If you're looking to learn how to start surfing from scratch, with literally no experience, and not the faintest idea of where to start - you're in the right place.

In this post you'll be guided through 8-steps teaching you the absolute basics you need to start surfing. 

We'll be covering a lot of ground in as short a time as possible, so buckle up, and get ready to start your surfing journey...

Let's go!


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STEP 1: GET THE RIGHT GEAR

It's impossible to start without having the right surfing gear beforehand. 

Below is a list of the absolute essentials to get you started:


SURFBOARD

To surf, you're going to need a surfboard, but not just any board - a surfboard that's built for beginners.

The surfboard you need will be:

  • A soft top surfboard made of foam (they hurt much less when they hit you than hard boards)
  • A board that is at least 8ft long, preferably 9ft.
  • A surfboard that's wide at the nose and tail for stability.

Here's what a good beginner surfboard should look like:

WETSUIT

If you surf outside of the tropics, you'll need a wetsuit. 

Why do surfers need to wear wetsuits?

They wear them for the following reasons:

  • Warmth: Wetsuits are made of neoprene which helps to keep the body warm.
  • Sun protection: Wetsuits protect the skin from UV.
  • Buoyancy: Wetsuits are naturally buoyant and help you to float.

Above all though, wetsuits are to keep you warm in cold water, and the best surfing wetsuits are damn good at it.


WAX

Surfboards are naturally slippery objects, especially when they're wet.

This is fine for the underside of the surfboard that glides through the water, but not great for the top part (the deck) where you stand. 

To overcome this lack of traction, surfers use surf wax - a grippy substance that gets applied to the deck of a surfboard.

So you'll need some of this before you start surfing.

Not sure how to wax your surfboard? This tutorial will help.


LEGROPE

A legrope, or leash as it's also known is a chord that attaches to both the surfboard, and the surfer. 

This chord is designed to stop your surfboard from floating away when you fall off. 

Be sure to equip yourself with one of these before you get started.

A surfboard leash.

You can find out everything you need to know about surf leashes in this beginners guide.


FINS

Fins attach to the bottom of your surfboard. 

They act like a rudder on a boat, helping the surfboard to turn, without them, the board would simply slide out. 

Surfboards come with a range of different fin set ups from one fin, all the way up to five - each with a different feel, and a different use case.

But for where you're at right now, just looking to get started at surfing, you should be looking for a surfboard with three fins. 

This is the best of the bunch for beginner surfers. 


STEP 2: CHOOSE THE RIGHT SPOT

As a beginner looking to start surfing for the very first time, you'll want to make sure you're at the right spot, something that's suitable for a new surfer.

Here's what to look out for:

  • Flat Beach: Flatter beaches with less incline allow waves to break further out to sea, reducing the waves power in the process.
  • Soft Rolling Waves: Ideally, you want a beach that provides soft rolling, whitewater waves that are coming towards the beach in uniform lines, that are well spaced apart. 
  • Lifeguards Nearby: Make sure you're surfing a spot that's nearby to an area patrolled by lifeguards for safety.
  • Other Beginners In The Line up: Look for a surf spot that's populated with other beginner surfers learning how to surf for the first time too.

For the best surf conditions for beginners click here.


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STEP 3: LEARN THE BASICS

Before you hit the water, it's important that you've at the very least got a bit of a grasp of the technical basics. 

We could write a whole course on this subject, oh wait, we have (Surfing Made Simple), but for just getting started, here's the absolute minimum you need to know: 


HOW TO PADDLE

Surfers need to paddle to move around in the water, to get over waves, and to catch them. 

Here's super brief breakdown on how it's done:

  • Lie on your board - not too far forward, not too far back. 
  • Line your body down the centre-line of the surfboard.
  • Minimise drag by putting legs together.
  • With high elbows, in a freestyle swimmer motion, drive your hands forward and scoop as much water as possible on the way back.

