Beginner's Guide for Learning How to Surf
By CB Michaels
Recently I watched the fascinating documentary "Surfwise" by Doug Pray and thought that surfing looked like just about the best thing ever! I was completely ramped up to get out there and really experience the ocean like never before. Then I started to think - where exactly does one go to surf?
And other questions began to arise. I've never so much as thought about surfing, let alone touched a board or planned an excursion. I decided to do a little preliminary research before running out and making an ass of myself, and here are a couple key things that I discovered.
Location When I think of surfing, I see a mental image of colorful swimming costumes, clear blue water, ten foot jumps and twenty-foot waves. These lie at the heart of the sport, not the fringes where us aspiring surfers cling tenuously. Places like California and Hawaii, though beautiful to behold and attractive for seasoned pros, are not friendly environments for learning. Beginners need more room and smaller waves.
To start with, you have to understand that if you live in South Dakota then some small amount of travel is unavoidable, and the same goes for other places that are similarly unconducive to surfing. Access to actual surf is something of a prerequisite. That being said, there are places in the US for beginners - I heard that the type of waves found on the Atlantic coast are generally acceptable, and also certain less crowded beaches in Cali and Hawaii.
For the most part, however, when you ask people where a good place to start surfing is you're going to hear lots of exotic responses: Bali, Costa Rica, Portugal, Barbados, Australia, Morocco. The bottom line is that you're going to need surf, gentle waves and room to groove. You're going to have to consider the different ways you can fit surfing into your life, and how important it really is to you: a padding fad, enough to schedule trips several times a year to various surf spots, or even enough to prompt a permanent change of residence.
Equipment Of course we all know that there's some type of board involved in surfing, but as far as the specifics go? Here's a list of the absolute basics to at least get you out and on the water.
- Long Board: A longer (8 to 10 feet,) heavier, and therefore more stable surfboard designed for beginners. Sometimes referred to as a "tanker" in surfer lingo, this is your life preserver during your learner period. If at all possible try to find a foam board, which are much more forgiving when you take your first series of unavoidable spills. - Surfboard leash: Or is it a surfer leash? Either way, in the event that you get separated from your board you don't have to worry about it popping up a quarter of a mile away, or getting loose and bashing somebody in the head. - Surf wax: Useful for providing vital traction of the smooth, slick surface of the board. If you're renting a board, usually the rental shop will handle this for you prior to setting out for the waves. - Wetsuit: Surfing is possible in colder climates like England and Ireland. In order to prevent hypothermia a wetsuit provides the necessary insulation to withstand sometimes freezing water temperatures. - Rash vest: Not strictly necessary, but a worthwhile precaution against the rash that tends to form after paddling around on your belly all day.
Guidance And of course, if you're like me and have absolutely no experience of any kind with surfing, you might be able to make it to a primo beginner's surf spot, rent a board and all the other necessary gear, only to reach the water and realize you have absolute no idea how to surf. What are the mechanics of it? How do you start?
This is why it is enormously beneficial to have some kind of guide on your first few trips - an experienced buddy, an intermediate acquaintance, even a formal instructor at one of the many, many surf camps out there, though there is an associated cost with such, is far and away preferable to nothing. Starting out alone is not only a surefire way to set yourself up for failure (tooling around in the water all day and accomplishing nothing is a huge demotivator,) it can also be dangerous. Like I said, if you don't have any surfer friends then it is worth the money to enroll in a formal or semiformal school for beginners, at least to teach you the basics.
This information should be enough to get you started in the world of surfing, as it certainly has served me well in my attempts. Remember - between constant practice and unwavering motivation, anything at all is possible.
CB Michaels is a competent provider of net-based content and an experienced composer, and nowadays writes about topics including Taylor digital thermometer and Taylor meat thermometer.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.