Tips for Learning to Surf & Getting Better

surf tips

No matter your level of experience, surfing is a continuous learning process. Each wave you surf is different and the variables are endless – from equipment choices, to environments, to wave types, to conditions, your mental state, etc. – if you don’t feel like you’re learning, you’re probably doing something wrong.

For the beginner surfer, and even the surfer that has a few years of experience, it can be easy to make some common mistakes or fall into learning and progression ruts.

This page aims to provide some tips on avoiding common mistakes and tools to improve your surfing.

We’ve already covered how to stay fit out of the water and how important fitness is to your surfing performance, so this page will focus specifically on surfing itself.

The first tip that you should keep in mind at all times and apply to everything is this: stay curious and experiment. If something’s not working or you continue to fall, tweak something (be it your body, your approach, or your equipment) and try again.

Is Surfing Hard to Learn?

Surfing could probably be considered one of the more difficult sports to learn. There are a lot of factors and a lot of new things you’ll have to deal with.

Surfing will be easier to learn if you have experience swimming and have relatively strong balance.

How difficult surfing is for you will come down to your mindset, your fitness level, and how you approach learning. You might pick it up within a few waves, or it might take you a number of sessions.

Tips for Avoiding Surfing Mistakes and Getting Better

  1. Surf more – this one’s obvious, but the more time you spend in the water surfing, the better you will get. Be sure to remain aware of what you’re doing so you can recognize bad habits and things that aren’t working. The more you perform a certain maneuver, the faster it will become second nature to you. This might also mean finding where to beat the crowds so you can get more waves.
  2. Get familiar with how waves break – The better you understand the waves, the better you’ll be able to surf them. When you develop a better eye for how waves form, break, and section, you’ll get better at recognizing where you should be and how you should be moving your board.
  3. Add some foam – If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or the waves are just not that great, try adding some volume to the board you choose to surf. You’ll catch more waves and have more opportunistic to try new things. Surfing a lot of waves on a bigger board is going to be better for your overall surfing than struggling to catch anything on a smaller board.
  4. Have someone film you, work with a coach, take a lesson – seeing yourself surf on tape may reveal things your missing when you’re on the wave. Additionally, getting the help of a coach or lesson can improve your technique and help you overcome some bad habits or obstacles more quickly.
  5. Get out of your comfort zone – as you start to feel confident and comfortable with a certain wave height or type, gradually up the level of difficulty for yourself. Try new maneuvers. Try connecting your lines and developing flow and style.
  6. Surf somewhere new – a huge part of surfing well is being able to improvise and adjust, surfing new waves in new locations helps develop that skill.
  7. Changing Direction Requires Your Whole Body – initiate maneuvers with your head, arms, upper body and you hips, legs, and board will follow. You’ll be able to better complete turns and do more powerful maneuvers.
  8. Stay Loose – Get low, bend your knees, and move your body as you need to. React to the wave and with your maneuvers. Staying stiff will cause you to loose balance and fall.
  9. Get to know your equipment and body positioning – Become familiar with how your board and fins perform is key to selecting the right equipment for the right waves. Beyond that, becoming familiar with your board’s volume distribution, balance points, and turning capabilities is key to surfing it well. If you’re tipping off to one side, move towards the center. If you keep pearling, either adjust your weight backwards or angle your drop-in. If waves keep passing you, either move forward on the board or try to catch them deeper.
  10. Get out of your head – Don’t stress or get frustrated if you mess up – that’s part of the learning process. Holding onto your mistakes is only going to make the rest of your session harder for you.
  11. Relax and have fun – Stay calm and relax – you’ll surf better with a clear head and staying focused on the present. And if you’re not having fun, what are you surfing for anyway?
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