Watching the surfing pros on YouTube makes it all look so effortless. The reality, of course, is quite different, and it can be difficult to know where to start when you first start surfing. 

For starters, did you know there’s more than one way to surf? From tow-in surfing to the stand-up paddleboarding and beyond, there’s more than one way to catch some waves.

So let’s break down the surf styles from the forgiving beach breaks to adrenaline-inducing reef breaks, the selection of boards, and the exciting world of alternative surfing approaches.

Catching Waves: The Essentials of Surf Breaks

The heart of every surfer’s journey is the quest to catch waves, that perfect blend of timing, skill, and knowledge that turns water into art.

But not all waves are created equal, and understanding the different types of surf breaks is central to making the most of your wave-riding experience.

Beach Break Bliss

Imagine the soft, shifting sands beneath the waves. This is the foundation of beach breaks, where surfers of all skill levels find their bliss.

Here, the sandy seabed shapes the waves, creating conditions that range from gentle rollers perfect for beginners to the invigorating shore breaks that challenge even the most experienced riders. The beauty of beach breaks lies in their ever-changing nature, providing a different ride with each visit and acting as a natural wave break.

For many surfers, beach breaks are where the love affair with surfing begins. The forgiving nature of sand allows for mistakes without harsh consequences, making it an ideal classroom if you’re just starting your surfing career. 

But don’t be fooled, because when the conditions align, beach breaks can offer up some of the most exhilarating shortboard surfing sessions, with huge waves that demand respect and skill.

Point Break Perfection

The allure of point breaks is found in their:

At spots like Ericeira and Nicaragua, the waves wrap around rocky headlands, creating legendary rides that can last for seemingly endless moments. It’s here that longboarders and boogie boarders find their groove, cross-stepping to the nose and hanging ten as they harness the wave’s energy in a display of both skill and style.

Reef Break Challenge

The call of the reef break is one of high stakes and high rewards. The ocean’s power is magnified as waves break over coral or rocky seabeds, sculpting perfect barrels that surfers dream about. Yet, with the promise of glory comes the threat of shallow waters and hidden hazards, making reef breaks the domain of the experienced surfer.

At these breaks, having the right equipment is the most important aspect. Shortboards reign supreme here, their maneuverability and design tailored for the precision and speed required to tackle the heavy, hollow waves. When a surfer stands in the tube, riding the line between control and chaos, they experience the pinnacle of wave riding, a moment where time stands still, and the surfer is one with the ocean’s pulse.

Board Basics: Choosing Your Ride

The connection between surfer and wave is forged through the surfboard, your partner in the dance with the sea. Selecting the right board and understanding its parts is as much about personal expression as it is about practicality. Once you find that perfect match for your skill level, style, then you can truly conquer the waves. The spectrum of boards, from the buoyant stability of longboards to the responsive agility of shortboards, offers a ride for every preference and wave condition.

When you choose a board, you’re setting the stage for your surfing experience. It’s a decision that shapes the way you ride waves, catch them, and ultimately, how you enjoy surfing. 

Let’s look at the nuances of longboards, shortboards, and funboards, and find the ride that strikes a chord with your surfing soul.

An image of a variety of surfboards resting against a wall

Longboard Love

Longboards are the essence of surfing’s heritage, embodying the spirit of a more relaxed and graceful era. With lengths that stretch up to 11 feet, these boards offer a stable platform for smooth rides and classic maneuvers. Whether you’re paddling out to catch smaller waves or cruising along the face of a gentle giant, the longboard’s generous volume and glide guarantee an enjoyable experience.

For beginners, the forgiving nature of the longboard makes it a helpful learning tool, while seasoned surfers cherish the opportunity for stylish cruising and the finesse of nose-riding. The longboard’s design allows for a connection with the wave that is less about raw power and more about fluidity and rhythm, a true testament to the art of wave riding.

Shortboard Dynamics

Shortboards are the high-performance race cars of the surfing world, built for speed, precision, and aerial acrobatics. Ranging from five to seven feet, these boards are shaped for surfers who thrive on the edge, pushing the limits of what’s possible on a wave. The shortboard’s features include:

These features translate to explosive maneuvers and tight turns that defy gravity.

While shortboards demand a higher skill level and more precise wave conditions, they reward the dedicated surfer with a dynamic surfing experience that is both challenging and exhilarating. Mastering a shortboard opens a door to a world of surfing where quick, sharp movements and split-second decisions lead to breathtaking displays of human and aquatic synergy.

Funboard Fundamentals

Funboards bridge the gap between the forgiving nature of longboards and the demanding agility of shortboards. Think of them as the versatile choice for surfers seeking to progress, offering a blend of stability and maneuverability that caters to a wide range of skill levels and wave conditions. With their moderate length and width, funboards provide a platform for surfers to refine their skills and explore different riding styles.

The adaptability of funboards makes them an optimal choice if you’re looking to transition from longboard cruising comfort to the sharper performance of a shortboard. It’s a board that supports growth, inviting surfers to experiment and discover their unique surfing expression as they carve their path through the waves.

