A beginners guide to learning to surf

Learning any new sport or activity can seem a little daunting or intimidating especially so with surfing. Surfing as well as being a sport with a steep learning curve also has it’s own culture, language and lifestyle to navigate. But if you’re interested in learning to surf, a complete beginner or recently started the journey to becoming a surfer don’t worry our beginners guide is here to help – just follow our simple tips and you’re on the way to changing you life!

  • Learn about the wind and ocean – Personally I believe this is one of the most important aspects of learning to surf and in becoming a surfer. Online surf forecasting websites and star ratings are great but will never replace genuine understanding of the elements. So study about how waves are formed, swell direction, the ebb and flow of tides and how they affect the swell, wind strength and direction, wave fetch and interval, nearshore ocean contours and type (beach, reef, rock), even cloud types, temperatures on land and passing weather fronts are all essential to learn so you can forecast the surf conditions for yourself and stay safe in the water. It’s an often overlooked skill and one which most surf schools don’t teach, but this knowledge will make you a more complete surfer and bring you into the culture of surfing much quicker than almost anything else.

Learn about the environment – Image Toby Butler

  • Book a lesson – OK a no brainer this one but you need to start off right. Whether it’s with an experienced surfer friend or a professional surf school you’ll need some formal lessons to get you going and teach good form and habits. In surfing you’re always learning so either take some follow up lessons or listen and take advice from other more experienced surfers to help improve technique, wave knowledge etc.

Learn to surf (Image C/O Corinne Evans)

  •  Borrow or buy a board, leash and wetsuit – You’ll not be getting very far without these. If you’re still unsure if surfing is for you then borrow or rent a board for a while, but if you’re bitten by the surf bug (and you’ll know if you have been!) invest in a decent surfboard and wet suit. For surfboard choice again take advice but a slightly bigger, more floaty board is generally more forgiving and easier to learn and progress on.

Stan Norman and his boards – Image Joel Gray

  • Get in the water as often as possible –  to learn to surf you need to put the time in. Surfing is difficult and takes dedication so the more hours you put in the better you’ll become. Simple :)

Pumping tropical surf – Image Tom Bing

  •  Understand basic surf etiquette – there are few formal rules in surfing and surf schools rarely teach them, but a basic understanding can go a long way in the line up. Don’t drop in on anyone (OK maybe your mates ;) it’s uncool and can be dangerous, don’t snake (steal waves), the surfer closest to the peak has the priority, don’t hog all the waves, don’t paddle out into surf which is too big or you’re not confident in, show a little respect when paddling out to a new spot (a smile never does any harm) and never leave litter on the beach.


  • Travel and experience new waves – surfing different waves either at home or overseas is a fundamental part of the surfing lifestyle, not just because it’s fun but experiencing wave variety will help your surfing progress. Once you’ve mastered the basics of learning to surf a world of point breaks, reefs, sand bars and even wave pools awaits!

Indo (image James Cummings)

  • Get to know your gear – Find out what’s essential and what you’ll need to help you get to the water and in the surf.
  • Be yourself and have fun– You might think that to be accepted into the surfing tribe you’ll need to wear the latest surf clothing or use surf speak but nothing screams out kook louder than a fake. Be yourself, wear whatever you want, ride whatever board you want in whatever style suits you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other surfers if you don’t know something, show some surf etiquette in the water and never stop learning. Oh yes and have fun!

2 responses to “A beginners guide to learning to surf”

  1. zak owen says:


    I’m really interested in learning about the wind and the ocean as stated above but how? I look at MSW but I understand that just tells me if I can surf or not, wave height, wind etc. Do you recommend any books etc to learn these things?

    I honestly look at a weather chart and I’m lost but would like to have this knowledge.

    Any tips?



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