How To Surf For The First Time

Learning how to surf could easily be considered one of life's truly special gifts. Surfing is a skill unlike any other athletic endeavor. You don't need a partner, it doesn't require a team, you can paddle out by yourself, or you can paddle out with friends. It really doesn't matter. If the surf is good, there's really nothing else like it.

It takes years to become a good surfer, but it's so much fun that no one cares. In most sports, if you happen to be naturally gifted with athleticism it's very easy to become a stand-out or a valuable asset to your team. An above average athlete can pick up baseball, or basketball fairly quickly... at least to a level where they would be considered valuable and competitive. With surfing however, it doesn't quite work that way.

The good news in all of this is that if you're serious about wanting to learn how to stand up and ride a wave on your first day, it's not that difficult to accomplish. I encourage you to continue reading this very logical, proven step by step approach. By following these guidelines you will be able to shorten the learning curve allowing you to catch a wave and stand up on your surfboard on your first day. Not the open face mind you, but the whitewater after the wave has broken. Learn to ride the white water first. Have some fun riding it all the way to the beach and think about catching the open face of the wave later.

Step 1: Surfboard Selection
If you really want to stand up and ride a wave for any length of time you've got to have the right surfboard. The best choice is a longboard at least 9 feet long and preferably longer. We are not looking for high performance here, we're looking to learn the basics and once you've got that down you can go shorter as you progress.

I've seen so many kids and at times even adults buy a shortboard and never get to their feet. It's too small to float them, it's too small to catch waves easily, and they give up because it's too hard and they're not having any fun. The learning curve is dramatically increased when you try paddling out on a shortboard for your first time. Make sure you rent, buy or borrow a big, thick longboard when you get started.

Step 2: Location
Waikiki is the ultimate beginners surf spot. The waves are slow, rolling and very forgiving. San Onofre in California is also a great beginners wave and is very popular with longboarders. The key take away from this is really quite simple... for your first day you need a wave that has a slower, weaker break with enough whitewater to allow you the time to get to your feet and stand up. Powerful, thick hollow surf is not where you want to be. It will be impossible for you to have fun and get to your feet. These mellower breaks are everywhere... if you don't know where then ask a local surf shop for some guidance.

Step 3: The Beach Start
Now that you've got your longboard, and you're on the beach at a nice, slow, mellow surf break, it's time to familiarize yourself with a few fundamentals. Before going in the water, place your board on the beach, in soft sand, and lay on the deck of the board as if you are floating around, laying on your stomach and about to paddle.

Some instructors will spend quite a bit of time having new students practice their paddling technique and jumping to their feet on dry land. What I want you to do is to lay on the board with your feet either touching or very close to the tail of the surfboard. Use this as a reference point for where you want to be when you are laying on your board and paddling in the water. Once you've done this, it's time to head for the water, where you will learn to sit upright, paddle around and then bellyboard for your first few waves.

Step 4: Paddling and Sitting on Your Board
Once you are in the water you'll need to lay down on the board and practice paddling it around. You don't want to go out very far, just spend about 15 minutes paddling and sitting on your board without falling over. It's not that difficult, especially if you're on a longboard as we talked about in step one.

The only cautionary advice you need to listen to is on the topic of pearling. Pearling is when the nose of your surfboard goes underwater, submarines on you and eventually throws you over the front of the board, sometimes launching like a rocket behind you up into the air.

I'm sure you'll pearl a few times. Probably a lot... everyone does. Just be sure to protect your head and face if you are thrown forward and you don't know where your board is. To avoid pearling you simply need to position yourself more towards the tail of your board. It's not rocket science, just practice your paddling and adjust accordingly.

Step 5: Belly-Boarding in The Whitewater
As you feel comfortable sitting on your surfboard in the water, and you can paddle your surfboard without falling off, it's time to catch a wave. Well, sort of... actually you'll be catching the whitewater of a wave. The whitewater is moving water. It is the aftermath of a swell that has already reached its peak height, it has crested and broken, resulting in a soupy, frothy mass of energy that is racing towards the beach.

The whitewater is very easy to catch and ride when compared to the open face of a wave, and this is where we will start. Position yourself between the breaking part of the wave and the beach so that you are in the midst of whitewater rolling towards the shore. Once you are in this sweet spot, I want you to catch the whitewater, by paddling as hard as you can towards the beach until you feel the speed and the power of the wave taking over. Stay on your stomach while riding the wave and just bellyboard it all the way to the beach or as far as it will take you.

Repeat this and bellyboard at least 5 different waves towards the beach. Become skilled at just catching the whitewater and learning to keep the nose of your board from pearling. Try angling to the left and to the right while bellyboarding to the beach. Once you can do this, it's time to go to the next step.

Step6: Kneeboarding in The Whitewater
Maybe you were only on your stomach, but I'll bet you are grinning from ear to ear. This is fun isn't it? And if you have come this far, you are almost there, so let's stick with the process. Baby steps right? Now that you have become proficient at the art of bellyboarding, you should be feeling much more comfortable with what it feels like to have a wave propelling you forward.

You've probably pearled a few times, you've made those adjustments, and you can now paddle back out, turn around and catch a wave. Trust me, that's impressive and you are on your way. But before we actually stand up, the next step towards becoming a real surfer is to do exactly what you did on your stomach, but this time you'll be riding the wave on your knees.

It's called kneeboarding and it requires a little more skill then the bellyboarding method, yet is a bit easier than standing up. Catch the wave (whitewater) just as you did before but this time jump quickly to your knees with your hands on the board for support and ride it all the way in. Repeat this four or five times until the motion from lying prone to your knees is quick and comfortable. After you have successfully kneeboarded several waves, it's time to move to our final step.

Step 7: Getting To Your Feet, The Pop-Up
The transition of getting from the face down, prone position to your feet is where so many new surfers struggle when they are just beginning. Any hesitation or slow, deliberate attempts at this motion result in an awkward loss of balance almost every single time.

Much like getting up on water skis, the actionable task of going from sitting in the water behind the boat, to getting up on our feet, is where most of the problems occur. Just like water skiing, or riding a bike for that matter, once you are up and moving it's not that hard.

With that in mind, it's important that you learn the art of the pop-up and implement that into this final step. The way to accomplish this is to put all your focus into jumping up as quickly as possible from your stomach to a stand-up position on your feet after you have caught the whitewater. Don't worry if you fall 10 times in a row.

The goal is to pop-up in one very quick motion from belly to feet, because once you are on your feet, trust me... surfing this wave all the way to the beach will be surprisingly easy. Just like riding a bike, after you've done it once, there's a certain feel that then becomes part of a subconscious skill set from which you can build upon.

Some Things To Remember and a Final Warning
Learning to surf is no different than learning anything else in life. If you know and understand the fundamental basics first, there's a logical progression that ultimately shortens the time it takes to learn that skill. Watching new surfers with super short boards, trying to paddle around and into the breaking waves take months to sometimes do what you can do in one day by following these simple steps.

However, I would be remiss and almost deceptive if I did not first warn you of the potentially life changing effect surfing may very well have on you once you have ridden your first wave. For some of us, the feeling from that first day in the water created a complete change in the way we looked at priorities and life's choices. I'm not suggesting that it's bad, it's just different. Surfing really is that much fun!
George C Taylor is an author and technical writer who has been surfing for over 40 years. He currently resides in Southeast Asia with his wife, where he writes for internet marketers and web masters all over the the world.

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