surfer going in

How To Surf

Surfing is a spectacular activity that attracts a bunch of determined individuals. Unlike any other sport out there where you can choose your own preferred time and pace, surfing has its own set of rules to follow. There’s a lot to know and rules to follow before one could really enjoy the sport!

Let us introduce a brief introduction to surfing:

  1. LEARN the basic knowledge of the surf – How do the swells, rip currents, and waves ‘work’
  2. GEAR UP – Get a surfboard, wetsuit, a wax, sunscreen, find a surfing buddy
  3. FIND WAVES at a surf beach during the right time period
  4. START learning on your pop-up
surfing a wave
Surfing offers a wild experience like nothing else out there



Surf School vs. Learning On Your Own?

surf school in beach

Depending on your personal preferences and options, there are two, or actually three ways to learn to surf.

Surf schools are the most popular choice to learn to surf since they provide you with all the essential gear as the wetsuit, a surfboard, and most importantly – instruction you’ll need on your first day in the waves!

  • Gear included
  • Introduction & tips included
  • Might be too many beginners in the water

Surfing buddy is by far one of the best ways to learn to surf fast. Although this is a sport that takes ages to master and enjoy, having a close friend who’s willing to teach the very basics of surfing is a priceless way to learn to surf and skip some important mistakes!

  • You might need your own wetsuit/surfboard
  • The teachings you get are priceless

Start on your own. Not recommended due to safety reasons at the very beginning, but you can have the whole time and effort for yourself.

  • You need to learn everything by yourself through trial-error
  • You’ll need the whole gear


Things You Need To Know

WHEN TO SURF – Ask around or read about your local surf spot.

– Is it safe on high tide / low tide? When are the waves best for surfing. When there’s nobody in the water – it’s probably for a reason.

WHERE TO SURF – Are there rocks, sharks, heavy currents, or anything you should know of?

– Be sure that the surf break is safe to surf

SAFETY – Keep clear of rocks and other surfers

– Learn about the surf etiquette when going in crowded spots


how to surf basics
3. Regular foot paddle/take-off 2. Goofy paddle/takeoff point 1. Paddle to the calm spot in the line-up.



Once you have the surfboard, a wetsuit (if needed), and the basic knowledge of the surf – you should be good to paddle in

1. Grab your gear

  • Wetsuit, bikinis, or boardshorts.
  • Surfboard – with a leash.
  • Wax.


2. Go to the beach

  1. Wax your surfboard (Unless you are riding a foamboard which has the non-slip deck).
  2. Walk right by the water.
  3. Put on the leash on the foot that’s going to stay on the back.
  4. Go in from where there’s the least amount of waves breaking towards you.


3. Find a suitable spot

  • Preferably an uncrowded spot where there aren’t too many people around.
  • Before going in, take your time and look where the waves are breaking most consistently. Seriously, take your time to look for a great spot! You can adjust or re-position yourself in the waves, but going in from the right spot is one of the most important factors. You don’t want to paddle through the breaking area.


4. Paddle in

Once you have waxed your surfboard, attached the leash and found a great place to surf, it’s time to go in.

  • Find a rip-current or a place where the waves are not breaking as consistently. This helps you to paddle to the line-up more easily.
  • Walk into knee-deep water, holding the surfboard by your side, horizontally to the water.
  • When the waves are breaking higher than your surfboard as you walk in, you can crouch under the wave by holding the leash close-by, or simply jump over the incoming waves with the surfboard.
  • When it’s getting harder to walk against the incoming waves, jump on the surfboard and start paddling towards the line-up.
  • Avoid paddling in the area where others are surfing. Paddle in diagonally.


5. The line-up

Once you’ve reached the destination where the waves are starting to break –

  • Be prepared.
  • Position yourself – find a suitable spot, generally 2-3 second before the waves start to break.
  • Wait for the right wave.
  • Turn the board towards the shore and start paddling.

6. Surf!

When you’ve spotted an incoming wave and start to paddle for it –

  • Paddle smooth, not excessively. The perfect position is 2-3 seconds before the wave starts breaking.
  • Look over your shoulder to see how far the wave is.
  • Once you feel the ‘push’ from the wave, stand up by holding your feet on the board (not on the rails)
  • Try to steer the board towards the unbroken side of the wave as soon as possible.

