23 things to know before you start surfing

There are certain things every potential surfer should be aware of before they get started. This list will save you heartache and needless worry, and will maximise your surfing life.

Originally published as a response to a question on Quora.

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1) Don’t worry about what other people might be thinking about your board, wetsuit, skill level, etc. Focus on surfing: paddling out and catching waves back in.

2) Learn to duck dive before you can even stand up. Being able to duck dive will exponentially increase the number of waves you catch.

3) Surf mostly in the morning and late afternoon. Sunburn isn’t cool and you’ll regret having been sunburnt later in life.

4) Catch as many waves as possible. Don’t sit out there waiting for what you might think is the perfect wave – catch everything you can.

5) Don’t be overly timid. Know your place in the line-up, especially as a beginner, but don’t go surfing and catch no waves. Sometimes you need to get amongst the action to get your share.

6) Smile and be friendly in the line-up. Other surfers are people too. You might even find a mentor who’ll take you under his or her wing.

7) Don’t take surfing too seriously. I’ve seen guys punching their boards in frustration. It’s horrible, and the board is never at fault. When you’re having a bad day, be grateful that you live in an era when such luxuries as going surfing are available to us at all.

8) Stretch. The more flexible you are, the better you’ll surf. If you watch pro surfers, half of what they do is acrobatics.

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9) When the surf bug bites, embrace it wholeheartedly. Later in life you’ll be tired, injured, the waves will be flat, you’ll have a family, you’ll be busy with work. If you have the opportunity to go surfing, do it. Don’t hesitate.

10) Experience more dawn sessions. Paddling out as the sun rises is beautiful beyond belief, especially if you’re on the east coast of a continent.

11) Experience more sunset sessions. When the water becomes silky and the sun drips gold across the surface. This, for me, is what surfing is all about. Being part of the elements, riding waves of energy manifested in liquid form.

12) Surf with friends. Happiness shared is happiness multiplied.

13) Give the gift of surfing. You’ll understand why this is important after you’ve become a surfer. Watching someone catch their first wave – that look upon their face – is better than catching a wave yourself.

14) Lose the ego. Your ego will tell you that you’re good or useless, or worthy or worthless. It’s all just noise. Focus on what you came here to do: surf.

15) It’s not a competition. Surfing is about you and your love of riding waves. Sometimes it’s better to paddle away from the crowd and wait for a wave to come to you. Don’t let surfing contribute to your stress levels.

16) Surfing is sacred. There are few sports, leisure activities, or hobbies that will capture your heart in the way surfing does. Be grateful for the joy it brings you. Make a point of expressing that gratitude, even just to yourself, before you fall asleep at night.

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17) Experiment with surfboards. Don’t mimic the professionals unless, of course, you’re on the path to becoming one! For everyone else, find boards that leverage your unique wave-riding skills and style. The perfect board for you will change throughout your surfing life.

18) Look after the ocean. We spend a good portion of our lives immersed in it, lets keep it clean. This can mean supporting organisations involved in ocean care, or just picking up rubbish you find on the beach.

19) Lead a healthier lifestyle. The better you care for your body, the better you will surf. This includes, getting enough sleep, eating more green than packaged things, drinking less alcohol, and not smoking. You can care for your mind by meditating and cultivating a positive attitude.

20) Set goals. If you want to improve your surfing, create some clear objectives. For example: by the end of the year you want to do an air. Now unravel the steps required to reach your goal. Find someone who has already achieved this goal, and ask for help. If you can afford it, pay for expert tutelage.

21) Ask someone to video you surfing. It will shock you. It’ll be like listening to your voice on video. It will help you iron out the kinks in your style.

22) Go on more surf trips. Travel and adventure are surfing’s best friends, and will make you feel alive.

23) If you love surfing, don’t be afraid to give it a central role in your life. Make sure you live near the ocean. Avoid getting sucked into the whirlpool of mindless busyness. Don’t forego the things you love in the pursuit of money, career, or abstract ‘shoulds’. It’s all hot air and you’ll be old before you know it. So begin with what you know in your heart is important, then build your life around that.

  1. Great list! Agree with every one of your points. Surfing in different countries has definitely expanded my horizons and opened up my perspective on things…on life! Thanks for the great write up.

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