You want to learn surfing, but don't really know where, how, when and with what? Then you're in the right place, because we want to answer exactly these questions about learning to surf. So jump into the cold water and dare something new. Dive in and start a new lifestyle. While learning to surf you will get to know your limits and keep pushing them. You will find yourself and your inner balance. Look forward to the freedom you will gain. But first we would like to give you a warning: Learning to surf can be addictive. Are you willing to take the risk?
What is surfing - and since when?
We knew you wouldn't mind a little thrill and want to know more about learning to surf. Let and start with a brief surfing history lesson so you can better understand and feel the vibe of surfing later.
The beginnings of surfing
Surfing has its origins in Polynesia. Surfing was probably practiced there as early as the 12th century, as some cave paintings of surfers vividly prove. Probably at that time the Polynesians - fun-loving and nature-loving people - surfed the waves with planks, boards or canoes. Simply as a pastime. This hobby, if you want to call it that, they also brought to Hawaii through their sea voyages at the beginning of the 18th century, where surfing quickly developed into an important part of the culture there.
In Hawaii, James Cook also saw surfers for the first time and recorded this experience in his diary in 1778. This is probably the first written record we have today about surfing. In the following, other explorers and travel writers such as Mark Twain or Jack London also reported their encounters with surfers and thus always aroused widespread interest in this extraordinary sport.
The surf boom begins
The spread of surfing really took off with Duke Kahanamoku, who is rightly considered the founder and pioneer of today's surfing. An excellent swimmer and one of Hawaii's best surfers, he competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. His surf-derived crawl style won him the 100-meter freestyle - and made him a celebrity. On his travels around the globe, he introduced surfing wherever he could, for example in Australia and also in California. People were enthusiastic about learning to surf!
New developments for more surf fun
In addition to this general enthusiasm for learning to surf, there was another development at the beginning of the 1950s that made surfing easier for many people, or made it possible in the first place: Jack O'Neil developed the first wetsuit. Now it was possible to surf in cold water. In addition, there were new adhesives that improved the boards, the first round nose and the trend towards ever smaller boards - surfing was now a mass sport and at the same time a lifestyle that became more widespread through numerous films about surfing. Maybe you too have succumbed to this surfer romance and would like to experience it for yourself soon. Be one with the sea, the waves, yourself. Then let's start right now with the basics of learning to surf.
What do you need to learn how to surf?
We would like to give you some good advice right at the beginning: Celebrate every little progress you make while learning to surf! Unfortunately, surfing is not the easiest sport and learning to surf takes time. There will be times when you will hardly notice any progress on the board. And then you will suddenly take the next step in learning to surf from one day to the next. So be patient, trust yourself and just enjoy the time on your surfboard - then it will work out with learning to surf.
You won't be happy on your board without a surf course
In any case, you should start learning surfing with a decent surf course. There you will learn theory and practice, you will get the right equipment and you will be introduced to the location. These are things you simply can't know as a surf newbie, so it makes no sense at all to buy a surfboard, march to the beach and just start surfing. Please realize: the sea has its own rules that you need to know in order not to put yourself in danger unnecessarily. Before you book your first surfing course "Surfing for Beginners", you are welcome to do some homework on the topic of "learning to surf". The following points will help you in advance, so that you can make faster progress on the spot:
- Improve your swimming and train yourself, for example, to keep up a brisk pace for at least 15 minutes at a time without any problems.
- Dive a lot, especially if you don't usually put your head under water when swimming.
- Work on your body tension, for example, through Pilates or training on a balance board.
- Practice patience - yes, you can practice that too. We recommend a daily meditation session.
- Familiarize yourself a bit with the theory of surfing, for example with surfing etiquette, but also with the sea and its currents.
How long does it take to learn to surf?
If we only knew... Seriously, we can't answer the question of "how long it takes to learn to surf". If you have done your homework (see above) well before the surf course, then it can go pretty fast. Maybe you will be able to learn surfing as an adult already on the first day of the course to stand on the board. By the way, this is called take off in the technical jargon and is your first step into the world of surfing. For this stand up movement you need above all body tension, good balance and the right attitude. You can practice all of this in advance. Therefore, our tip for preparation is: practice surfing in the dry - simply at home in your living room. This is possible with a balance board. This is the best way to prepare for your first surfing course and achieve success more quickly. You can find the right exercises in our Balance Board Blog. By the way, further down in the text we will go into more detail about balance boards... so you can be curious.
