Surfing: A Fresh Approach To Learning Pt1

Learning to surf, with your mind.

Learning To Surf Is Tough But Rewarding. Pixels

Learning to surf is part mental, part physical, and part equipment.

It is a combination of all three, blended together to make the task as stress-free as possible, that let people into the secrets of learning to surf. So many people start surfing, but don’t have all three angles covered and give up before they get to the exhilaration stage. If you make it to that stage there’s no turning back, and you'll be a surfer for life.

The mental part is the most complex.

You have to understand a few fundamentals about learning to surf, and to accept them before you embark on your campaign. Learning to surf is very difficult, and it takes a long time. There is no easy route. It doesn't exist. Therefore you are going to get discouraged and depressed for a lot longer than you think. It will seem, over and over again, that the amount of effort in comparison to the amount of pleasure is an unfairly-weighted scale. Hour after hour, day after day, you’re going to try your hardest, and nothing is going to happen, nothing is going to go right for you. It seems completely pointless, but even though it seems like you’re not learning, you actually are – every minute you spend in the water is part of the process. When it clicks, and it will, all that time of pointless learning will kick in and your learning curve will shoot upwards.

It’s a mental game and it’s a game that you have to win. Keep at it regardless of the minimal rewards. The rewards are there, you just can't see them. When you eventually grasp it, you'll be amazed at how much you have gleaned.

Read: 10,000 Hours Of Practice

Secondly, if you’re a real beginner you have to get your head around being in the ocean.

For some this is a really difficult thing to do. If you have spent your life watching the ocean but not actually getting into it, the ocean is going to feel alive, menacing and fierce. There is always a threat of sharks, and of other creatures. Also, it will seem to do things contrary to what you expect. When you think it is going to back off it’ll smash you on the head, and when you brace yourself to be smashed it’ll suddenly back off. The ocean is going to be full of secrets at first and you have to come to terms with this and not be daunted by it. Slowly but surely she will reveal many of her secrets to you. Some will be barely noticeable, but eventually you will accumulate enough knowledge of the ocean to not have fear for it but just a huge amount of respect, and that’s all the ocean demands, hard-earned respect.

Read: The Old Man And The Sea

So, if you can get your head around the hardships and the amount of time you’re going to endure them while learning, then you’re well on your way towards success. If you’re going to go to a surf school and a coach says, ‘guaranteed to be standing in one lesson’ this is good, but that’s not the type of ‘learning to surf’ we’re talking about.

We’re talking about having an ongoing relationship with the ocean. That’s how you learn to surf, and to love every minute of it. A 'quick-fix' surf lesson that gets you to your feet in your first session, and then has a photographer on the beach to capture the moment is awesome for people who are visiting, but if you want to be a surfer for life then a different strategy is needed altogether.

The physical part is not as complex at first, but does play an intrinsic part to the whole process.

The basic premise is that no matter how fit you think you are, you’re not going to be surfing fit. Nothing can get you fit for surfing other than going surfing. So when you begin surfing you’re going to have very little surfing strength and even less stamina. If you’re unfit to start off with, well then a level of cardio fitness will make a difference.

If you’re a lager-drinking smoker then you’re going to suffer in the ocean. Your lungs are going to hurt, your arms are going to ache, and every session is going to absolutely exhaust you. Cross-training and gym work will definitely help, but in the end, whether you’re fit as a fiddle or a bar-fly, nothing is going to get you fit like surfing, and the more you do of it, the faster you will get that surfing strength.

Read: Five Ways To Stay Fit While Landlocked

This is definitely another case of slowly slowly wins the race, or whatever the saying is. At first the paddling is going to kill you. The best advice is to have loads and loads of short sessions, and slowly build your strength. It will come, and before you know it you will be strong enough for a marathon session of forty minutes or more. Swimming is also a good training for surfing, because lung capacity is always going to help when dealing with the ocean. Part and parcel of surfing is spending time underwater. Whether it be from duck-diving under a wave as a means of paddling out, or wiping out, or getting caught inside the path of a breaking wave. You’re going to at some stage hold your breath, so breathing practice from swimming is a great help in getting fit and healthy for surfing.

The equipment part is one of the closest facets of learning to surf that can be compared to an exact science. The pool of knowledge that can be used when learning to surf has become so vast now that people with a little bit of experience and who do not have a hidden agenda of selling unfashionable boards and wet-suits that are languishing on the surf shop shelves, will be able to get you onto a good beginner board just by looking at you and your physique as well as talking to you.

When it comes to boards, the simple theory is that longer, wider and fatter boards are more stable, and thus easier to learn on. along with being stable they are also unwieldy and hard to turn. So as soon as you progress on your long, thick and wide board it will be necessary to upgrade until you eventually find the right board for your personal dimensions.

Read: How To Rock Your First Longboard Session.

For your very first session it is suggested that you take a long board (a board measuring in at 9 foot 6 at least) and go to a beach where there are gentle rollers and very few other people about. This will give you the best chance of getting to your feet. To keep warm you will need a wet-suit. A wet-suit also has a very similar equation – the thicker the wet-suit (in millimeters) the warmer it is, but the thicker the suit the more cumbersome it is as well. A good five/four mill wet-suit will do you well on your first surf. It will keep you warm enough and will still have enough flexibility. A pair of boots will also help if the water is really cold, because in cold water your feet can go numb and then you won’t be able to feel your board underfoot. This is not going to help the learning process. If you're lucky enough, however, to live in a warm climate, then a simple pair of board shorts or a bikini will suffice.

Read: When You Surf, Make A Meal Of It

Finally, your board is a heavy, dangerous toy when washed to shore. Try not to let it go bouncing in on a wave towards swimmers or other learners.

It could untold damage. If a board smashes into your shins you are going to know all about it. If it smashes into your head you probably won’t remember it doing so, nor what you are doing at the beach in the first place. So try your hardest to play it safe until you have the fundamentals. Don't worry, they will come soon.

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Your Citation
Jarvis, Craig. "Surfing: A Fresh Approach To Learning Pt1." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2016, Jarvis, Craig. (2016, April 6). Surfing: A Fresh Approach To Learning Pt1. Retrieved from Jarvis, Craig. "Surfing: A Fresh Approach To Learning Pt1." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).