surfer-filter: First timer looking for noob advice and tips
May 14, 2009 4:38 PM   Subscribe

surfer-filter: First timer looking for noob advice and tips. My complete surfing history: Two years ago, a friend took me surfing and on the first try I rode a wave until it ended. Then I got out of the water.

Today I was given a 6' board, and I'm going into the water without an instructor or surfer friend. I feel fairly safe doing this since I live by the Carpinteria State Beach, just about the most mild and tranquil beach ever. Never big waves or currents, all sand, and it doesn't really have other surfers for me to get run over by (though I do see them sometimes). Also, I go swimming by myself here, and I see others swimming by themselves, I don't imagine it's much more dangerous to take a surfboard with you.

So I'm just wondering if anyone can give me some basic advice for my learning to surf. How should I approach this? What else do I need besides the board? Special stretches to do beforehand? Special foods to avoid? I'm looking for any and all tips.

I'm sure everyone is going to tell me I'm going to die and give me safety advice. Okay... I'll listen to, and appreciate, such advice. But I'd also like some non-safety advice, you know, just tips on how to get started, things to be aware of, basic stuff like that.

(By the way, I already know a bigger board would be better, but let's assume for the sake of this question that I'm going to keep the 6' board and that I'll be able to get up on it. If that turns out to be a false assumption, I'll deal with that later. :D )
posted by brenton to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd say its best to learn surf etiquette immediately. It doesn't matter if only 5 people are surfing a break, you should know where you should and should not go. 95% of the beef people have with beginners is that they get in the way. You need to know the right of way (paddling out, catching a wave, and riding a wave). These rules aren't set in stone, and vary by break, but read for a basic run down.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 4:54 PM on May 14, 2009

I'm not a fan of you surfing alone, but the risk is yours.

lots of press ups.

a leash (stops the board getting away) and board wax(for the top side)

get off the board before it gets to shallow(knee deep), or you'll bury and break the fins in the sand, and it also reduces the chance of you hitting your head.

the rest is just balance - and its not very easy

good luck!
posted by fistynuts at 5:09 PM on May 14, 2009

Best answer: I wouldn't say it's a false assumption, but it is somewhat unlikely :D) Smaller boards aren't really made for tranquil surf. BUT, if you're going to go, here are a few things I remember from teaching myself to surf in much the same situation. You'll make surf friends pretty quickly, though.


Check your surf report and tide charts. Follow the cues. High tide, low tide, wind, these are all things that affect safety and enjoyment. If you are comfortable swimming in the ocean, I wouldn't say that it's reckless for you to go out alone, but I would always err on the side of caution. If you're alone and get a bad feeling (different tide, bigger swells, water temp, etc.), go out another day.


I've always found a deck grip handy myself, you can check into one. I would recommend a rash guard as there are few things less annoying than picking wax out of your chest hair and chest hair out of your board. Make sure your leash is secure and fins are tight.


Paddle against the rip. Keep your head and chest off of the board. If you have a strong surf (say higher than 18 inches, push the nose of your board down and dive under it. This is going to be a crucial skill, particularly when the surf is high, strong, or both. You will want to paddle out beyond the break zone maybe 10 yards to start, as far as you need to to make sure you don't accidentally get caught by an early breaking wave.


First, sit on your board a bit. Get a sense of the wave periods, how quickly the rip is carrying you, where the waves are breaking best, whether they are breaking mushy or dumping water. If there are other surfers watch them. Target where you want to catch a wave, set up behind the break point and wait. When a promising swell comes, turn around and paddle as hard as you can, head and chest off the board, legs stiff. You want as little contact with the board and your body as possible, but you want that contact to be solidly at the balance point. Remember that short boards need a lot of speed. At the point where you feel the wave take the board, grab the sides of the board, and with one motion leap to your feet.


Whatever direction the wave is breaking you will want to cut toward to build up speed and avoid going over the lip of the wave. Your tendency will likely be to lean forward if you feel the board is sluggish, or lean backward if you feel you are going over the wave. Do neither, instead stay centered, keeping your feet underneath you with your knees bent. When you ditch try not to lose control of your board (i.e. let it fly away from you).


Get in the habit of knowing whether there is another surfer, swell, or wall of surf behind you and how long you have to orient yourself or get out of the way. If you bail hard in the break, protect yourself. Pull yourself up into a fetal ball with your head down, your hands protecting the back of your neck and your forearms protecting your face. A loose board in a break can easily knock you unconscious so take that to heart.


Eat well and rehydrate, you'll be exhausted your first few times out.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:17 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh and what ShootTheMoon said about etiquette, it is good to know how territorial the beach is, but unless it's an epic surf spot, you probably won't have problems. I've only ever had even a slight problem at one in a dozen beaches, but I also didn't try to cut in on the choice breaks either. But you really do need to watch the other surfers for plenty of reasons, not the least of which is that they might not be paying good enough attention to you.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:23 PM on May 14, 2009

i predict you will want to change to a bigger board - probably a REALLY big one. those little boards are for big, powerful waves, if it's a mild, tranquil beach you probably just won't get up anough momentum to really stand up on a board that small.

good luck to you and well done if you can make it with you're 6 footer of course! but if you just keep falling down, over and over, day after day, and you start to get really frustrated, a bigger board should probably be the first thing you think of.
posted by messiahwannabe at 1:00 AM on May 15, 2009

« Older What do gang member hopefuls read in prison?   |   Calling a cell phone in Mexico Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.