Are you eager to start surfing but not sure where to begin? You’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last person who wants to hit the waves without having all the necessary information.

That’s the purpose of this guide, which has all the details you need to confidently get in the water and catch your first waves. Learn how to choose the right surf spots for beginners, select the necessary gear, understand core surfing etiquette, and master basic paddling and wave-catching skills.

From safety tips to planning your first surf trip, we’ve got you covered with every step to help transition you from a surfing novice to riding those waves with stoke.

An image of a man entering the sea with a surfboard

Choosing Your First Surf Spot

Your journey to becoming a beginner surfer begins with choosing the right surf spot. Consider factors like wave type, beach conditions, and timing. For beginners, beaches with sand bottoms and minimal rip currents are ideal because they are safer and more forgiving.

Choosing spots that match your skill level not only helps you learn in better conditions but also avoids conflicts with locals and other surfers. Safety is paramount, so you should prioritise spots with consistent, suitable waves that cater to your learning needs.

It’s also important to know the type of waves that are conducive to learning—waves that are forgiving and help avoid fear.

But the key question you’re likely asking is “where do I start?” And the answer would be with beginner spots.

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Identifying Beginner Spots

When you’re starting out, choosing the right spots can make all the difference. Ideal beginner spots offer waist-high waves and light winds, typically below 20mph, creating a manageable and safe learning environment. Beach breaks, which break with less force and present less risk due to the sandy bottom, are perfect for honing your skills.

Whitewater waves are particularly suitable for beginners as they allow you to perfect your pop-up technique and stance, letting you catch approximately 50 waves in a session. And don’t worry if you’re unsure about where to start, as locals and surf shops can point you to areas that are less crowded and offer plentiful waves for practice.

Understanding Wave Breaks

Wave breaks are where the ocean swell is transformed into a rideable wave and come in three main varieties:

  1. Beach breaks: Waves break onto sandy beaches, creating a more forgiving and beginner-friendly wave.
  2. Reef breaks: Waves break over a coral or rocky reef, creating a more powerful and challenging wave.
  3. Point breaks: Waves break onto and along a rocky point, producing a wave that travels in a single direction. These breaks are typically not recommended for beginners.

Whether it’s sand, rocks, or reef, knowing the type helps you prepare for and safely navigate falls. So, next time you head out to surf, remember, knowledge is your best safety gear.

When to Hit the Beach

Timing is everything in surfing. To make the most of your surf session, it’s best to hit the beach early in the morning. Why? Because early mornings may offer calmer conditions with less wind and fewer crowds, factors which are incredibly beneficial for beginner surfers.

But before you get started, take some time to observe other surfers and the waves they catch. This will give you invaluable insight into the current beach conditions and the nuances of catching waves. So, rise and shine, surfers!

An image of a surfboard with surfing shoes and a leash

Essential Surf Gear for Starters

Now that you’ve picked your spot and know when to go, let’s talk gear. The right surf gear can make your learning experience smoother and safer. Look out for …

Choosing a Beginner Surfboard

Your surfboard is your most important gear. As a beginner, you should aim for a soft-top surfboard that has ample volume to make paddling and balancing easier. Soft-top surfboards, preferably around eight feet in length, offer the right mix of stability and manageability.

If, however, you’re up for it, a 10-foot longboard can also be a good option. Visit your local surf shop, talk to experienced surfers, and choose a board that feels right for you.

The Right Wetsuit for Cold Water

Surfing in cold water demands a quality wetsuit . Wetsuit thicknesses are measured in millimeters, indicating the material’s insulation capacity. For instance, a wetsuit thickness of 4/3mm is recommended for year-round warmth during colder months in places like New Zealand.

A good wetsuit guarantees warmth for two or three seasons, striking a balance between cost and value. So, if you’re planning to surf in colder waters, make sure to invest in a wetsuit that keeps you warm and comfortable.

Must-Have Accessories

While your surfboard and wetsuit are obviously two of the most important pieces of kit you need, don’t overlook the must-have accessories. For example, a 10-foot leash is recommended for longboard beginners, which can be worn on the ankle or shin.

Surf wax should also be applied to the deck of your surfboard to enhance the grip necessary for board control. Just remember that the formula of surf wax varies with water temperature, and for soft-top surfboards it needs to be soft enough to adhere well to the foam deck surface.

It’s also a good idea to pack earplugs to prevent surfer’s ear, especially when surfing in cold waters, like the ones usually found around Europe. This can help avoid the buildup of moisture and bacteria in the ear canal.

