your life.

Warm-Ups

I recommend warming up before you hit the water. Stretching your tendons and muscles decreases the chance of muscle cramps when you’re on the water. Warming up can also oxygenate the blood and increase your heart rate.

Beginner-Friendly Environment

Practicing in a spot that is beginner-friendly is also crucial for your first time in the water. Learn how to surf on a beach that’s known for steady good waves, which will make the whole learning process much smoother for you.

Practice on Dry Land

Once you hit the beach don’t crash in the water. Do a light workout and spend some time on the beach, go through all of the moves you’re planning on doing in the water. Check your wetsuit, your board, and your leash and ensure everything is proper working order.

Water Conditions

Take a look at the waves and study them before you make your way into the water. Watch how they break and where. Make sure you keep an eye on the other surfers in the water and watch what they do. Do this every time before you hit the water. This is something every seasoned surfer does.

Take Your Time

Once you’re in the water, make sure that you pace yourself. Being on a board can be very exciting and can make you eager to try and catch the first wave you spot. However, it’s important that you pace yourself in order to avoid injury. Don’t take on any waves you can’t handle.

Always start off small and tackle smaller waves before you even think about taking on the larger ones. While your body may feel ready, unless your instructor gives you the green light, stick with small waves, and focus on working on your technique.

Steer Clear of Other Surfers

When you’re in the water steer clear of any experienced surfers. As a newbie, you’ll be making a lot of mistakes and you want to avoid causing trouble by getting in someone’s way and causing a possible collision.

Sitting

Group of surfers

While it may sound simple, practicing sitting on your board while you’re in the water isn’t the most comfortable or easiest thing in the world. You can sit by dangling your feet in the water which provides more stability; however, you will be more vulnerable to ocean wildlife. The other option is to sit on your board with your feet out of the water, which is safer, but not very comfortable.

Pop-Ups

You need to learn how to pop up from the prone position. The prone position is simply lying flat on your board. The pop-up from the prone position should be seamless at swift. Visualize push-ups which are very similar. Practice pop-ups while you’re on land first, then give it a try in the water.

Move those Feet

When you’re in the water, you’ll need to learn how to keep your feet moving. Move both of them, shuffle them around, while lying on the board or sitting, just avoid allowing them to dangle limply.  When you keep moving your feet, you’ll minimize the chances of your feet being bitten or stung by marine wildlife.

Paddling

Paddling is another thing that you will want to focus on practicing. The key to paddling is finding your rhythm and keeping it. In order to do this, you need to be in decent shape since paddling constantly can be very exhausting.

Avoid Nosedives

At some point, you’ll probably nosedive when your surfing. This is unavoidable and every surfer has done it, however, there are some things you can do to prevent it from happening frequently. In order to prevent a nosedive, it’s important to learn how to correctly position your board to the waves. You can speak with friends or your surfing instructor for more info and a demonstration.

Wiping Out

wipeout surfing

Wiping out is part of the course when it comes to learning how to surf. You’ll spend more time falling off your board than actually surfing in the beginning. High waves will constantly knock you down, you’ll get frustrated and confused, and you’ll probably get a little banged up.  The important thing here is to stick with it. Learning how to fall well will also be important. While you won’t know how or when a wave will knock you down, you can definitely learn how to wipeout. Your friend or instructor will teach you how to hold your breath and fall, when you should surface, and when you should remain underwater.

Bend Your Knees

When you’re riding a wave, it’s crucial that you avoid bending your back and bend your knees instead. If you end up bending your back, you’ll end up losing your balance much easier and you’ll also look like the newbie you are. Standing with your center of gravity low and your knees bent appropriately is a challenge for many beginners, but with practice, you’ll find yourself automatically dropping to this position in order to maintain balance.

Whitewater Position

Staying perpendicular to the whitewater is probably one of the most helpful tips a beginner can learn. When breaking waves are in front of you, you can go over them or hang back. Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to remain perpendicular to the whitewater. The whitewater is the portion of the wave that’s breaking, hence the name. Should you fail to do so, then you’ll risk being pulled under the wave and dragged to the shore.