If you don't succeed with the take off on the first day, then certainly on the second. Take your time and don't put yourself under pressure - even when learning to surf, no master has fallen from the sky. The first attempts on the surfboard require patience and sensitivity until you get the hang of it. Some paddle directly to the first green wave after a few days, others prefer to stay in the white water for a while. Because the right paddling technique should also be practiced and internalized extensively when learning to surf. No need to rush things, you are on vacation after all. Our tip for planning: Allow yourself three weeks for your first surfing vacation instead of just two. This way you will stay relaxed while learning to surf, even if there is no progress in sight for a few days, and you will definitely be rewarded with a cool ride on a green (unbroken) wave at the end of your vacation.
Learn to surf - so you soon master theory and practice
When choosing a surf school and surf course, there are a few things to keep in mind - especially for beginners. Due to the ongoing surfing boom, surf schools have partly mushroomed in some locations. Besides many good and professional ones, there are of course also a few that might not be able to teach you surfing with the optimal knowledge. But how can you judge that as a layman? Where to learn surfing? Simple. There are a few clear signs that it is a suitable surf school for beginners:
- All surf instructors have a coaching license recognized by the International Surfing Association (ISA).
- Surf lessons are offered for beginners, not surf guiding. With guiding you will only be introduced to the surf spot, you will not learn how to surf.
- All surf courses for beginners are particularly small and consist of a maximum of five students and one instructor. Only in this way can he respond to each individually.
- The surf course consists not only of practical lessons but also of theory lessons. These are very important so that you behave properly in the sea and, for example, observe the right of way rules.
- Great extra: Some surf schools offer an additional video analysis. Be sure to take advantage of it. It's funny to watch yourself, but it helps enormously to recognize your own mistakes.
Beginners surf better with tips from the pros
To get you in the right mood for your first surf course, we can give you a few tips here. This way you are already a bit mentally attuned to learning how to surf and can perhaps better absorb all the information from your surf instructor. Let's start with the usual procedure for learning to surf and then go into the most common mistakes. According to the motto: Don't get into the habit at all!
This is how learning to surf works
When you arrive at the surf school of your choice, your surf instructor will first provide you with the appropriate equipment. He will explain your beginner's surfboard including leash (safety line) and, if necessary, select a suitable wetsuit for you. After that, you don't go directly into the water, but first to the classroom. You need to know the first basics of surfing safety before the action starts. Over the course of the course, there are usually more and more theory units, for example on the right of way and rules of conduct in the water, wave lore, currents, special dangers at your surf spot and so on.
Warm-up, basic position & paddle technique
Like any sport, learning to surf begins with a warm-up. Your surf instructor will show you suitable exercises that you should remember. Warming up is very important in surfing to avoid injuries. If you are well loosened and supple, then you may now try the correct basic position on the board, called Surf Stance. If you can focus and hold your body tension here, you have a clear advantage. It's good that you've already practiced this in advance (see above). And the right paddling with the optimal (i.e. effort-saving) technique is also on the training plan. How you should lie down on your surfboard for paddling is usually shown to you on land. For the real paddling it goes then - for the first time, huhuuu! - off into the water.
Gliding lying down, take-off & gliding standing up
First attempts in white water include not only paddling, but also gliding while lying down. Use this time to get really familiar with your board and test yourself out a bit. Because the next step in learning to surf is the take-off - and it's a real challenge. Take-off means that you stand up on the surfboard and stay there. It sounds easy, but it's not. We could tell you stories about Santa Claus, but we'd rather be honest: Until you manage the take-off at the right moment, you will fall a few times. That's normal. If you're an ace at keeping your balance, you might be able to do it on the first day of the course, but it can easily take two or three days to get the take-off right. Just take a deep breath and be patient. Eventually you'll get it right and then you'll be able to glide easily while standing up.
Steer, fall correctly & dodge
Continue with directional control and changing direction while surfing. Your surf instructor will teach you these skills as well, and you'll need to practice hard here as well. And while you practice and regularly fall back into the water unintentionally during the take-off (whipeout), you will learn how to fall correctly. And you also learn to stay calm while falling and submerging. If you relax, you will be washed back to the surface very quickly. Of course, this also needs to be trained. By the way: dodging is also an important topic, especially to save valuable energy when learning to surf. If you know how to avoid the waves, you won't be constantly washed up on the beach by them.
Don't forget: the cool-down
So, now you're definitely ready to go. But learning to surf is not over yet. You still have to save a little bit of energy for stretching and loosening up after surfing. For this you can go for a run on the beach, stretch your legs and arms or add 10 minutes of recovery yoga directly after learning to surf. If you are too lazy here, you will pay the bill the next day. Then you will have sore muscles and the course day will be even harder for you. So bite the bullet now - that way your surfing vacation will be more fun.