Lastly, make sure to have a suitable swimsuit and a rash guard for protection from the sun and elements.

An image of surfers in the sea with the sunset behind

Mastering Basic Surfing Etiquette

Sure, surfing is about catching waves. But it’s also about sharing the sea with others.Maintain harmony in the water by mastering basic surfing etiquette.

Surfing etiquette also extends to how you interact with others on the beach and the respect you show to the local community.

The Line Up

The line up is where surfers wait for waves, typically located beyond the breaking waves. As a beginner, you should position yourself on the edge of the line up, away from the pack. Observing how waves are approached and timing your entry is necessary to maintain harmony in the water.

And remember to be patient and wait your turn. Showing respect to more experienced surfers helps maintain harmony in the water.

Catching Waves Without Clashing

Catching waves is thrilling, but it’s also important to do it responsibly. The surfer closest to where the wave breaks or who is furthest out or inside, has the right of way on a wave. Responding correctly to calls of ‘Left!’ or ‘Right!’ can avoid taking someone else’s wave on a dual-peaking wave.

And remember, ‘dropping in’, where a surfer takes off on a wave when someone is already riding it, is considered bad etiquette and can cause accidents. So, next time you’re out in the water, make sure to catch waves without clashing with other surfers.

Sharing the Sea: Avoiding Surfer Conflicts

The sea is for everyone, and surfing is all about sharing the stoke. Understanding local surf etiquette is central to avoiding conflicts and maintaining a respectful environment. Good manners on the waves include apologizing in case of accidentally dropping in on another surfer.

During a wipeout, for example, holding onto the surfboard is essential to prevent it from becoming a hazard for other surfers. Positive interactions and apologies when mistakes are made help maintain a friendly atmosphere among surfers.

Surf Lessons vs. Self-Taught Progression

As a beginner, you might be wondering if you should take surf lessons or try to learn on your own? Both approaches have their pros and cons. Surf lessons provide structured goals, professional guidance and offer more opportunities to practice. On the other hand, learning on your own can be challenging but also rewarding. In the end, it all depends on your individual preferences, learning style, and dedication.

Let’s dive deeper into these two approaches in the next sections.

The Role of Professional Guidance

Professional surf lessons can provide a solid foundation in techniques, improving fluidity and making surfing more enjoyable. A single surf lesson offers accelerated learning through structured goals and practice without needing an instructor present.

So, if you’re someone who thrives on structure and appreciates expert guidance, surf lessons or a surf camp will likely be a great option for you.

Navigating the Learning Process Alone

For those who prefer a more self-directed approach, learning to surf on your own can be a unique adventure. It’s challenging, no doubt, with the ever-changing waves and having to constantly react to them. But overcoming these obstacles on your own can make you a stronger surfer. Plus, the process of learning to surf alone is rewarding, as persistence is key to mastery.

So, if you’re up for a challenge and enjoy learning at your own pace, don’t be afraid to go solo.

Paddling Techniques and Catching Your First Wave

With surf spots, gear, etiquette, and learning methods out of the way, let’s get down to the heart of surfing—paddling techniques and catching your first wave. Paddling is a fundamental technique that surfers use to navigate the surf and is super important for catching waves effectively. And there’s nothing quite like catching your first wave.

Let’s take a look at these aspects of surfing.

Building Paddle Power

Building paddle power holds plenty of weight in surfing. With strong arms and shoulders, you can paddle effectively in surfing. Some exercises that can specifically target and improve the muscle groups used in the paddling motion are:

Arch-ups, also known as supermans, are an effective way to strengthen the upper and lower back muscles that support a strong paddling technique. And nothing beats the actual surfing that provides valuable practice in paddling against the resistance of waves, currents, and tides.

Timing and Positioning for Wave Catching

Catching your first wave is all about timing and positioning. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Practice popping up on your surfboard.
  2. Paddle out to the lineup.
  3. Position yourself to catch the wave.
  4. Look back to gauge the wave’s position.
  5. Stand up at the right time.

By following these steps, you’ll increase your chances of catching your first wave successfully.

It might seem a lot to take in, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it. And the moment you catch your first wave, trust us, all the effort will be worth it.

Safety First: Surfing Safely and Responsibly

An image of a warning sign for rip currents

Safety should always be your top priority when surfing. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it’s crucial to:

Let’s explore these safety aspects further.

Protecting Yourself and Others

Protecting yourself and others while surfing is a shared responsibility. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Learn to fall flat, with limbs outstretched to avoid hitting the ocean floor.
  2. Never hold your board between you and the waves.
  3. Cover your head when you fall.