Paddle More

This is a great tip that can be used by surfers of all skill levels. When you’re trying your best to paddle for a wave and you start to feel your energy waning,  take an extra-strong paddle. Use extra velocity so that you’re not stuck at the very top of a wave, which will make the drop much easier

Choosing Waves Carefully

As a beginner, you’ll see all waves the same. An experienced surfer knows how waves break. Keep an eye out for the highest sections, when a wave appears on the horizon. Keep in mind, if the waves line is leveled this means it will be closing out. Additionally, check out the back of the wave as it moves past you and see how it breaks.

After you’ve watched where the waves are breaking keep this in mind and coordinate your take-off time and position. Sometimes 20 inches to your left or right can decide the fate of your ride.

Gravity

Maintaining a low center of gravity is all dependent on how you bend your knees.  Staying low can help you pick up speed and can increase stability.

Paddle Strength

Try paddling with your fingers nearly closed. Paddling for waves and paddling out requires arm power and strength. Fingers that are nearly closed will save energy while improving paddle speed and power.

Time the Waves

Use a surf watch to confirm wave periods. By utilizing statistical and simple information you’ll know when a set comes and whether or not the first wave is the best one or whether you need to hang back and wait for the next ride.

Set Goals

When you successfully complete a surfing maneuver it’s even better than completing a few tricks. Make sure you have a goal in mind and focus on it. Only create a new goal once your first one has been completed successfully.

Learn About Waves

Science and knowledge will help you make choices when you’re out in the lineup. Oceanography and physics play a crucial role in modern surfing. A seasoned surfer is informed and knows how waves are formed and how wind can impact them.

Safety

  • Never have a board placed between yourself and oncoming waves.
  • In order to avoid colliding with others, remain at least fifteen feet away.
  • Every newbie will need to use a safety nose guard in order to prevent dangerous impacts with the nose of your board.
  • For safety, always surf with a buddy, especially one who has surfing experience
  • Consider wearing a rash guard, shirt, or vest in order to avoid the rash that will develop on your chest and stomach from practicing your pop-ups.
  • Cover the back of your head with your hands when you fall off your board, placing your wrists over your ears and keeping your elbows together. Try to remain underwater for a few moments longer than necessary. When you come up for air, make sure you’re facing any oncoming waves, looking for the location of your board. A loose board in the sea can be very dangerous for you and other people in the water.

Surfing Etiquette

  • Always be respectful of other surfers, paddlers, and swimmers in the water.
  • Know the rules. Typically, it’s one person per wave. The surfer who is the closest to where a wave breaks has the right of way.
  • When you’re paddling out, make sure you stay out of the way. If there’s a channel, then paddle out there. Avoid paddling out through the lineup or surf if there’s an alternate way. Doing so will keep you and other people in the water safe, while also helping you to conserve some energy. If there’s no other option, then make sure you stay out of the path of other surfers. If a surfer is riding a wave that’s coming towards you, then you’ll need to paddle in the opposite direction of where the other surfer is headed.
  • If you want to avoid problems with other surfers, then avoid cutting in front of one who is up. Always observe the right of way and you’ll do fine.
  • If you’re constantly paddling around someone in order to get into the inside position of a wave this is a big mistake and one that can annoy other surfers in the water.
  • Share the waves. Even if you’re able to paddle the furthest and catch a wave first, each time, avoid doing so. Other surfers will quickly become annoyed with this behavior and will begin to drop in at every opportunity.
  • If you do end up running over someone, dropping in on someone, or you ignore the proper surfing etiquette for whatever reason, make sure you apologize. All surfers have done something they shouldn’t when they’re out in the water. It happens. Apologizing will go a long way towards smoothing things over.
  • Always keep in mind that you’re hanging out in a spot that the locals probably surf almost daily. Make sure you respect the locals while you’re visiting and keep things friendly. Avoid bringing a ton of friends with you and taking over one spot.

Final Thoughts

Catching a wave, whether you’re on a big wave or a small one, is an experience like none other.

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, then these surfing tips and tricks for beginners can set you on the path for success. Even if you plan on taking a couple of lessons, it’s always helpful to learn the details of how to ride, and what you’re up against and what gear you need. While surfing may look uncomplicated and simple there’s a lot to learn when you first start out. It may look like all you need is some waves and a board, but there’s a lot of experience and knowledge that goes into learning how to master the waves.