7. Repeat


Which foot goes front on the surfboard?

goofy vs regular foot surfing

Surfers have better control over the surfboard and the wave when they are facing the wave.

  • RegularLEFT FOOT front – Great for right-hander waves
  • GoofyRIGHT FOOT front – Great for left-hander waves

If you don’t know which stance suits you the best, there’s an easy trick to figure it out. Stand up straight, and let your friend push you from behind. Either foot that you are going to step out first will be your ‘forward foot’


surfer surfing a wave illustration


7 Mistakes beginner surfers should avoid.

Related: Surf Etiquette

1. Wrong posture.

Keep your head up!

A mistake many beginners tend to do is that they stay too low on the board when paddling. Keeping your neck/shoulders curved up gives way more momentum to your paddling. It can be exhausting in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it after time (In a month when surfing 2-3 days a week).


2. Paddle too early for a wave.

Beginner surfers tend to paddle too soon for the incoming wave.

Position yourself at the right place and you only need 3-seconds of paddling. Also, don’t go full-on for the wave, paddling itself should be smooth and stable.


3. Paddle back through the surf-zone.

When you’ve caught a wave, go back to the lineup, paddling away from the surf zone.


4. Use the wrong size surfboard/wetsuit.

  • Surfboard – Make sure to get the right size surfboard. It’s better to start with a board which is slightly larger than recommended. Check out the 16 different types of surfboards.
  • Wetsuit – Another crucial element is to get the right size and thickness wetsuit. When choosing one, the most important factor to wetsuit size is to go by the weight, and then the height.


4. Unaware of the basic safety rules.

Surfing can get quite intense when the waves are good and there are many surfers in the water.

Make sure that you are competent when going in crowded spots and in good waves. Always check your surroundings and think twice before you let go of your board – there might be somebody behind you.


5. Too tense.


When you are in the water, there’s a totally different set of rules. Learning how to go with the flow and make the most of it teaches you to stay relaxed for best-optimized performance.


6. Wrong time.

Unlike any other sport out there where you can choose whenever you’d like to start your workout, there’s a different approach in the surf. Get acquainted with the surf forecast to get the maximum effort out of your time.

7. Paddling & pop-up.

When paddling for a wave, try to create the least amount of drag. When you are about to pop-up, keep your fingers off the rails, but instead of the board!


Q & A

Why To Surf?

Surfing is a sport that requires spending countless time in the water, catching waves for fun. There are no reps or sets to follow, just catch the wave and have fun. To me, personally, surfing is the best workout and mental relaxation at the same time. Before I knew how to surf, I never knew what a true hobby or so-called “there’s nothing like surfing” meant.

Related: Benefits of Surfing


What does it take to surf?

Surfing is a perfect example of the theory, that it takes time to enjoy the destination. Surfing is an advanced sport, that requires quite a bit of dedication and knowledge before one could really enjoy the sport.


How to master surfing fast?

Unlike 95% of other sports out there, surfing is something that takes heaps of time to enjoy the sport.

Related: How to improve your surfing skills


How to become a good surfer?

As long as you are interested in the sport and spend enough time in the water, you’ll progress in a decent manner.

Read more: Hobbies related to surfing


How long does it take to learn to surf?

Depending on your physical state, it takes at least 100+ surfed waves to feel somewhat competent in the water.

When you start to make turns, the progress gets more fun and tempting.


Is surfing hard?

Yes, surfing is hard. Unlike any other extreme sport, where you need the courage to be good at the sport – Surfing requires a lot of dedication and failure before you could really enjoy the sport.


Surfing etiquette

Every beginner surfer should know the etiquette before entering any crowded surf spot. Read more about the etiquette from here.


What is the best beginner surfboard?

A long and soft foamboard. That type of board that is easy to paddle, has good buoyancy, and has a round design for easy turning.


Best beginner surfboard for adults

The best beginner surfboard for adults is chosen by the weight and height ratio. Matter of fact, weight plays a bigger role than the height, so make sure to get the board properly chosen to maximize your time and effort in the water.


surfer waiting for a wave



Read next

Surf Safety

Hobbies related to surfing

Most common surf injuries

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I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.

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