3 Ways to Speed Up Learning How to Surf
Learning to surf can be a long and clumsy process. If you want to speed up the learning curve, consider one (or all) of the following suggestions. The time you have invested in watching surfing, understanding the etiquette of the lineup, and thinking more like a student of the craft, will help you get much more value out of the three suggestions below:
- SURF LESSONS
- HAVE A FRIEND TAKE YOU SURFING
- BOOK A FEW HOURS AT A WAVE POOL
You may decide to employ a surf instructor or enroll in a surf class for your first real foray into surfing—a very common, and entirely reasonable path. Having someone experienced beside you as you immerse yourself into a strange new environment, with goals of surfing effortlessly down the beach, can be extremely helpful.
There are a ton of little nuances, like body positioning on your board for example, that help speed up the learning curve—things easily communicated when you’re standing on the sand practicing the motions before entering the water as a surfer for the first time.
Maximize your time with your surf instructor. Listen to them; Soak up their advice; Use their experience as a springboard to propel you toward becoming a thoughtful, well-rounded, year-round surfer.
And make sure to do a little research before settling on a coach. Surfing historically is challenging to articulate and there still aren’t too many people who know how to teach it really well.
So, if at any point the advice of the instructor contradicts what you’re reading here, take it with a grain of salt. Weigh all the information and think logically about what makes the most sense. Although I’m sure well intended, your surf instructor is only accountable to you for a few hours, a few days, or at the very most a few weeks; and let’s face it, odds are they’re a great surfer whose strength isn’t explaining well the surf questions you’ll have.
But don’t stress, you will find at least some value in almost every surf instructor.
And we are always here for you, in the shop, committed to your life-long pursuit. Swing by!
Have a Friend Take You Surfing
Much like the right surf instructor, going surfing with an experienced friend can greatly improve the learning experience and shorten the learning curve.
Your buddy already sees things happening in the water your eye isn’t trained yet to see. They’ll be able to physically and more easily communicate tips that are tough to fully understand from reading a blog, book, post, or guide.
That said, taking someone surfing with you is a big endeavor for them.
Teaching you to surf is a more difficult task than simply bringing you along and quickly showing you the ropes.
For most surfers, much of what they learn & experience in the water is unspoken and becomes second nature, which makes it intrinsically difficult to explain. It makes trying to teach a friend/coworker/love-interest to surf no small task, so you should explicitly & repeatedly commend their efforts to do so!
To make things easier on you—and your friend—ask them to reinforce these three things we’ve discussed:
- Where and when to paddle out
- Where exactly to sit in the lineup
- And the most crucial of all—when to start paddling for a wave
If your friend can guide you to practically understand the answers to these three questions, they have done you a great service, and you have a talented friend.
Hot Tip: How to ask a friend to take you surfing.
Demonstrate that you have been putting time and effort into learning how to surf—you’ve been doing your homework, reading this handy Almond guide, and putting some thought into the equipment you might need. Maybe even tried to paddle out on your own a few times to varying degrees of success.
Tell them you’re ready to progress as a surfer and believe with their guidance you can take the next step. To really sweeten the ask, offer to buy post-surf coffee and breakfast burritos!
The friend-as-surf-instructor tends to fall into two camps. Both of them are to be treasured & thanked effusively, but if you’ve got number 2, don’t ask if they want coffee or a burrito, just bring it to them:
- The ones who bring their own board and plan to paddle out with you.
- The ones who are willing to stand in chest deep water, forgoing their own pleasure for the day to ensure you have the best chance of success.
BOOK A SESSION AT A WAVE POOL:
This may seem like an oddly placed piece of advice for learning to surf, but it might be the sneakiest way—and possibly most expensive—to fast-track your progress.
In 2018, I was invited to the since-retired NLand Surf Park in Austin, TX. Eager to experience my first man-made wave, I jumped at the opportunity to go. I booked a flight and made my reservation for an hour time slot on the intermediate/advanced wave.
The fellow who had invited me was a friend of a friend and was looking into possibly opening his own wave park in a Western state. He had surfed NLand on numerous occasions and was very familiar with the program, suggesting we surf our advanced session at 10:00 am, take a break for lunch, and then book a beginner session for the afternoon.
I didn’t fly all the way to Austin, Texas to waste my time on the beginner wave setting, but he eagerly convinced me otherwise, promising it would be the most fun I’d ever have.
And he was right. It was about the most fun I’ve ever had.
Why? Sheer frequency of waves. You’d surf this massive party-wave from one end of the pool to the other, then paddle as fast as you could back into position, just barely in time to catch the plow kicking up a wave going back the other direction across the pool. It’s a 150 yard ride, followed immediately by another, and then another. All in all, you catch 24 waves in a 1-hour session, and as I wrote in my recap article immediately after...
“By the end of the session, you're barely able to get back into position before the next wave starts up again. It's about as much silly, joyous fun as you're likely to have surfing. Like aching legs and belly-laughs fun.”
Why am I telling you all of this about a wave that doesn't exist anymore? Because I realized something during that one hour surf session: Nowhere in the ocean—even on the best day—are you catching 24 waves in one hour.
Sure, the nuances of a man-made wave differ from an ocean wave, but the number of reps you get greatly, and I do mean greatly, shortens your learning curve. You can pack weeks worth of practice into an hour, where you might spend less than 20 seconds standing on your board in a one hour session at your home break.
As of this writing, there are dozens of wave pool projects in various stages of development across the globe. I tend to keep up with Brian Dickerson’s WavePoolMag.com just to see all the different projects coming down the pipeline.
If you’re serious about making some rapid advancements in your surfing ability, consider a trip to a wave pool. But take my advice and don’t book a session longer than an hour without considerable time in between to refuel and rehydrate. You’ll need it!
This is an excerpt of Almond's Guide to Your First Year of Surfing, our eBook aimed at helping you make progress as a novice surfer.