A few weeks ago we published our Introduction and Part 1 of our series on Surfing For Beginners, celebrating one of the most popular holiday sports of modern times. The series continues as follows:
- Equipment, Safety and Surf Law;
- First Steps and Surf Manoeuvres;
- Waves, Weather and helpful links;
- The Eco-Surfer, Surf-speak and Surf-world.
So we continue our little surf celebration with Part 2 of our series courtesy of Purivida Boardriders.[hr]
First Steps And Surf Manoeuvres – The Key To Catching Waves
Whether you choose to learn to surf in the winter or summer, the most important tip is to book a surf lesson and learn from someone who is qualified to teach you. A good surf coach is priceless and their enthusiasm for the sport will keep you motivated through the challenges. This sport is a tough one to learn FACT, as your pitch or base (the ocean) is constantly moving so you’re up against it from the start. Ideally your first lesson needs to be a minimum of 2 hours long.
Your first bad boy board needs to be sturdy and floaty. The bigger the better as this will provide you with the stability required to learn the first manoeuvres. In Part 1 we discussed the different types of boards most suitable for beginners so please make sure you take the time to choose your board carefully as this is crucial for a successful start.
Surf Beach And Finding The right Waves For Learning To Surf
In general, you want to find a break with waves that look crumbly and slow. Try to find small waves and a sandy beach as you’ll be walking around a lot. Also, make sure you don’t paddle into a crowded break as you’ll likely be a hazard to the more experienced surfers… and yourself.
Make sure you don’t go surfing alone either as there will be nobody to help if you’re in trouble. Surf where you can see a few groups of surfers and people present on the beach at least.
In time you will get to know where the good surf breaks are for beginners by talking to local surfers and watching where the surf schools choose to go. Also, make the most of surf shop staff who are always more than happy to help out with a bit of friendly advice and a few recommendations for top beaches to visit. Be assured you will soon find some surf buddies to hang out too as surfing can be one of the most friendly sports if you choose your beach well.
Techniques And Pre-Surf Preparation
Practice standing on a surfboard placed on sand first, before progressing to the sea. Then try these first few steps over and over until it becomes natural. In this case practise really does make perfect! If you have your board some time before your first lesson then you can even practice these moves in your house or in the garden if you want to.
Step 1: Lie flat on the sand right down the centre of the board with your feet just touching the tail end of the board. This is the proper position for when you are lying down on your board before you push yourself up.
Step 2: While you are lying down on your board, grab the rails (sides of the board) and do a push up. Your hands should be close to your body and in line with your armpits. As you push the front of your body up, you also want to pull one knee up quickly to your chest. Once you pull one knee up, your foot should be near the tail of the board. The distance between your front and back foot should be a little more than shoulder width apart. The foot that goes to the tail of the board should be the foot you kick a ball with. This “kicking” foot is what is going to steer the surfboard. You will want to practice this move over and over as it is the most important step in standing up on your surfboard.
Step 3: Your feet should be sideways on your board, with your body facing towards the nose of the board. Keep your feet directly over the centreline. Most falls occur because people aren’t centred on their board correctly. Also, point your feet a little forward. This will help with your forward motion.
Step 4: Keep your weight as centred as you can with a low centre of gravity. Avoid leaning back or forward. Try to stand as upright as you can. Do not stand straight up, however. Bend your knees a little to lower your centre of gravity. This will help keep you balanced. Your goal here is keep your body as relaxed and flexible as possible.
Step 5: Like a Trapeze Artist walking on a tight rope, you will also want to move your arms out away from your body. It’s natural to keep them close to your side. This will help with your balance. Keep your arms loose and avoid swinging them.
Step 6: Look up, not down. If your eyes are focused on your feet, you are going to fall, so keep your eyes looking forward at all times. Practice these steps over and over until you feel comfortable enough to do this out in the water. Remember, the most important step in keeping your balance is to keep your body and feet positioned down the centreline of the board. If you can keep your balance then you are ready to surf.
How To Paddle A Surfboard
Now that you’re just about ready to start surfing, it’s time to learn how to paddle your surfboard. It sounds really simple, but in fact, it does take some skill and stamina.
The first step in learning how to paddle is to walk your board out into the water until you are about waist deep. Lay yourself on the deck (surface) of your board, and keep your weight centred on the middle of the board. You will know right away if you are not centred on your board as you will either roll off or the board will pop out either in front or behind you. Most beginners have the tendency to be too far back on the board. The nose of the surfboard should only be a few inches about the surface of the water. Just shuffle up on your board if it is more than a few inches.
The second step is to actually start paddling. You will want to keep your fingers together and your hands cupped. Alternately, extend your arms all the way forward towards to nose of the board and give a good steady stroke. The key here is to really dig deep into the water. The more resistance you feel, the faster you will go. You will also want to focus on good posture while paddling. Keep you’re back arched and your chest up off the surfboard. If you notice your chin on or very near the board, remind yourself to get that chest up.
That’s all there is to it. Just remember to keep yourself balanced and to paddle with good form. The more and more you practice the more conditioned you will be and the faster you will be able to paddle. This will increase your confidence in your ability and will help you paddle into the path of the wave, match its speed and therefore catch it. That’s the key to catching waves.
Other Wave Catching Tips
Timing: Watch the waves for at least twice as many minutes as the waves are high on the face in feet. On a waist-high day, that means watching for about 5 or 6 minutes. On a double-overhead day, that means watching for about 20 minutes. Plus timing means being aware of your time in the water as for your first few surfing experiences you must be aware of how long you have been in the sea. Build your stamina up to being able to cope with all the surfing challenges gradually and never push yourself too much.
Think: This is where surfing is more than just an active sport, as to be successful you need to think things through carefully before each session. You need to get a feel for where everyone is sitting in the water, where the waves are breaking, and where they’re not breaking. Surfers will tell you time and time again that you need to stop and think whilst on the water, to be aware of rip currents, rocks and hazards. Think about where you can paddle out into the surf, and where you can swim in if you get into trouble.
Stretch: Take some time out while watching the waves to stretch. Focus on your neck, shoulders, arms, back, and legs. Swing your arms and get your pulse going but stay in a calm state of mind. Two good forms of exercise that can help here are Yoga and Pilates, which help to compliment all that you do when learning to surf.
Balance: If you’re not fortunate enough to have great balance naturally then don’t worry. With dedication, practice and patience it will come to you eventually and will soon feel very natural.
Stance: This will come with time and practice, and to be honest everyone adopts his or her own stance by simply hanging loose!
Do you have any great tips for beginners? Share them in the comments section below and we’ll publish them in our next article.
By Tanya Brooks-Dowsett
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