Beyond Paddling: Alternative Surfing Styles

Surfing is a world of endless possibilities, extending far beyond the traditional image of a surfer paddling into waves. Adventurous, legendary riders have pushed the boundaries, creating alternative surfing styles that harness technology, innovation, and a dash of daring. From the high-octane rush of tow-in surfing to the tranquility of stand-up paddleboarding, each style offers a fresh perspective on the water sport we love.

These surf styles invite surfers to expand their horizons, whether through the power of a jet ski, the versatility of a surf ski, or the force of the wind. 

Let’s take a look at these alternative methods, including surf skis, and how they redefine the surfing experience.

The Thrill of Tow-In Surfing

Tow-in surfing is where the big-wave surfers play. Human limits are tested against the might of the ocean’s giants, with this adrenaline-fueled discipline using the assistance of jet skis to launch surfers on waves that defy conventional paddling. Swells can soar to heights of 25 meters. It’s a spectacle of speed, precision, and courage that has revolutionized the pursuit of the ultimate wave.

The specialized surfboards used in tow-in surfing are crafted for stability at high velocities and feature foot straps to anchor the surfer as they navigate the towering walls of water. It’s a style that requires trust in your equipment and your tow partner, as you both work in tandem to conquer the colossal swells that draw daredevils from around the globe.

An image of surfers surfing a big wave

Stand-Up Paddleboarding: A Gentle Glide

Look at stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, as the serene cousin of traditional surfing, where the gentle glide across water’s surface offers a meditative escape. Originating from the Hawaiian tradition of beach boy surfing, SUP lets surfers enjoy the ocean’s beauty at a leisurely pace, with a paddle to guide their journey. It’s an activity that welcomes all, regardless of age or skill level, to the joy of wave riding.

SUP has blossomed into a multifaceted sport, accommodating everything from tranquil paddles along coastlines to competitive races and even yoga sessions atop the board. It’s a testament to the versatility of surfing and its ability to adapt to the desires of water enthusiasts seeking balance, both on the board and in life.

Wind and Kite Surfing: Harnessing the Breeze

Wind and kite surfing take the surfer off the water and into the air, powered by the natural force of the wind. These exhilarating disciplines combine elements of surfing, sailing, and flight, offering a dynamic challenge that thrives in the intersection of sea and sky. With the wind as their engine, surfers carve through the waves, ascend into gravity-defying jumps, and perform aerial maneuvers that captivate onlookers.

In windsurfing, the sail affixed to the board propels the surfer forward, demanding a mastery of balance and wind reading. Kite surfing, on the other hand, relies on a harness and kite to catch the breeze, allowing for even more dramatic leaps and spins. Both styles embody the innovative spirit of surfing, pushing the boundaries of what it means to ride the waves.

Surf’s Up: Riding the World’s Various Wave Types

The canvas of the ocean is ever-changing, and with it come various wave types that challenge and delight surfers in equal measure. To excel in the art of surfing, first, you need to learn to read the waves, adapt to their personalities, and employ strategies that leverage their unique characteristics. From the forgiving contours of small beach break waves to the sheer power of big wave conquests, each wave type requires a distinct approach. Some common wave types include:

Understanding the characteristics of each wave type will help you choose the right board, position yourself correctly, and execute maneuvers with precision.

Knowing these differences is key to a surfer’s progression, allowing for a tailored experience that maximizes both enjoyment and performance. Learn strategies for navigating small waves and conquering the monsters of the deep and discover how to ride the world’s diverse wave types with finesse and skill.

Small Wave Strategies

Small waves may lack the size and power of their larger counterparts, but they offer a playground for creativity and skill development. Longboards shine in these conditions, their buoyant design facilitating the easy catching of waves and providing a stable platform for stylish maneuvers. To excel in small wave surfing, you should focus on maintaining speed and using body position to optimize the ride.

The key to small wave success is to paddle with vigor, lean forward to reduce drag, and keep a low stance to stay nimble. These strategies help surfers extract every ounce of energy from the wave, turning even the smallest swell into an opportunity for growth and enjoyment.

Big Wave Conquest

Big wave surfing is the ultimate test of a surfer’s mettle, where colossal swells and critical conditions demand respect and preparation. Specialized equipment, including inflatable vests and tow-in surfboards, provide an essential layer of safety and performance for those who dare to challenge the ocean’s behemoths. It’s a high-risk arena that requires a combination of physical prowess, mental fortitude, and a deep understanding of the sea.

The strategy for big wave surfing extends beyond the wave itself, encompassing meticulous planning, teamwork with jet ski operators, and a thorough knowledge of the surf break. When all these elements align, you’re rewarded with a ride that is nothing short of legendary, a story of courage and conquest etched into the annals of surfing history.

The Social Swell: Surf Culture and Community

Surfing transcends the act of riding waves; it fosters a rich culture and community that’s as diverse as the sport itself. Surfers around the globe share a bond forged by the thrill of the swells and the camaraderie that comes with a life lived in pursuit of the next great break. Surf culture is a melting pot of personalities, backgrounds, and legendary surfing stories, all united by a common thread: a love for the ocean and the waves that dance upon it.

