While it’s usually recommended that beginners attend a surf lesson at least once before venturing out on their own— it’s completely possible to teach yourself how to surf.
However, if you decide to do this, it’s important to consider all of the risks involved and take the correct precautions to keep yourself safe while in the water.
As the ocean can be a dangerous place for an unsupervised beginner, read our tips below for learning to surf safely.
Before you start
If you plan on hitting the waves all by yourself, you’ll need to first make sure that this is a wise decision for you and your ability. You should have a deep passion and enthusiasm for surfing, but an equal amount of respect for the ocean and the elements.
You shouldn’t go surfing alone if you’re not in good health, are generally physically unhealthy, or have any underlying medical conditions.
Solo surfing isn’t a good idea if you have a fear of water. Some waves can swell to enormous heights, which can be overwhelming and dangerous for beginner surfers.
Anyone learning to surf will also need to know how to swim and do so confidently in both a pool or the ocean. When surfing, it’s inevitable that your entire body will be submerged under the water at least once.
You’ll need to be able to remain calm when this happens and strong enough to guide yourself back to the surface after a few seconds of being underwater.
If you’ve considered all of these points and are still set on taking the plunge to learn to surf alone – here are some tips to get you started safely:
- Watch how other surfers position their bodies on the surfboard when paddling into a wave. Beginners frequently lie too high up which can result in nosediving, or too low down (resulting in loss of velocity) on the surfboard.
When paddling in, your centre of gravity should be about at the centre point of your surfboard, so that the nose does not rise up too far above the water or become immersed in it. By this point, your surfboard should be in line with the water.
- A great way to start learning how to surf is by bodyboarding the wave with or without your surfboard to get a feel for it, learning to follow it and stay in the green rather than heading straight and into the whitewater.
By remaining in this position after takeoff, you will be able to concentrate on moving sideways into the green part without worrying about popping up.
Once you’ve mastered the art of following the wave and utilising its energy to progress down the line, you’ll be ready to tackle the challenge of popping and staying up.
- When you’re still learning, it takes a lot of energy to paddle for longer periods of time and to pop up on your surfboard at takeoff.
Specific preparation exercises might help you develop your muscles and improve faster. Simple exercises such as push-ups, squats, and roll pulls are particularly helpful for this.
How long does it take to learn to surf?
The difficulty of surfing is related to the time required to learn to surf, and many beginners and aspiring surfers want to know how much time they should anticipate to put in surfing before they can truly be regarded as a “surfer.”
In ideal circumstances, the different stages of learning to surf should take the following amount of time:
- 30 minutes: stand up in the shallows on a learner surfboard
- 2 hours: paddle for and catch a whitewater wave.
- 30 hours: paddle without falling off your board.
- 60 hours: duck dive under approaching waves
- 120 hours or more: ride the face of an unbroken or ‘green’ wave.
- 150 hours or more: be able to ride green waves, paddle out, and surf competently.
Standing up on any wave is perhaps the most difficult aspect of surfing. It is a movement that is unique to surfing and takes a long time to become accustomed to.
You could figure out how to stand up on broken whitewater waves in a relatively short amount of time, but the problem is that you have to paddle and duck dive first.
Keeping this in mind, expect it to take you 20-50 hours of surfing to be able to stand up on broken white water waves a little further offshore. At this stage, you should be able to gain a sense of how to balance while riding your surfboard.
The balance involved in simply going straight to the beach, on the other hand, is significantly different from the more advanced elements of riding an unbroken wave.
To provide an accurate guess for how long it may take you to learn to surf, you must consider your individual surfing situation.
The important things to consider are stated below, and based on how each point applies to your scenario, they will either speed up or slow down your learning.
- Surf Often – The more you surf, the faster you’ll learn the basics. Try and hit the waves as often as you can. You only get out what you put into the experience, and practice really does make perfect.
- Wave Type – The amount of time it takes to learn also varies according to the type of surplus that you have to surf in your chosen place. Paddling out in advanced surf places without being prepared is not only risky but will most likely slow you down and put you off surfing. Also, try and avoid crowded areas early on because they’ll likely startle you and hinder your growth.
- Personal Fitness – Do your best to maintain a high level of physical fitness outside of the surf to avoid impeding your surfing development. Any of the common types of exercise are beneficial.
- The Weather – Seasonal temperature variations can mean that if you don’t have the proper wetsuit, you won’t be able to surf. It also takes some time to adjust to surfing in the cold, so don’t expect it to be easy. In some regions of the world, there is a season when there are waves virtually every day, followed by a season where it can be flat for weeks on end.