7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Surfing

1. Surfing is Physically Demanding

This seems so obvious to me now that I surf. But before I started surfing, the only kind of surfer I could imagine was the stereotypical California surfer-boy with frosted blonde hair and the sunburnt skin saying “duuude,” way too much.

For some reason, that image I had didn’t leave any room for physical activity.

Surfing is an extremely difficult sport.

It requires:

  • Advanced swimming level
  • Good breath control
  • Cardiovascular strength
  • Strong shoulders
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Core
  • Legs

So basically, it’s a total body workout.

During my first session, I was grossly underprepared for the amount of physical activity surfing requires. As a result, I only managed to surf for about 30 minutes before I gave up, defeated and frustrated.

Looking back, I wish I knew how physically difficult surfing was going to be before I started. Had I been in better shape I would have had better balance, board control, stamina while in the water, and ultimately would have learned to surf much more quickly.

2. Surfing is Mentally Demanding

Surfing, often times, is more of a mental battle than a physical one (and physically it’s tough).

Much like yoga, surfing is a journey; one that can seem extremely daunting at the beginning, and requires diligent and consistent practice.  

When I first began my surfing journey, I was often overwhelmed by how difficult it was. I was constantly comparing myself to the other surfers around me and was very impatient with myself for not mastering skills faster.

Remember: surfing takes years of consistent practice to master.

Everyone is at a different stage in their surf journey. Just remember to keep practicing and to be patient with yourself.

Realizing the mental battle associated with surfing was a huge breakthrough for me. It allowed me to stop taking my surfing progress so seriously, have more fun, and to start enjoying each session so much more.

3. Surfing is an Expensive Habit

Specifically, just to purchase the “start-up” surf equipment, you need:

  • The surfboard
  • Fins
  • Leash
  • Swimsuits/wetsuits

All of which could cost around $1,000 USD.

This estimation is modest, and it can easily cost much more, just to start out in the sport.

Many seasoned surfers have already pumped thousands of dollars into the sport.

They will quickly tell you that finding a surfboard under $250 dollars is a steal and that $700 is a totally reasonable price.

If you are serious about surfing, then be prepared to spend some serious cash for your equipment, not to mention the cost of going to the beach on a consistently basis.

4. There is Surf ‘Etiquette’

As in most sports, there are some firm, unspoken rules about surfing, especially in crowded areas. The rules exist in part for safety and in part to ensure that everyone gets the waves they deserve.

I definitely wish I knew about this before I started surfing, especially because tempers can get pretty hot out on the water if these rules aren’t followed. I personally have had a few altercations with the not-too-happy surfers because I simply didn’t know the “way of the waves”.

Here are a list of a few (but not all) surf etiquette rules I wish I knew before I started surfing:

  1. Know the right of way
    • The surfer who is closest to the peak of the wave gets priority, and the surfers on the outside of the peak need to pull away.
  2. Do not “drop-in” or steal someone’s wave
  3. Be careful not to surf behind someone or get in the way
  4. Don’t throw your board
  5. Communicate

This is just a short list of some of the rules that I wish I  knew before I started surfing. If you want to know more about surfing rules and etiquette, you can check out this article by Surf Today

5. Surfing is Hard on the Body

When I first started surfing, I didn’t quite anticipate the physical toll it would take on my body. Spending hours in salt water and sunshine, turns out, can be very harsh on the skin, hair, eyes, and body in general.

When starting out in surfing, be prepared to get banged up.

For example, I remember getting a decent-sized gash on my hand (from holding my leash during a wipeout). When I exited the water and showed it to my friends, they simply patted me on the back, congratulated me on my rough session, and informed me that, that was just a minor scratch when it came to surfing.

Not to mention, the cuts and bruises I get all over my body after every session. Whether it’s the board banging against you after a gnarly wipe-out, rocky ocean bottoms, saltwater constantly up your nose, or the being repeatedly hit by 4-foot waves, surfing is definitely a rough sport, people.

It’s all part of the fun.

6. Surf is Actually A Lifestyle

It’s more than just surfing, it’s about the mindset.

Once I started surfing consistently, I found myself drinking less alcohol, eating better to fuel my body, exercising more to prepare for surfing, and even going to bed earlier to recover (or to snag early morning sessions).

Ultimately, surfing brings about a strange sense of peace-of-mind. Once a consistent surfer, it becomes a priority to try to incorporate that peace into every area of life.

I wish I knew how fully surfing would extend into nearly every corner of my life before I started.

7. Surfing is Completely Addictive

Once I started surfing, bit by bit, it totally consumed my life.

I started working for the weekends that I would go to the beach, paychecks would be dedicated to more surf equipment, and I traded in my big house in Miami for a little apartment in Costa Rica.

Somehow, surfing has a way of making everything else seem less important, and the only thing that really matters is a happy, healthy life, filled with beautiful waves to surf.

I wish I knew just how addicted I would be to surfing before I started.

Now there is no going back.