The most common mistakes when learning to surf
Of course, as in any sport, there are some common mistakes that beginners make - but from which even advanced surfers are not immune. If an inaccuracy in the technique or a wrong motion sequence creeps into your routine, then it is usually difficult to get rid of it again. So: It's better to pay attention to it right away while learning to surf, with our five ultimate tips!
- Wrong position on the board: Don't lie too far back on the surfboard, this will only make paddling more difficult. Slide forward so that the tip of your surfboard just peeks out of the water.
- Inaccurate paddling technique: As a beginner, you usually paddle too carefully and therefore not precisely enough. Unfortunately, this leads to the fact that you hardly come forward - but instead mighty out of breath. It's better if you paddle smoothly, with big strokes and a well tightened upper body (feet together and avoid a hollow back).
- Too short a glide: You think, now it's time to get up? Then, as a beginner, do two or three more paddle strokes. This way you will avoid drowning as soon as you get up, but will be taken along by the wave.
- Mistake during take-off: When standing up, make sure you don't grab the rails of your surfboard, but place your hands at chest level and push yourself off the board. This way you won't become unstable with your surfboard. Then, when you are standing, direct your gaze forward and not downward. If you look down at your feet, your center of gravity will automatically shift forward, the tip of your board will dip under and you will fly into the water.
- Dangerous wipeouts: if you fall, fall flat into the water, protect your head with your arms and relax underwater - then you will come back to the surface faster.... and you can start the next attempt.
So, in addition to these tips, here's one last one that we're happy to give you from the bottom of our hearts - aside from the theory and practice of learning to surf: Stay loyal to the spot where you made your first surfing attempts for a few years. We can tell you from experience that you will make better progress that way. Because here you don't have to adjust to a new location, new currents and new peculiarities. No. At YOUR surf spot you already know your way around and can therefore fully concentrate on your technique, your movements and your training. To learn surfing, look for a beginner-friendly spot with gently breaking and comfortably rolling waves. You will see new places soon enough in your search for the perfect wave...
The preparation for the vacation
You want to learn surfing in Germany? So train dry surfing - before your vacation, as a preparation? Then we now have some hot tips on how you can do that. Besides the "actual preparations", i.e. researching the destination, the surf school and the surf spot, you create the best conditions to make learning to surf especially easy. Then you can turbo-charge on the spot, so to speak, and get on the board faster in the water. So here we go, with the following training program:
- Swim & Crawl: Head to the pool and do some laps before your first surf vacation. This way you train your arm and back muscles, get stamina while swimming and gain safety in the water.
- Diving: A few diving sessions in the pool won't hurt either. Try to steadily increase your time underwater so that you don't panic so quickly during wipeouts.
- Endurance & Strength: Jogging is a very effective way to build endurance. In combination with strength training in the gym or at home, you build up muscles that will serve you well on the surfboard later on.
- Yoga: With a little yoga you can also mentally prepare yourself for learning to surf. The right breathing, stretching and a good portion of patience are the perfect preparation for your first surf trip. There is even special surfer yoga.
- Surf tutorials: And finally, we have a bit of theory for you. On the Internet you will quickly find many different videos on learning to surf, which will give you a first impression. Or you can relax and watch a surf movie to build up the anticipation for your vacation.
Balance Board Surf Training
By the way, balance boards are an ideal preparation for your first surf vacation! With them you train your balance, improve your body tension and have a lot of fun. You can train anytime and anywhere, so your progress will be visible quickly. Just get on the balance board for 20 minutes in the evening... and you will be able to balance a little bit more than the day before. Maybe even a trick more. So try it out - it's really easy. Of course we accompany your first steps on the Balance Board with lots of tips. Our balance board blog offers you a lot of information about the balance board, shows you exercises for beginners, advanced and professionals and answers all your questions about balance boarding.
The great thing about the balance board is its versatility. You can use it for jumps and tricks as well as for hard exercises, for example to train specific muscle groups. So you alone determine your training plan. Get creative and find out which exercises you like best. And which ones are really good for you. Sometimes you have to test your limits - just like learning to surf.
Train your balance - learn to surf - get some tips
Learning to surf indoors is easy with the balance board. You don't need much space either. Just lay out a mat in your living room, for example our Balance Board pad made of sisal, and you're ready to go. You can find lots of ideas for workouts, balance exercises, jumps, tricks and flips in our wahu community and in our wahu blog. For example, how about the following articles:
- Discover our balance exercises with fun factor.
- Become a balance board pro in just three steps
- Find the right balance board exercises for you
Your next surf trip isn't far off - so what are you waiting for? Join our community, meet like-minded people, watch some videos... and get on your balance board. Before you can say "learn to surf", you'll be well prepared for your next wet wave by "dry surfing" on the Balance Board. We are looking forward to you!