Beginner’s Guide to Surfing: Top 14 Basic Rules to Know
Have you always wanted to try surfing but found yourself hesitating because you weren’t sure where to start? Surfing is a great way to enjoy the water, get fit, and spend time in nature. If you’re wondering where to start, check out these top basic rules to help you ease into your first surfing session.
Top 14 basic rules of surfing
Why do you need to follow basic ground rules when starting out? For starters, knowing the basics could help you progress more quickly. Just as importantly, it could help you stay safe and avoid injuring others sharing the water.
1. Take a class
Never approach learning to surf by yourself. Get an experienced friend to teach you, join a surfing club for lessons, or sign up for surfing camp.
2. Check the surf conditions
Pick a beginner-friendly surf beach and research surf conditions before you head out into the water. Read up online and ask locals and surf guards for their insights on surf conditions.
3. Opt for a big surfboard
Choose a big surfboard as this gives you a bigger surface to learn on. Also, bigger surfboards support better floatation.
4. Use a surf leash
A surf leash keeps your board within reach if you encounter a wipeout. It can be an important safety measure as your board can help to keep you afloat in tricky situations.
5. Warm up
Have a quick warm-up and stretch on the sand before you enter the water. This could minimise the risk of cramps or muscle injuries. Take time to check your board, gear, and lease before you get into the water.
6. Wait after a meal
As a general rule, wait at least 45 minutes after a meal before going surfing. Doing so could lower the risk of cramping, which can impact your surfing. Similarly, avoid alcohol before heading out for a surfing session.
7. Practise sitting and the prone and pop-up positions
Start by practising sitting on your board and getting comfortable with the feeling. Then work on mastering the prone and pop-up positions by lying on your surfboard and learning to stand up.
8. Hold or throw your surfboard
Learn to know when to hold or throw your board. If you’re paddling out, keep your board despite the common urge to throw it and dive under the wave. If you’re about to wipe out, that’s the time to throw your board as this could reduce the risk of injury.
9. Paddle across rips
If you’re caught in a rip, don’t panic. Paddle across the rip rather than against it and keep going until you hit a spot where the waves are better breaking.
10 Avoid bending your back
Once you’re on the wave, bend your knees but not your back. If you bend your back, you’ll likely lose your balance more quickly.
11. Master wipeouts
Work with a teacher to master wipeouts. Your teacher can guide you on how to fall and hold your breath, along with when and how to surface and when you should stay under.
12. Know your comfort zone
Check your comfort zone and surf only on waves you’re comfortable with. Don’t hesitate to hold back if you have any doubts about a wave.
13. Priority on the wave
You’ll be sharing the ocean with other surfers and swimmers, so knowing some etiquette can help you keep yourself – and others – safe. The rule goes like this: the surfer closest to the breaking wave is the one with the priority. This means if someone’s already on a wave, the wave is taken and you should wait for the next one. Avoid snaking around surfers to get closer to the peak and gain priority as this is considered rude behaviour.
Similarly, don’t drop into someone’s wave; the rule is one person at a time rides the wave in the same direction. If you accidentally drop in on someone, kick out of the wave as soon as possible.
14. Surf with a buddy
It’s a good idea to surf with at least one buddy so you can look out for each other. It’s not uncommon to drift into areas on the water unsuited for beginners. With a buddy, preferably an experienced one, you have someone checking in on you in case you do.
How to improve surfing after learning the basics
So once you’ve mastered the basics, how do you keep improving your technique? Avoid using a board that’s just okay for too long; keep looking for the perfect board. In addition to staying fit, focus on building flexibility and stretching so you can get into a low position with a straight back and your weight centred on your feet. Aim to surf the top two-thirds of the wave and avoid dropping right down all the way to the bottom.
Surf with an enthusiastic pal who’ll motivate you to do better, and be competitive with yourself as you build on your surfing know-how. A great way to learn is to watch footage of your own surfing and learn from it. Finally, avoid over-analysing: a lot of things in surfing are about the feeling.
Surfing the Gold Coast
Surfing is a fantastic way to have fun in the water. Keep these rules in mind, and you’ll likely stay safe, reduce the risk of injuring others, and master the art of surfing quicker.
The Gold Coast is one of the best places for surfing, particularly at Coolangatta. Our surfing mantra is ‘eat to train, and train to eat’. After surfing you can grab a drink and refuel at one of The Cooly Hotel’s bars. Enjoy a fantastic selection of drinks to help you cool down and unwind with live music or a game on the big screens.