Once you’ve really learned it, surfing is the most exciting, satisfying and, above all, calming thing you can imagine. We can’t think of anything that comes close to the feeling of seeing a set of a set of waves rolling in at the horizon, then positioning ourselves correctly, paddling for the wave and finally surfing it from start to finish. Safety first, that’s clear.
If you’re just about to take your first steps towards learning how to surf, you’ll be in for a treat to see where this amazing journey will take you.
But before you even start, it is important that you learn to respect the ocean. If you believe the studies, then surfing is not a dangerous sport at all:
For every 1,000 days in the water, a surfer injures himself only about 2.2 times.
But it is important to know the risks and to minimize them accordingly. A good mix of common sense, good surf equipment and some basic safety tips will help you avoid the typical pitfalls of learning to surf. A good surf school or surf camp will help you learn how to surf safely – without hurting yourself or your fellow surfers. You should always consider these 4 elementary surf safety tips:
1. Protect yourself and your fellow surfers in the line-up
Face one fact in particular: you will fall. No master has fallen from the sky yet and so you should be prepared to fall from the surfboard in many different ways. All this is part of your learning curve and we were all at that point. The less you can control WHEN or HOW OFTEN you are going to wipe out the more you can control HOW.
The first priority should always be to protect your head. You don’t know what is underneath you and if it is deep enough and so your first movement in a fall should be to put your arms over your head protecting yourself. The main dangers are your own board, the bottom of the lake, stones/reef and other surfers.
You have to be particularly careful in shallow white water, as this is where most other surf beginners stay.
The second important point is the control over your surfboard. Always have a leash on and try to hold the board in any situation. One mistake many beginners make is not to carry the board sideways when going into the water. That’s how you break your nose! If a wave or a gust of wind comes up the board and hits you directly in the face – surf holiday is over.
2. Bring a certain level of basic fitness with you
Surfing challenges you physically. You need strong chest muscles to push yourself up and get on the board. The take-off itself is a complex movement that needs to be done quickly and requires a lot of practice and fitness. A strong back and strong arms are indispensable for paddling and you need a good endurance to paddle back after every wave or attempt – against the waves and currents. Surfing is not for non-swimmers! You have to do that a lot at the beginning and it is also very important for your self-confidence in the water.
You don’t have to be a top athlete to learn to surf. But you should do it and start getting fitter. You’ll see, it’s guaranteed to get you on quickly.
3. Plan where you enter and exit
That may sound like a no-brainer. Straight ahead – you think. But that’s not necessarily right and it’s all the more important that you take your time at the beginning (especially when you’re at a new spot) to observe where the other surfers go into the water and where they go out again. That can differ from each other. With your surf group in the surf camp you stay together and the coach will show you where to go and keep an eye on you. But if you decide to try it on your own, think about it!
With many beaches and spots it is clear. Others have special characteristics: certain currents, large, distinctive stones under water or tidal movements that you have to be aware of. Look for these entry and exit points and stick to them. If necessary, ask local surfers around you.
Also note if there are warning signs or flags on the beach indicating certain conditions or dangers.
4. Know the rules of Surfing
We don’t want to go that far with this point and you may want to have a read on it in our blog post again. Part of these 12 surf rules, also called surf etiquette, are hints on how to paddle into the line-up and how to behave when paddling – especially not to hurt yourself or others.
Well, now this was short & sweet! Always remember that in order to learn to surf you want to get as much as you can from your surfing holiday. So risking your health or safety for this can be fatal and, in the worst case, result in injury and a surf stop. As always – all this sounds like a lot once you start. But soon you will get it right and your skilled surf instructors will be at your side.