28 Beginner surfing tips to make you a better surfer

We have put together 28 beginner surfing tips that will help you start your awesome new journey.

However, these beginner surfing tips alone won’t guarantee surfing success. You should expect to put some hard work into it. After all, nobody ever jumped on a surfboard and just started to surf at an advanced level by reading a list of beginner surfing tips. Just like any other sport, you need to dedicate time and effort into learning and becoming better at it. From talking to others about surfing, understanding all the basic surf terms to starting a surf workout.

As chill as surfing seems, it's still a sport requiring practice and strategy. Practice and strategy for different conditions and types of surfboards. Even with the work that goes into becoming a better surfer, it's still something you can relax with. Getting to a point where everything you do is intuitive and natural.

Luckily, these beginner surfing tips will help you break the ice with surfing. Getting you started on your journey as a surfer!

Beginner surfing tips for how to catch a wave

  1. Get comfortable with popping up to your feet on land. It helps to think of it as gliding up. Gliding up without ever using your knees. Practice popping up from a pushup position, never letting your knees tough the board.
  2. Paddle out to the lineup.
  3. When you're ready to catch a wave, aim the nose of your board toward the shore and begin paddling. Double check the nose of your board is not underwater or too much in the air. As you paddle at a chill pace, feel for when the wave begins to push you. Now paddle with all the effort you can.
  4. After a few strokes, make sure you're in the right part of the wave (not too far back or too far forward). Making sure your board is perpendicular to the wave.
  5. When you feel momentum, pop up to your feet.
  6. Using a smooth gliding motion from pushup position. Not letting your knees touch the board. Now you should feel a burst and rush as if you're going down a slope. Don't look down. Remember, your body will go where you look. If you look down, you'll go down into the water. So look down the line of the wave.
  7. Keep a balanced position and stance. Slightly, bending your knees.
  8. Congratulations, you paddled and stood up on a wave by following these beginner surfing tips.

The best beginner surfing tips

1. Don't be afraid

At first, learning how to surf can feel overwhelming. Just remember surfing is something thousands of people do. Just like any skill, it's learned. There's nothing you have to be born with. Once you do learn, you'll become better each time you surf.

2. Foam surfboards are great

Soft-top and foam surfboards are great when you're starting out because they're damage proof and easier to handle. A foam surfboard is going to be gentle on your feet. Most importantly, it'll be gentle if it whacks you in the head.

3. Don't rush

Yes, it's exciting to learn how to surf, but if you don’t pace yourself you can learn some bad habits, or worse, get injured. You can't rush learning how to surf.

4. Surf at an easy surf spot

The more you go out in the water to practice the faster you'll become at surfing. However, you're not going to get better if you don't actually catch waves. Take it easy, go to a beginner surf spot with gentle waves. You'll get better actually standing up on smaller waves than you will never standing up on more advanced waves.

READ MORE: Some of the best places to learn to surf in the world

5. Get good at sitting on your surfboard

Yes, this sounds easy. But when you begin to surf, you'll start noticing sore muscles. Muscles you never thought you had. Perhaps the most underworked muscles are your core. Which is exactly what you're working when you're simply sitting on your surfboard.

6. Do a quick warm up before you hit the water

The most important of these beginning surfing tips is to always warm up before you go in the water. The easiest and best way to do this is park a small distance from the break, and lightly jog with your board to where you're going to paddle out. Even just a 5 minute run with your surfboard is enough to get you ready to surf. If you want to warm up further, do some stretches right before you go in the water. Stretching decreases the chances of muscle cramps.

7. Take a few seconds to observe what's going on in the water

Never rush into the water. Take a moment to see how many people are in the water, double check your surfing equipment, study the waves (noting how and where they break). Note any signs of wildlife so you don't end up in the surf with sharks. Do this every time you go into the water. The same surf spot will behave differently every day.

8. Use a big surfboard

This is one of the best beginner surfing tips you could ever follow. A large board will offer you a bigger surface to learn on and they’re also much better floatation devices. Our most important of these beginner surfing tips for beginners is to use a foam surfboard when you're just starting out.

9. To start, surf only at beginner spots.

For a key insight out of all these beginning surfing tips, find an area where waves break gently over a waist- to chest-deep sandy bottom.

When you’re just beginning, you don’t need perfectly waves like you see in surf art painting. Instead, keep an eye out for knee-high whitewater crumbling toward the shore. It's okay to practice where surf lessons are taking place and kids are surfing. Remember, you want to catch and actually stand-up on as many waves as possible in the beginning. Practicing paddling into waves and standing up.

10. Seek out a master

Surf lessons can help you a lot. When you take a surf lessons you'll be getting beginner surfing tips in real time. Do a little research in your area. Literally, every surf spot has a surf school or instructor nearby.

11. Get a surf buddy

Nothing makes surfing easier to learn than learning with someone else. You can either tag along with a slightly more experience friend or learn with someone else at your level. Sometimes having accountability for showing up at a surf spot makes getting out there easier.

12. Always surf with a surf leash

A surf leash can protect you from losing your board and possibly drowning if you aren't a strong surfer. It can also protect other surfers and their boards from your tumbling board. Make sure you surf leash is at least the length of your surfboard.

13. Stay away from advanced surfers

Nothing will make you lose motivation for learning how to surf than having angry locals yelling at you in the water. Do a little bit of research before you go to a spot to make sure it's beginner safe. Remember, don't be afraid to stick to the shallow white wash just so you can practice catching and standing on waves.

