Basic Beginner Surfing Tips

Preparation Tips for Beginner Surfers

Water level view of surfer riding waves
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As a Barney (a new surfer), learning a few basic surfing techniques will help you to not get "worked"--surfing lingo for someone who gets pounded by waves and pushed underwater. Once you can paddle, sit and stand on your surfboard, then you're ready to catch a wave. But remember basic surfer's etiquette: Respect the local surfers, don't drop in on their waves and don't be a wave hog.

Basic Surfing Tip #1: Surfboards

Let's start with the obvious: Surfboards are made to float on the water. They have a natural center of gravity. If you were to lay any surfboard in a swimming pool, it would come to rest the same way every time. This is what we want to do when you lay on a surf board. That is to have the board remain in the same relation to the water as it was without your weight on it, just a bit lower in the water. A good tip is to find this balance point and lay on your board, then make a mark right at your chin. This mark is best made with a bit of wax or a magic marker. It is a reference point that enables you to put your chin on the same spot every time so the board will react to your weight the same way every time.

If the board's nose digs into the water, it is called pearling; you must move the location of "your chin" back. To adjust, just slide back an inch from the mark and make a mental note.

Too much weight in the back and the board will cork. This is a common mistake amongst beginners. You cannot catch a wave if you are corking your board. Move up an inch at a time till the board lies in the water naturally. This will provide you with the maximum hull speed and minimum drag from the water displacement that you are causing with your weight.

Basic Surfing Tip #2: Paddling Your Surfboard

Do not paddle with both arms simultaneously because this will cause the board to speed up and slow down in the water and you will not be able to maintain constant hull speed through the water.

Always paddle with the crawl stroke: one arm and then the other, alternatively. This will provide you with a constant speed so you can catch that wave.

Basic Surfing Tip #3: Sitting on Your Surfboard

So now you know how to lie on the board and paddle. Now it's time to learn how to sit on the board. The first time you try this you may be quite wobbly. The key to doing this well is being calm or trying to be still. The less movement you make the easier you will find it is to do this. All the other skills of surfing will improve as you learn to be calm while surfing.

Basic Surfing Tip #4: Standing on Your Surfboard

Now it's time to learn how to stand up. This is something you have been doing all your life. Lie on your chest, your head up, looking ahead. Put your hands on the board beside your shoulders palms down like you were going to do a push-up. Push your upper body up; at the same time, sweep your feet under you, laying them on the stringer (the line down the middle of the board) so your weight is centered along the stringer.

When you come up, remember to keep low. If you stand erect you will fall. Assume a position of a sumo wrestler. Press your feet shoulder width apart and grip the board in your feet opposite of the way you would press your thighs together on a horse. Have your hands a bit higher than your waist and just in view of your vision. Always look up! If you look at your feet, you will fall down.

Practice this for hours. Have someone watch you and have them critique your performance. Practice jumping up without making a sound on the floor. Calm and controlled is the smoothest way to approach this, so practice doing it quietly. If you have a surfboard, lay it on a large bed or in the sand and do this exercise. This is a way for you to judge your ability to be controlled.

More Basic Surfing Tips: Safety

Never have your board between yourself and the coming waves! To avoid collision with others, keep a safe distance, say 15 feet or the length of you, your leash and board combined.

Beginners should always wear a leash or leg rope tied to their surfboards.

Every beginner surfboard should also have a safety nose guard to prevent dangerous impacts with the surfboard nose.

Beginners should always surf with a buddy for safety; plus, it is fun to share your surf experiences.

Never push your board through the water fin first. The fin or fins were made to keep the board pointing nose first. Pushing the board fins first can be quite dangerous because the board wants to go the other direction.

Beginner surfers should consider wearing a vest, rash guard or T-shirt to avoid the rubbed rash they will get on their stomach and chest.

When you fall off your board, cover the back of your head with your hands, with your wrists over your ears and your elbows together. Stay under water for a moment longer than necessary. As an alternative, there are companies that make helmets.

When you come up, try to be facing the oncoming waves and look for your board's location immediately. Loose boards in the ocean are very dangerous objects for swimmers.