By following these tips, you can ensure a safer surfing experience for everyone.

Of course, always be ready to help others in need. Surfing is so much more fun and safe when we look out for each other.

Environmental Awareness

Surfing is all about embracing the power and beauty of nature. So it’s important to be aware of environmental factors like tides, wind, and swell conditions. Avoid areas with rocky foreshores and near river mouths as they can be hazardous due to strong currents and a lack of consistent wave breaks.

Before you paddle out, take a moment to observe the sea and respect its power.

Fitness and Exercises for Surfers

Surfing is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, balance, and flexibility. To perform at your best, target specific muscle groups through exercise routines that mimic the demands of surfing.

Core Strength and Balance Training

Core strength is necessary for maintaining balance and stability while surfing. Exercises like planking and dumbbell drills can reinforce your core muscles, improving your ability to withstand the physical demands of surfing and maintain a standing position on the board.

A strong core is key to a smooth ride.

Flexibility and Endurance Routines

Flexibility and endurance are just as important as strength in surfing. Regular freestyle stroke swimming can improve your paddling muscles and build your endurance. Don’t forget about mobility drills either. These involve stretching and rotating joints—they can improve your movement efficiency and energy usage.

Make sure to incorporate these exercises into your workout routine.

Planning Your Surf Trip Adventure

Finally, let’s talk about planning your surf trip adventure. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month-long journey, a surf trip is an opportunity to practice your skills, explore new places, and immerse yourself in the surf lifestyle.

Selecting Surf Holiday Destinations

Selecting a surf holiday destination is an exciting part of the adventure. Whether it’s Bali, Costa Rica, Morocco, Portugal, or Nicaragua, there are incredible surf spots all around the world known for their suitability for beginners.

Making the Most of Your Surf Holiday

A surf holiday is about more than just surfing. It’s a chance to explore local attractions, experience new cultures, and make new friends. The sea air can enhance your mood and improve your sleep cycles, contributing to an overall sense of well-being.

Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, remember to make the most of your surf holiday – on and off the board.

Embracing the Surf Lifestyle

For many, surfing goes way beyond being a sport or hobby and becomes a lifestyle. Whether it’s the thrill of riding the waves for advanced surfers or the camaraderie among surfers, the surf lifestyle is a unique blend of adventure, freedom, and community.

The Social Side of Surfing

The social side of surfing is one of its most appealing aspects. From forming new friendships to breaking down social barriers, surfing brings people together in a way that not many other sports can. The thrill of riding waves is a shared experience that leads to camaraderie and conversations among surfers.

Whether you’re a CEO or a village kid, when you’re surfing, you’re part of a global community.

Conservation and Respect for the Ocean

As surfers, we have a special connection with the ocean, and learning to surf further fosters our natural affinity for its preservation. Being immersed in the ocean provides a firsthand experience of the importance of natural rhythms and cycles, enhancing our appreciation for environmental conservation.

As you embrace the surf lifestyle, remember to respect the ocean and do your part to protect it.

The Beginners World of Surfing

From choosing the right surf spot and mastering the art of paddling, to understanding surf etiquette and planning your surf trip, we’ve covered everything you need to start your surfing journey.

Now it’s time to embrace the thrill of the waves, the freedom of the ocean, and the camaraderie of the surfing community. The best way to do that is a surf camp where you can truly immerse yourself in surfing, make life-long friends and surf your most memorable waves.

Check out our surf camps and get ready to be at one with the waves.


How can I find the best beginner surf spots near me?

Connecting with the local surf community is invaluable for getting insider tips on the most suitable beginner spots in your specific area. Check online forums, join surf clubs, ask at your local surf shop or use Rapture Camp to see if there’s a surf spot near you.

What’s the biggest rookie mistake beginners should avoid?

One of the most common errors newbies make is trying to start out on a board that’s too small or advanced for their skill level. This can make learning exponentially harder. You’ll want to choose proper beginner board sizes and shapes to set yourself up for quicker progression.

How long until I can realistically expect to ride my first wave?

There’s no definitive timeline, as progression depends on factors like athletic ability, water time, and instruction. However, many beginners can successfully catch and ride their first wave within three to five dedicated surf sessions if practicing proper fundamentals.

While surf-specific exercises build core strength and endurance, low-impact cross-training like swimming, yoga and plyometrics can simultaneously improve cardiovascular capacity, flexibility and body control and awareness. These are vital for advancing your surfing abilities.