The social fabric of surfing is woven from shared experiences, both in and out of the water. It’s found in the impromptu gatherings on the beach, the post-surf storytelling sessions, and the global network of surf camps that bring enthusiasts together. Whether you’re looking to improve your skills, meet fellow wave riders, or simply soak up the surf lifestyle, the community is waiting to welcome you with open arms.

An image of a group of surfers celebrating in the sea

Surf Camp Synergy

Surf camps are the quintessential hubs of surf culture, where novices and veterans alike converge to celebrate their passion for the sport. These sanctuaries of surf offer more than just lessons—they’re a place to forge lasting friendships and immerse oneself in the communal spirit of surfing. From the shared experience of a day’s great rides to the collective reflection around a crackling bonfire, surf camp life is about connection.

The synergy that blossoms within the walls of a surf camp is palpable. It’s where different waves of life come together, creating a dynamic and inclusive environment that encourages both personal and communal growth. Whether you’re looking to refine your turns or simply find your tribe, surf camps provide the perfect backdrop for a transformative surf experience that extends well beyond the water.

Solo Surfer’s Guide to Making Waves

Solo surfing trips are a rite of passage for many wave chasers, offering a sense of freedom and self-discovery that’s hard to replicate. As a solo surfer, you’re free to follow the tides and winds, integrating into local surf scenes and absorbing the nuances of different surf cultures. These adventures are an open invitation to meet fellow surfers, share in the stoke, and create bonds that can last a lifetime.

While venturing out alone may seem daunting, it’s an opportunity to carve your own path and ride on your own terms. The local lineup can be a welcoming place, where respect in the water leads to friendships on shore. So pack your board, embrace the unknown, and let the solo surf trip become a canvas for your own epic surf story.

Mastering the Craft: Progression in Surfing

The journey of a surfer is one of continuous learning and evolution. It begins with the first awkward attempts to paddle into waves and progresses to the fluid dance of an experienced wave rider. Mastering the craft of surfing—no matter the type of surfing—is a gradual process that rewards patience, persistence, and a deep love for the sport. It’s about embracing the learning curve, celebrating small victories, and always yearning for that next level of achievement.

This progression is marked by an ever-expanding skill set, from the foundational balance required to stand on a board to the advanced techniques that unlock the full potential of both surfer and wave. As we explore the stages of this journey, remember that every master was once a beginner, and every epic ride starts with the push into that first wave.

Beginner’s Balance

If you’re new to the surfing world, the initial focus is on achieving balance and understanding the ocean’s rhythms. Beginner surfers often start with lessons in controlled environments, where experienced instructors provide guidance on equipment, technique, and safety. The whitewater close to shore serves as the training ground, where learners can cultivate their skills without the intimidation of larger waves.

Progress for a novice surfer is measured in incremental steps—from confidently sitting on the board to the triumphant moment of riding an unbroken wave. While the transition to green waves may temporarily reduce the number of successful rides, each wave caught is a milestone, a tangible sign of improvement. Regular practice in varied conditions is central to building the ocean fitness and wave intuition that are the bedrock of a surfer’s skill set.

Advanced Techniques

As surfers gain experience and comfort in the waves, they begin to explore the world of advanced techniques. Shortboards, with their ability to carve tight arcs and perform dynamic maneuvers, become the tools for pushing the envelope of what’s possible. Advanced surfers dissect the elements of a wave, using their knowledge and agility to execute precise movements that harness the wave’s energy.

The advanced surfer’s arsenal includes a variety of maneuvers categorized by their complexity and style. From aerials that defy gravity to powerful carves that slice through the water, these techniques require a blend of strength, timing, and an intimate understanding of wave dynamics. It is within this pursuit of mastery that the surfer finds their greatest challenges and, ultimately, their greatest joys.

All surfs welcome

From the foundational joy of beach breaks to the heart-pounding thrill of big wave surfing, the sport offers a spectrum of experiences that cater to every adventurer. At the very least, this guide will help you chat with your new surf buddies about your favorite types of waves and boards, and inspire you as you continue your surfing journey.

Now you have an understanding of the foundations, why not take the leap and check out one of our surf camps. Each camp is a unique opportunity to make life-long friends and surf unforgettable waves. 


What is the best type of surfing for beginners?

Beach break surfing is ideal for beginners. The sandy bottoms create more forgiving conditions to learn, and the waves tend to be smaller and easier to manage when starting out.

What is the difference between a longboard and a shortboard?

Longboards are longer (typically 8-11 feet) and wider, providing more stability but less maneuverability. Shortboards are shorter (5-7 feet) and narrower, allowing for tighter turns and tricks but requiring more skill.

What is tow-in surfing? 

Tow-in surfing involves using a jet ski or other watercraft to tow a surfer onto extremely large waves that would be impossible to catch by paddling alone. It enables surfers to ride giant swells but is very dangerous.

What is required for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)? 

Stand-up paddleboarding involves standing on a large, stable board and using a long paddle to propel yourself through the water. It’s a good cross-training option for surfers and can be done on flat water or waves.