Learning to Surf

Sam I Am's picture
Sam I Am started the topic in Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 2:49am

Hi guys, this is my first post.

I've been surfing a few times with my uni club and really enjoy it, I want to keep it up. The guys running the club were pretty chill though, I only learned whatever I know from other beginners who had been doing it longer than me. I still had fun though and could catch waves, but I'm not a part of that club anymore. Since then I've been out once with a friend (he's a noob too) and I just spent the whole time trying to get better, but I feel like I don't really know what I'm doing.

So my question is, not really knowing people that are into surfing, how can I go out and learn? What are the do's and dont's, how do you know when is a good time to surf, where to go, what are the rules out in the ocean, etc.


PS. I consider myself a fairly smart snowboarder so I've got that as my background, but the ocean is a completely different place.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 9:31am

Welcome to the Swellnet forums Sam!

Most of your questions depend where you're located - some regions are more user-friendly for solo beginners than others.

There's no reason why you can't learn to surf on your own but I'd reccommend teaming up with someone as you'll benefit in a number of ways - cost, safety and above all else - stoke.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 10:10am

Where are you Sam? There are some good coaches around who can really help in the early stages.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 10:13am

G'day Sam I Am

Generally the best waves are when light winds are blowing, especially if the wind is blowing from the land towards the ocean ( an offshore wind ). So early mornings are your best bet.
Find a beach with a shallow , sand bottom with as few rocks as possible so you can concentrate on the waves and not be worried about other obstacles. If you mention which area you're in ,then someone on here will point out an appropriate spot for you to try and get better.

If you are not a strong swimmer or are not really up to speed with the ways of the ocean , then as Ben said , find a mate to go surfing with. Preferably one with some ocean knowledge.

You might even find someone on here to surf with in these forums.

General rules of the surf involve not attempting to catch a wave that's already being ridden ( Dropping in ),
Giving a surfer that is riding the right of way - paddle towards the foam to get out of their way if necessary and always being responsible for your own safety whilst never endangering others by maintaining control of your board. Never ditch your board without checking if someone might wear it in the face first.

Hope you get a few good ones mate.

Sam I Am's picture
Sam I Am's picture
Sam I Am commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 10:25am

Thanks everyone.

And I'm in Melbourne, Australia. I usually go somewhere along the great ocean road.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 1:33pm

There are a few surf schools in Torquay. If you can catch waves and maintain some sort of control a private lesson could be a good investment. One thing that a lot of surfers get wrong at the start is their equipment. The wrong board can make the whole process unnecessarily difficult. A bit of technical advice on stance and basic technique can also make a big difference. Don't waste your time with group lessons, they are unlikely to help.

Bob's 2 Bob's's picture
Bob's 2 Bob's's picture
Bob's 2 Bob's commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 9:16pm

Tony Ty Carson from Hawaii's big island doesn't like surf schools!


blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Sunday, 28 Dec 2014 at 9:23pm

Not a huge fan myself Bob of the mass approach for tourists, school kids etc but for someone who is serious about learning to surf a bit of coaching can be very helpful.

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog commented Monday, 29 Dec 2014 at 8:18am

Sam...... Get out there and body surf on small days..... Go down to Rye etc, jump in between the flags, and swim right out the back..... Get comfortable with the ocean.... Don't rely on a "made in china" piece of plastic legrope to save your life if things turn ugly.... Don't rely on your surfboard as a lifesaving floating device....... A great way to get to know waves (on smaller days) is too take a pair of swimming goggles out with you..... Dive underwater and watch blue unbroken waves pass over the top of you.... Watch waves as they break from underwater, watch whitewater waves...... It is actually quite fun..... Dive deep and feel the pressure on your ears..... Stay underwater and count to 10.... As a beginner, you will rarely be held underwater during a wipeout for longer than 10 seconds.... Having the confidence and knowing you can hold your breath for longer than anything nature can dish out will help you no end....
This will all really improve your fitness and wave experience, therefore your confidence... Once you can swim out through the breakers, spend 20 minutes treading water out the back and diving to the bottom, then body surf back in, you are ready to take the next step...... You can decide not to do this, and take short cuts........ It works for some..... But ocean knowledge is the key....


Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 29 Dec 2014 at 8:34am

Keep that up for a few weeks and you'll be surfing like Harold Holt.

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog commented Monday, 29 Dec 2014 at 9:16am

That'll teach Harry for not swimming between the flags..... Or was it the ruskies!!!!!


blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 29 Dec 2014 at 10:09am

Sheepdog that was pretty much the way we all learnt as kids. Bodysurf, rubber mats and coolites so by the time you actually got hold of a (borrowed) board you had a good idea of what was happening. All different now of course, line up with the nippers then on to the surf school......and a brand new board for Xmas when you are 6!

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog commented Monday, 29 Dec 2014 at 11:59am

True.. BB.... But I don't think sam is a nipper..... Seen a lot of "adults" take up surfing, go the shortcut route, and end up frustrated, throwing the towel in....
Being in Melbourne, whenever there's a 30 to 40k sou'wester churning up Port Philip (which is surprisingly often), if I was sam I'd hit Brighton or Mentone for a 1 foot sloppy sesh.....


bluem00n's picture
bluem00n's picture
bluem00n commented Wednesday, 7 Jan 2015 at 8:14pm

Hey Sam, as SD indicated, it's never too late to learn.. I was early 30s when I started, If you're as committed to going surfing as much as you need to be to catch a wave, you'll get to a stage you can hold your own - be prepared though, many say it takes at least 2yrs to become an able surfer - if you're a weekender could be more like 5!!
I found it helpful to spend time watching other surfers and figuring out how they caught the wave... youtube is also great for tips, hints and direction.. SurfSimply/BigWhiteboardWednesday is a good place to start..

all I'll advise is know and respect your limits, if it doesn't look safe - it generally isn't.

cgrover's picture
cgrover's picture
cgrover commented Sunday, 11 Jan 2015 at 9:54am

I was 40 when I started and I was determined to learn but knew nobody who surfed. These are the things I wish people had told me - 1. paddling a surfboard is the thing you need to do well at first because that's what you spend most of your time doing - go to any beach, flat or choppy and paddle, build up strength and endurance 2. find a good teacher for a few one one one lessons preferably in the water with him or her alongside you - ask them to tell two or three things and then go and practise them over and over and over 3. surf at least once a week rain hail or shine onshore offshore it doesn't matter as much as being in the water 4. it is hard to learn to surf - you will get frustrated - just keep it up 5. good luck it is 15 years since I started and I have travelled and surfed and it is just the most fantastic thing ever.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 11 Jan 2015 at 4:36pm

Great advice Grover. Often it's useless asking long time surfers for beginners advice, they've long forgotten the crucial points.

the_varsity's picture
the_varsity's picture
the_varsity commented Monday, 12 Jan 2015 at 4:43pm

Sam, the best thing you could ever do to learn to surf, is to hunt down anyone residing near the beach with a dog and a questionable 80's (not hipster) beard, who's likely banned from going within 100m of schools, who has a house on stilts, go under the house and get the biggest board there made of koa wood that has no fin, take it out into crowded surf and use your outside leg as the fin....as fast as you can say "north shore movie montage" you will be ripping and able to compete at the highest level at Pipe and earn the respect of the international surfing world.

rushy's picture
rushy's picture
rushy commented Monday, 12 Jan 2015 at 5:43pm

G'day Sam,
Further to the advice from Grover above....
I started very late (wrong side of 50 - wish I'd started earlier), but had a good mate to share advice with.
Paddling and just sitting on a board can be difficult. Sounds like you're past that stage though. So, next master the pop up. Plenty on YouTube to give good advice on how best to do it. Practice at home on the carpet really helps too.
One tip - make sure you get up quick. If you're not doing this, check your hands are under your chest, not out in front. Common error (from experience). Try doing a push up with your hands out in front and you'll see what I mean. Once you get up confidently in the white wash, try clean faced waves.
Next tip is paddle like you mean it, ie go HARD to catch the wave.
These tips really helped me progress. Still pretty ordinary, but I have my moments. Love the feeling of getting into a nice clean face, bottom turn and shooting down the line. I never thought I'd ever be able to do that, but takes time (years).
Good luck with it.

