I can’t emphasize this one too strongly. A great place to start is a lesson with a knowledgeable surf instructor or friend. DO NOT attempt to just paddle out on your own and “wing it”. You will be a danger to yourself and others. I will not attempt to give you all of the rules of the road in this limited space, but the biggest mistake I see from novice surfers is paddling out into a crowded line-up. The fact of the matter is, until you are very comfortable controlling your own board and avoiding others, YOU SHOULD BE SEARCHING FOR AN EMPTY STRETCH OF BEACH TO SURF. A place that you can make mistakes and not hurt someone. Also, not getting run over by someone else is a nice side-benefit of this strategy. Leave the advanced surfers to battle it out on the local “Star Bar” or highest quality waves around. Check out Surfline’s “Bill of Rights and Lefts” for a detailed breakdown of surfing etiquette.
STEP 2: CHOOSE THE RIGHT SURFBOARD
I highly recommend starting out on a BIG, SOFTBOARD. For a normal sized adult, I would suggest something in the 9′-10′ range. You can modify that as needed if you’re bigger or smaller. A bigger board will help make it easier for you to catch waves and will also provide more stability while you are struggling to get to your feet. The most common mistake is to emulate experienced surfers who are ripping on sleek, little 6- foot foam and fiberglass boards. Don’t worry, after learning the basics on a softboard for a year or so, you will have the ability required to ride whatever type of board that interests you. The following companies offer the best soft beginner surfboards: INT Surfboards, Surftech Surfboards, Body Glove, Global Surf Industries.
STEP 3: DIET & EXERCISE
This one isn’t rocket science. The better your fitness level, the easier it will be for you to excel at a strenuous activity like surfing. At the risk of sounding like your mom, I will tell you to eat more fruits and vegetables; drink less soda and eat fewer processed foods. Start working out. If you’re already lifting weights or going to the gym, try to vary your exercise routine with yoga, pilates or some other form of cross-training. Your goal is to become as fit and flexible as possible. This will, in turn, make you a better surfer. A word of advice – be realistic. If you can’t do a single push-up on the floor in your living room, don’t expect that you’re going to magically pop to your feet once you’re out in the ocean. Give yourself an honest fitness assessment and realize that it might make a lot of sense to begin a diet/exercise routine before even attempting your first paddle out. Check out Men’s Health Magazine’s “Brave the Wave” fitness plan to help improve your surfing fitness on land.
Once you have learned surfing etiquette, acquired the correct equipment and worked on your fitness level, you will be ready to go out and catch your first waves.
See you in the water, Chris Brown, Executive Director, Campsurf. www.campsurf.com.