Hire an instructor or have a knowledgeable friend teach you.
Three things your instructor should do:
- Safety: before you put a toe in the water, you should learn about safety in order to prevent injury.
- Waves: your instructor should push you into waves so that you experience the exhilaration of the sport. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll be willing to do the work to paddle to the outside. Surfing is mostly paddling.
- Board: your instructor should talk about you and your board, you and the ocean, and you, your board, and the ocean together.
After a personal crisis, I decided I wanted to learn to surf. I had always wanted to surf since I was a girl, but living in northern, inland Florida offers limited opportunity. My dad had surfed often in the 60s and he enjoyed it. We never got around to it, and 16 years later, it was my time.
Nine years ago, when I began surfing, I lived in Orlando and was fortunately only 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach, home of famous world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. I got online and looked up surfing in Cocoa Beach. I found a group of surfers who met up on weekends to surf and I contacted them. The wife of the organizer was very nice and suggested I hire an instructor and learn all about safety. The first time she surfed, she stepped off the board and broke her ankle – never step off the board! Fall off. So, I hired an instructor. If you’re in the Central Florida area, I suggest EZ Ride Surf School, and Marcello Loureiro, the director and head surf instructor who taught me is an excellent teacher. If you’re elsewhere, google surf schools or surf instruction.
Marcello sat on the beach with me, and talked about paddling, popping up, stances, turtle rolling (getting under waves on a long board or a fun board), duck diving (short boards), wiping out, and other technical safety concepts.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how the ocean is never-ending. It is the most powerful force of nature that is always moving toward you that we choose to play in. There is no other sport or pastime where a force of that power constantly comes at you. Always be aware of your surroundings.
A few safety and etiquette tips:
- Have a landmark on the shore. Be aware of your surroundings on land and in the ocean.
- If you wipe out, which you will, always know where your board is and know where the next wave is. Bad wipe out? Roll with the waves, and forget about your board until you can get air and know when the next wave is coming.
- Best not to surf at dawn or dusk to avoid sharks. Also, if you see birds diving in one spot, they’re fishing. A school of fish means other underwater feeders, like sharks. Avoid that area.
- As a novice, don’t surf where there are lots of swimmers. Likewise, don’t surf where the experienced surfers are. Talk to another surfer. Be honest that you’re a beginner and ask where you should surf.
You control the board with your torso and upper part of your legs. When you’re on your board, and it’s calm, close your eyes while lying down in paddling position on your board. Stretch your arms out over the water and let the palms of your hand barely touch the surface of the water. Feel the ocean’s rhythm and force. The movement. Our Earth is mostly water. So are our bodies. Like a dance, like music and movement, you are part of the rhythm. Feel that. Enjoy the calm and serenity of nature.
Of course, you can always do what my husband did. Rent a board and run out into the ocean completely unprepared. You may earn yourself a broken nose like he did.