You’ve just landed in a region where everybody already surfs, you go on holidays with surfer friends and you’ve never gone further than riding a few white water waves: you’ve probably already lived all these moments.
That awkward moment when you’re on the beach sitting in the wet sand while your friends are having the time of their lives in the water. Even worse, when they get out of the water and tell you how awesome it was, how the waves were firing and the water clear, and they tell you what a pity it is that you are stuck there like a seashell. Then comes the moment when you get tired of being the kook of the group so you try to go with them for once – and when you finally get your head above the whitewater, they’re already in the line-up and you can barely see them.
We feel your pain, but know that these times are now over and the closed circle of accomplished surfers will soon welcome you with open arms. Here are some tips to learn gently without eating too much sand.
1. Never go surfing alone if you don’t want to drown! Waves are dangerous.
2. Put your wetsuit on just before you get in the water. It might seem stupid to you but a lot of people put it on before they drive to the spot, and I can guarantee you that doing that is the best way to marinate in your own sweat, and get rashes! Especially if it isn’t your own wetsuit… Anyway, if you don’t want to look like a fool, put it on 10min before.
3. You’ll probably get a foam board, so know that you won’t need to wax it as much as your friends wax theirs. Just a few rubs will be enough as you most likely won’t be shredding, and foamies float enough to feel very stable.
4. Listen to your own intuition, only you know your limits! Your friends are already advanced surfers, they’ll always find the waves easier than you and you’ll hear a lot of “It’s alright, come with us!” Then once in the water they’ll paddle faster than you, ride the right trajectories to avoid finding themselves inside… when you will be panicking and fighting with the set waves breaking on your head, and your hair full of seaweed. That would be the best way to scare yourself and decide that surfing isn’t for you, when really you’re just starting to try.
5. If you want to go surfing, take some time to observe the spot. Spot the place where the surfers start paddling out, it’s important to know where the “channels” are: the current is directly taking you behind the line-up without making you go through the whitewater. Look at how the surfers are moving in the water, if the current is sweeping them along and if they’re taking waves (the waves can be mushy). This step is very important to avoid getting in the water in the wrong place and spending an hour tiring yourself out trying to get to the peak. Surfing should be about pleasure, not about pain!
6. Once you know where to get in, start with a warm up. My physical therapist has told me that countless times, if you don’t want to go back to being a shellfish, take care of your back and your muscles! You will mostly tire out your legs, arms and more importantly your shoulders while surfing, so you should automatically take care of them. Just like you should take care of your skin, put some sunscreen on! (Yes mom!)
7. Paddling well is essential. (Paddle, paddle, paddle, little grom!) Don’t try to move your arms as fast as possible; you need your moves to be coordinated. One arm after the other. Let yourself glide on the water and don’t tire yourself out for nothing, you have plenty of time. It isn’t like your friends will get out of the water fast anyway.
8. You’ve followed these seven tips and made it to the line-up. Phew! Chill on your board for a while and observe (yes, you have to observe a lot in surfing!) where the surfers around you go. They usually know better than you where to place themselves to catch waves, and especially when a set is coming: follow them! It will spare you a return to the shore without having had the chance to surf a wave. It’s pretty easy; when a set is coming everybody starts paddling further out to sea, you can’t miss it if you keep your eyes open.
9. Get mentally ready not to catch any wave. Surfing can be a frustrating passion at times. It can be cold, windy, and you might not be able to catch one wave of all the session while your friends are shredding. These things happen! The best thing to do when it does is to keep calm, don’t lose your motivation. The more impatient you get, the fewer waves you’ll catch.
10. Have fun! Enjoy all the simple pleasures that surfing brings you, no matter your skills. Just being in the water with your friends, often surrounded by incredible landscapes, is a chance. You’ll improve for sure. Hang out with the right people and everything will be alright. You’ll get the satisfaction of telling yourself that you’re not there just to walk around with a surfboard without putting a toe in the water like some do. You’ll have tried, no matter what the result is. Style is nice, action is better. So don’t hesitate and go!
See you in the line-up!
And for the girls that still don’t feel capable of trying it after all these tips, there are a lot of other options, like stand up paddle on flat water. That will help you get used to the board under your feet and make you test your balance. No more excuses not to try!
Photo: Thomas Aulagner