I'm guessing you've landed on this post because you want to know how long it's going to take to get any good at surfing.
Am I right?
I get it, everyone wants to improve as fast as possible, so what I've done is create a neat surfing progression timeline for you, so that you know what to expect in relation to how long you've been surfing.
If you're ready, let's go.
SURFING PROGRESSION TIMELINE: FROM 1-5 YEARS AND BEYOND
Before you start being hard on yourself (or getting ahead of yourself) if you're not at the right level of progression on this timeline, please don't be bummed out, as everyone learns at different speeds.
And, it's no secret that surfing is ridiculously hard.
What's more, that's kinda what our coaching retreats, and weekends are all about too - helping you push through to the next levels when you're in a rut.
So without further ado, here's your timeline of progression.
YEAR 1: THE START OF SOMETHING NEW
Year one is where it all starts.
Having never surfed before you’ve got a lot to learn, and as such, you’ll need to start with the absolute basics.
But that’s cool, we all start somewhere right.
Your first three months surfing will be spent on a bigger surfboard shape, likely in the region of 8ft - 9ft.
If you’re hitting these targets, you’re on track with our progression timeline expectations, and if you’re using our surf levelling system you can consider yourself a level 1.
After three months or so in the water you should be starting to leave the whitewater behind once and for all, and begin venturing out further to catch the unbroken waves (on smaller days).
You should anticipate being able to catch your own green unbroken waves now, and have a reasonable success rate whilst you’re at it.
You’ll also be able to turn left and right, and you should begin to have a degree of control over your surfboard.
The surfboard you’ll be riding at this stage should be no longer than 8ft.
After the 6 month mark you should be comfortably, and confidently, catching green unbroken waves only.
You should now feel comfortable in the lineup, be able to recognise the different types of waves, and position yourself in the right spot at the right time.
You should also have a decent level of board skills whereby you can navigate through waves, over and under to get out the back, also have the skills to turn your surfboard quickly and make positional refinements on the fly.
It’s during this time that you might consider dropping down in board size a little, but be sure not to do so too soon, as this’ll hinder your progression.
YEAR 2: THE QUICKENING
Alright, we’re into year two, and you’ve got a whole years worth of surfing under your belt.
During the first year you made big improvements quickly, with each session offering noticeable performance improvements.
In year two however, big progression steps are harder to come by, and you’re now well and truly in that stage of nuanced refinements.
This will likely be your time to upgrade, and downsize your surfboard as manoeuvrability is now the most important factor.
Year was all about stability and wave count, but now those things are handled, it’s time to begin moving towards a more progression based surfing approach.
The first things you’ll be learning is how to trim and pump down the line, you’ll also now be looking to keep yourself in the power pocket of the wave at all times too.
And after another full year of hard-out surfing you should expect to be able to take off on steep waves - and make them, angle/knife your take-offs, perform shallow bottom turns, pump and maintain speed, and start doing the early stages of cutbacks too.
If you’re here by the end of year two, you’re doing well.
YEAR 3: LETTING THINGS CLICK
Year three may see another refinement in your surfing equipment as you hunt for more maneurverability, and more performance.
You’re now fully comfortable surfing waves over head-high, and you’re actively hunting out good surf rather than just hitting up your local each time.
You understand the ebbs and flows of the ocean, your positioning in the lineup is becoming second nature, and virtually all conscious thought of technique is long gone.
You’re beginning to feel more connected to your surfboard, with it beginning to go the places, and do the types of things you want it to do.
And so come the progressive manoeuvres.
By now cutbacks are a very real thing and set the foundation for much of your surfing.
No longer are you nursing bottom turns, but you’re able to lay a little weight on it and come out from this turn with more speed than you went in.
You will likely also be starting to do whitewater floaters, and small closeout re-entries too.
All in all, at year three you’re now attacking the surf, rather than surfing with fear and just trying to hold on.
YEAR 4: TIME TO PROGRESS
Year four should see a whole new level of comfort in the surf.
By now you may have been on your first surf trip abroad (hopefully with us), and have developed a degree of experience whereby you can rock up to a new beach and instinctively know when it’d be good, what type of tides it would like, and how it might break.
You’re also now fully dialled in with your equipment.
You’re no longer riding a board that’s built in any way for stability, instead your equipment if focused purely on performance.
In crowded lineups you’re competing for waves, you’re taking off late, and your the cause and not the effect at all times.
Your positioning is on point, and your paddling is top notch, and from this basis you’re now able to really start pushing things.
Whitewater floaters now become lip line floaters, and closeout re-entries now become snaps down the line.
Roundhouse cutbacks will start to creep in around this point too, and you’re able to surf the wave from start to finish without bogging too much, and without losing speed.
YEAR 5: THE PERFORMANCE STEP UP
In year five, if you’re still here and still surfing flat out, this should be when all of the foundational skills come together.
You’ll be commanding a spot in the lineup, maybe not right on the peak just yet but certainly picking up the scraps from the top guys.
Speed, power and flow are things you’re now beginning to focus on - bigger turns, in more critical parts of the waves, and maybe even the odd tube here or there.
Really in year five you'll probably be 75% of the way to surfing as good as you’re ever going to surf.
If you’re still struggling at this point, it’s very unlikely for you to ever progress to an elite level.
However if you are one of those people that pick up the sport quickly you'll be well ahead of the curve at year five anyway.
YEAR 6 ONWARDS: ETERNAL REFINEMENT
After about five years the improvements in your surfing will come much slower, and will be much harder earned - with huge amounts of time in the water needed for even the smallest of progressions.
Sure, you can - and you should - be getting better your whole life until the age of about 40ish, but in truth the progression leaps are much less.
From five years onwards it’s all about refining what you already know, and pushing for the small gains.
As you’d expect it’s very hard to create a surfing progression timeline that’s going to be accurate for all people, all of the time.
But having had hands on experience with literally thousands of students over the years, this timeline should be a pretty good guide.
If you pick up sports quickly, you can ditch everything you’ver read above and you’ll probably move through all five years of progression in a single year, and likewise if sport doesn’t come natural to you, you may never get past the expectation of year two.
Nevertheless, whatever speed you move through this surfing progression timeline at, you’re going to have one heck of a lot of fun along the way.
Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.