If it's free, it's for me!

happyasS's picture
happyasS's picture
happyasS commented Monday, 12 Jan 2015 at 6:23pm

you've got the snowboarding background which will be very helpful regards balance and breaking the steep learning curve that is surfing...just don't get frustrated trying to compare your learning to ride a snowboard with surfing, the two abilities are vastly different, & surfing will take you much MUCH longer to get competent and you just have to persist. you just cant get the stand time in surfing like you can in snowboarding and short of having a tow rope to take you out the back your gonna be buggered in 1/10th of the time, whole sessions of wipeouts might be included in your journey here....get used to wiping out well...don't be afraid...and don't get suckered into riding a small board, your ability to use your weight and feet positioning on the board properly is crucial and needs to be learned on a board that has a larger sweet spot.

inzider's picture
inzider's picture
inzider commented Monday, 12 Jan 2015 at 9:11pm

when emersing oneself in a new culture (in this case surfing) you must try to learn the language.
I would recommend watching the movie "point break" 10 times and getting a Patrick Swayze hairstyle.
I would then infiltrate your local boardriders club to engage in the "language" learning process.
Surfspeak is a strange vernacular. ie When someone says '' Farkin struth that was a sick pig dog"
It dose not mean your hunting buddys canine is throwing up.
Do some academic research (google) on surf slang, you will be accepted by your new culture faster if you understand who is saying what and why.
Once mastering surf speak head to the beach and engage any surfer about the state of the waves,
Dont be surprised if your looking at pumping waves and the bloke next to you says " Oh yeah worth a paddle" or "pretty average". What we see when looking at waves is very subjectively individual.
Personal advice is to froth on every chance you have to hit the water.
As has been stated in previous post. dont rely on your equipment to keep you alive.
Ask yourself before paddling out "if my leggies snaps could I swim in?'' It might save your life.
Finally the best thing to do if someone else is riding a wave , try and take off too and ride it with them,
surfers are a sharing bunch. When paddling out always paddle for the shoulder so the surfer on the wave has someone to do a slalom turn around. When encountering a set on the head bail your board so the person behind you gets extra practice at trying to go deeper on their duck dives.
The best way to advance your learning curve is to buy a skateboard, take it to the top of the biggest hill and loosen the trucks right off, then bomb that sucker. If you survive the wipeout, any wipe out you ever get in surfing will seem like a box of fluffy ducks.
Good luck, the fountain of youth awaits your cup.

ACB__'s picture
ACB__'s picture
ACB__ commented Tuesday, 13 Jan 2015 at 9:04am

watch Chasing Maverics and do as jay does .

you'll be surfing 50ft bombs in no time.

saltyridersco's picture
saltyridersco's picture
saltyridersco commented Friday, 21 Apr 2017 at 7:55pm

Hi Sam I Am,

Learning to surf can definitely be a pretty a pretty daunting experience! I live in QLD and took up surfing a few years ago and have since fallen in love with the sport. I also use to live in Canada as a snowboarder so I do think this experience will help you with picking up some of the skills needed for surfing.

I recently started up a blog to help other people like yourself wanting to know about where to start when learning to surf. This article may be particularly helpful for you: http://blog.saltyridersco.com/5-tips-beginner-surfers/

Whatever you do - don't give up! Keep getting out there as often as you can and you will see progress. Just be patient and enjoy the ride :)

Surf Longer & Surf Smarter at www.saltyridersco.com

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