It’s time to learn to surf. The European summer is approaching fast. It’s time to head to the beach for healthy, open space and the fresh, bracing ocean after the torrid winter. If you’re going to learn to surf, here are five tips that will dramatically improve your chances of success at this wonderful sport and pastime.
- Never before has Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule been more relevant. No matter how tired you get, and no matter how sore you are, you need to keep on going back for more sessions and more lessons. The only way to learn is to keep on practising until you’ve got it. You’ll probably start chafing and get sore from all the paddle action. Use Vaseline liberally, and take anti-inflammatories if it gets too intense.
- Your paddling style and action is essential for you to catch waves. Watch how experienced surfers paddle and try to emulate them. Don’t smash the water. If you’re splashing, you’re doing it wrong. Paddle with long arms and use your hands as scoops. Paddling is an essential skill for learning to surf. If you want to see how not to paddle, watch the girls paddling in the original Blue Crush movie. They got it wrong.
- The next most essential element in the learning process is the pop-up. To be good at getting to your feet, you need three things. i) a strong core, ii) flexibility along your spine, and iii) a powerful upper body. You are doing a form of a lateral burpee when getting to your feet from a prone position. If you’re good at burpees, your pop up will be a cinch. Practice at home. Twenty pop-ups in the lounge every morning, and you’re good to go.
- Foam is your friend. A beginner board can be long, thick and wide. It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but if it helps you catch waves and get to your feet, then who cares what it looks like? Don’t get a shortboard to learn on, and don’t get a full longboard to surf on. You’ll need a fun board or even a soft-top. The thicker the board, the easier it is to paddle, and the easier it is to catch those waves.
- Take as many lessons as you need. Many years ago, it was unheard of to take lessons to learn to surf, but these days it is the most important thing to get you up and riding. If your coach is skilled and proficient, they will instil in you the basic, unwritten rules of surfing. These are important, like not dropping in, not snaking and not throwing your board away in front of people surfing. If you start improving, remember that most surf schools offer advanced lessons. Stick with it; you’ll soon be better than all of your friends.
The most important thing to remember is that the best surfer is the person having the most fun.