There's much more to being a great paddler than what I've outlined here, but this should be enough to get you started. 


HOW TO POP UP

Surfing is all about riding waves on your feet (easier said than done....), however getting to your feet on a moving board in the water is not easy.

To do it successfully, you'll need to know the right way to pop up.

Our preferred pop up method for beginners is the Aussie Pop up method because it sets the foundations for progression later on. 

We cover it in detail in our surfing technique course here, but here's a macro view of how it's done:

  • Lie on your board in the prone position.
  • Place hands by pectoral muscles either side of the body.
  • Bend your back leg up the board, and keep it here throughout the pop up process.
  • Drive your front foot between your two hands.
  • Once foot is in place, rise weight upwards into the standing position.

If only it was that easy hey. 

Well everything's easy when you know how, and with practice and persistence, this will become easy for you too.


HOW TO CATCH WAVES

So you know how to paddle, and you know how to pop up to your feet, now you've got to put it all together when catching a wave. 

As a new surfer you're looking for a particular type of wave to catch, and once you've identified the right wave, here's what you need to do:

  • Jump onto your board and start paddling.
  • Wait for the wave to hit your feet, and add an extra three to five paddles to make sure you're on the wave.
  • Once you're on the wave, pop to your feet and ride it to the beach.

STEP 4: PRACTICE ON LAND FIRST

It's a good idea to practice all of the above on land first, before entering the water.

Here's why.

Practising on land will help you to familiarise yourself with the body movements needed to paddle, and pop to your feet. 

With a little repetition on land, you'll be better prepared when you hit the water.


STEP 5: UNDERSTAND THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF SURFING (SURF ETIQUETTE)

Believe it or not, surfing has a bunch of unwritten rules (surf etiquette) that surfers abide by to keep things in the ocean fair and safe. 

They're not 100% essential for absolute beginners to know, but it's definitely good to familiarise yourself with the rules to avoid any unwanted confrontation. 

The main rules you'll need to know are:

  • The Drop in rule: The surfer closest to the peak, has priority.
  • Don't bail your board: Never bail your surfboard in front of another surfer.
  • Don't snake: Snaking is akin to pushing in a queue, so don't do it. 

For an in depth dive into surfing etiquette, click here.


STEP 6: CHOOSE THE RIGHT CONDITIONS

The best surf conditions for beginners are as follows:

  • Offshore: Wind blowing from land to sea (makes the waves cleaner and easier to ride)
  • Small: Waves should be around 1-2ft in height.
  • Soft rolling: Look for waves that are soft rolling, forgiving, and easy to ride.
  • Perpendicular to beach: Find waves that are rolling in straight lines towards the beach.

STEP 7: START IN THE WHITEWATER

There are two types of waves:

WHITEWATER WAVES

Whitewater waves are waves which have broken.

GREEN WAVES

Green waves are waves which have not broken, yet.

And as someone learning how to start surfing for the first time, you want to make sure you stick exclusively to whitewater waves for now. 

Why?

Well, whitewater waves are more predictable, and much easier to ride - perfect for new surfers.


STEP 8: BE PATIENT, SURFING IS DAMN HARD

Surfing has got to be one of the hardest sports on the planet. 

The playing field is constantly changing, and literally no two waves will ever be the same. 

This makes it extremely difficult to get good at quickly, and can make progress slow for many - so be patient. 

Don't be hard on yourself if it takes a while to pick things up, it's the same for everyone I promise. 

And just like all games and sports, the harder they are, the more rewarding it is when you improve - which is partly why surfing can become so damn addictive. 


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WRAPPING IT UP

If you're just starting out in your surfing journey, lucky you, you've picked the best sport in the world by far. 

Surfing will fill your life with meaning, open you up to a rad community of new people, and take you places around the world you never even imagined. 

And as they say "the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step...."

Well, you've just had eight, so you're well on your way already!

Yew!
Rowan 🤙

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.

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