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An Introduction to the Surf Experience

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Surfing is a unique sport — there really isn’t anything else like it. This uniqueness is part of the allure. It also makes it totally reasonable to have a ton of questions, especially leading up to your first surf lesson. This post will cover the essential questions you’ll be asking yourself as you get ready for your first surf experience. Ultimately, you’ll be better prepared and able to make the most out of your time in the water.


What should I wear surfing?

Your surfing attire will depend on your location. If you’re surfing in cold water, you’re going to want a wetsuit for thermal insulation. Alternatively, if you’re surfing in warm water, as is the case in Bali, you’ll be looking at an entirely different wardrobe.

Warm water surfing is fantastic because you can forgo the chunky thermal insulation and fully embrace the glowing tropic sun and balmy ocean with a much lighter outfit. Nevertheless, there are still a few things to keep in mind before you head out to the beach.

For starters, there is a good chance you’ll experience some degree of rash burn. This is a completely normal, albeit irritating, experience. Rash burn happens because your body slides and rubs against the board as you’re paddling out. The combination of the board surface (especially beginner boards), salty water, and your body rubbing is enough to aggravate the skin. To prevent this irritation, it’s a good idea to wear a rash guard that covers your arms and upper-body.

Second, it is wise to expect a lot of nose-dives in your first lesson. Learning how to surf is a challenge all on its own. So, one of the last things you’ll want to worry about is whether your suit is staying in place. To prevent any mishaps, make sure you’re suit, especially the bottoms, are as snug as possible. Most swimsuits for surfing have draw strings around the waist on both guy and girl bottoms — this is ideal.

Finally, it’s essential that you cover yourself with a high SPF cream to protect your skin from the blistering sun. After all, the only thing you want following an incredible surf session is amazing memories, and not a radiating burn. So, choosing the right sunscreen is important. In addition to high SPF, you’ll also want to ensure that the cream is water resistant and long-lasting to maximize your time on the water. On top of efficacy, it’s critical that the sunscreen is environmentally friendly. As surfers, we must respect and protect the ocean for future generations of surfers and water enthusiasts to enjoy. Environmentally friendly creams won’t release harmful chemicals into the water, killing the coral reef and harming aquatic life.


What’s the best surfing gear for beginners?

Surfboards come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and accessories. Despite the range in styles, there is only one board that every newbie starts out on: the soft-top surfboard. This rite-of-passage surfboard is 8-9’ long and covered in a soft foam material (hence the name). There are a few reasons for using this board with beginners.

First of all, it’s generally easier to paddle and find balance on a soft-top, since their construction is far more buoyant compared to other boards. More than that, due to their shape and size, these boards are incredibly stable, which makes catching and riding waves significantly more accessible to first-time surfers. Finally, an extra perk to the soft foam exterior is that it’s a little more forgiving when you inevitably fall off as you work through the learning curve.

Your lesson will include the surfboard rental, which will be set up perfectly by your guide. The board will come fully equipped with the appropriate fins for added stability and a leash to connect your back leg to the board. With the right equipment, you’ll be ready to hit the water for an undoubtedly phenomenal experience.


What do you learn in a beginner surf lesson?

As mentioned in the outset of this article, surfing is a unique sport. One of the distinctive features of surfing is the unbelievable challenge it presents - especially in the beginning. Simply put, there are tons of typical newbie mistakes that slow down the learning curve. Registering for surf lessons will give you the leg-up you need in order to avoid making these frustrating mistakes. Beyond that, surf lessons with an expert guide will ensure that everyone stays safe and has a blast on the water. In general, there are a few key elements that every beginner surf lesson will cover.

Before embarking on unruly ocean conditions, you’ll get a chance to practice the foundational surfing maneuvers while on the security of the sandy beach. This gives you the opportunity to focus solely on the new skills and apply them without distraction. In a nutshell, you’ll learn proper body position, how to paddle, and most importantly, how to “pop up” on the surfboard.

Popping up — in other words, switching from laying on the surfboard to standing up — is the critical move that takes you from simply hanging out on your board in the ocean to catching and riding waves (after all, that’s what it’s all about). This is a difficult skill to master and requires tons of repetition. So, don’t be discouraged if it takes some trial and error before you get the hang of it. With practice on the beach, key pointers from your guide, and a few attempts in the water, you’ll start to get a feel for popping up.

After a rundown on the basic surf techniques, you’ll be ready for the real thing. As you paddle out, you’ll follow your guide to a spot they carefully selected for its perfect beginner-friendly waves. As soon as your in position and the right wave is on its way, your guide will give you easy-to-follow instructions on when to start paddling and, crucially, when to pop up. In the midst of this excitement, your guide will give your surfboard a single and definitive push to give you the propulsion needed to catch the wave. Every experienced surfer’s journey begins with getting pushed onto a wave. From here on out, it’s a matter of rinse-and-repeat.


The Bottom Line

Surfing is an incredible sport that can take you to some of the most beautiful corners of the earth. It gives you the opportunity to get in touch with the rhythms of nature and explore a meditative and flowing state. At the same time, its a really tough sport — particularly at the start. This article is merely an introduction to the surfing experience, from clothing and gear to actually hitting the water. Of course, the only way to truly make the most of your time on the water is by signing up for surf lessons with a professional and experienced school. You will undoubtedly catch way more waves and learn far more quickly this way. Above all, at the end of the day the most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy the ride!

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