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So, you want to learn how to surf? Well, this is not a comprehensive list. Nor in anyway a replacement for getting out there yourself and putting time in. However, if you’re just learning how to surf, here are some things to think about…

Surfing Environments

Traditionally when we think about surfing, the ocean comes to mind. However, surfing is now taking place in rivers, in lakes, as well as man-made wave pools. Whatever the environment, know your limits and ask others about the conditions. You’re safety is the most important since you will be handling heavy equipment in moving water. If you’re just beginning, it’s wise to ask locals about what surf spot is best for beginners. Stay away from rocky areas, reef breaks, and the crowded, local breaks. Take note of the weather, rip currents, and wave size. 


The bigger the board the more stable it’s going to be. Typically that means it’s going to be easier to catch the wave. The smaller the board, the more maneuverable it’s going to be. This means it will be easier to control the board to do tricks and turns. A soft top board is a good place to begin surfing at it’s just that – softer than the fiberglass boards which can be dangerous when flying toward you.

Depending on where you are surfing, you might need a wetsuit to stay warm. The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer you’ll be (also, the more difficult it will be to move!) so choose properly. Remember, the zipper goes in the back.

Goofy vs. Regular

Goofy means right foot forward. Regular means left foot forward. A way to determine whether you’re goofy or regular is to pretend you’re going to run and slide across a frozen puddle… which foot would feel the most comfortable in front? The leash or leg rope goes on the back foot.

Catching a Wave

In order to surf, you must first find a catch to ride. If you are just starting off, it’s important to understand how it feels to have the wave carry you. Attempt to ride the white water on your belly towards the beach before attempting to stand up. Then once you’re comfortable, try to paddle for the wave before the water water reaches you.

Before standing on the board, master your “pop-up” on the beach. Lay on your board and get into the push up position. Push up on the top of your board and get into the surfer position with your knees bent in an athletic stance. Don’t look down at your feet or board, keep your gaze straight looking at the beach.


The ocean is for everyone. It’s a playground. Show respect when in the playground. Someone already standing on the wave has the right of way. It’s your responsibility to get out of the way. You should be in control of your board at all times. If someone is surfing toward you, choose to paddle toward the whitewash, instead of in front of the surfer on the wave. Look for signs at your local beach outlining etiquette. 

Another thing to note is Localism. This means that the locals of a break often take priority to visitors. Be respectful to the local surfers, be sure to give off good vibes in the water and try to make a friend!

Have Fun

The golden rule of surfing is to have fun! Don’t get frustrated if you can’t stand up or ride a wave your first try. It’s take practice and persistence and soon enough with these basic tips, you will be riding a wave in no time! Good luck!

Want to learn to surf, travel somewhere new, and get to know the community on a more in-depth level all at once? Check out one of our Volunteer Surf Trips!

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