14. Practice turtle rolling

Turtle rolling is the easiest way to go through a wave with a long board. Most beginner surfing tips don't talk about his essential skill. Turtle rolling is simply where you roll over so the bottom of your surfboard is facing the sky right before a wave breaks over you. Once the wave passes you, roll back over on top of your board in one motion to continue paddling without skipping a beat.

15. Know the conditions before you get to the beach

Learn to look at wave charts and understand when high and low tide is. Generally, right before and right after high tide are the best times to surf. Also develop an understanding of swells and winds.

16. Shuffle your feet

Most beaches have stingrays. Always get into the habit of shuffling your feet in the sand whenever you're walking with your board in the water. Usually right before and after a session in the water. This prevent you from stepping right on top of a stingray.

17. Paddle calmly

It's easy to get winded as you paddle through the break. Practicing a good paddling technique will help you realize you don't need to exert your lungs and shoulder muscles every single time you go in the water.

18. Learn how to avoid pearling

When the nose of the surfboard dives underwater it's known as pearling. It happens to every surfer. It comes with really knowing where to position yourself on your board so you aren't too forward. However, the biggest mistake is when beginners are so afraid of pearling they start positioning themselves too far back on their board. This makes it nearly impossible to catch a wave.

19. Know how to fall off your board

No amount of practice or reading of these beginner surfing tips is going to prevent you from falling off your board. It's the most normal part of surfing. Even when you become advanced. Which is why it's even more important to learn how to fall correctly.

Definitely have an experienced surf instructor show you this most essential beginner surfing tips for falling off your board. Bottom line, you'll never EVER want to dive off your board head first into the water. That would be a sure way to break your neck or crack your skull on a shallow bottom or random reef you weren't aware of. Always fall off your board feet first with your arms bent around your head to shield yourself from a flying surfboard.

20. Don’t bend your back

When you’re on a wave, only bend your knees. Never bend your back. If you bend your back you'll offset your center of gravity and look silly at the same.

21. Listen to your body

Whatever you do, remember to listen to your body. If you are tired, bored or you simply aren’t feeling the surf session anymore, stop what you’re doing, head to the shore, and relax. You can always pick up where you left off the next day. No use in pushing yourself when you’re just starting off.

22. Have a morning routine

Give yourself enough time so it doesn’t feel rushed. Stick to the two hour rule. Get up two hours before you want to go surfing in the morning so you aren't frazzled.

23. Plan to go surfing

Waking up at 4:30AM naturally almost never happens. You have to make a plan and stick to it. Set an alarm, research the surf conditions for the next day, know exactly which break you're going to, and pre-pack or organize things in your car the night before.

24. Understand the rules.

Generally, one person surfs per wave. The person who is closest to where the wave breaks (also known as “deeper”) has the right of way. Imagine a wave is coming in and you and another surfer turn toward shore to catch it. Let’s say it’s going to break on the left side of you and peel toward your right.

If the person is to your left, they have the right of way, so you need to stop paddling and wait until the next wave. If a wave is peeling in both directions, one surfer can ride the wave in each direction. You might hear someone yell “going left” or “going right” to indicate their direction, and that they have the right of way.

If you’re at a break with one takeoff spot, wait your turn, slowly moving toward it as others take their turn—it’s bad etiquette to paddle around them.

25. Stay out of the way when paddling out.

If there is a channel (a deeper area where the waves don’t break), paddle out there. Never paddle out through the surf or through the lineup if there is another way. This not only keeps you and others safe, but it also saves energy. If there is no other way out than through the whitewater, it’s your job to stay out of the way of a surfer riding a wave.

If someone is riding a wave coming toward you, paddle in the opposite direction of where the surfer is headed. Lastly, always hold on to your board.

26. Ride the right board

When you first start, get yourself on a big board.

I’ve seen so many beginners on brand-new, expensive shortboards that are really cool but lack the volume and length for the rider to catch enough waves to actually improve their skills. There is no shame in starting on a ten-foot soft-top longboard that’s easy to paddle and stable to ride. By doing this, you’ll get lots of practice learning to read the ocean and popping up with ease.

Then, when you’re more skilled, you can get your first serious board.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the options:

  • Shortboard: Six and a half feet or shorter. These board are thinner with little volume. Usually with a tri-fin setup. These surfboard are meant to surf larger waves and do fast turns. We recommend learning on a longboard first.
  • Mid-Sized Boards: Mini Mal, Mini Tanker, Funboard, Fish, Egg, Bonzer. These are all styles of boards in this range. Technically, they're smaller than eight feet and as small as five feet, but are more buoyant because they have more volume. These boards can be a good option for beginners because they're easy to paddle, while also being easier to handle than a longboard.
  • Longboards: Nine feet and more. These, surfboards typically have a single-fin setup and are fun to ride on small waves with. You can also put a tri-fin setup on these to make the board more manueverable.

27. Get the right gear

The best thing about surfing is that you need minimal gear besides your board.

Here’s what else to have:

  • A swimsuit that will stay put, a well-fitting rash guard to prevent sunburns and chafing your stomach. If it's colder water, then you'll definitely need a wetsuit.
  • A leash. At a minimum your leash should be the length of your surfboard. Get one that’s the length of your board. Remember to put it on your back ankle of your riding stance.
  • Wax, to prevent slipping.

28. Remember to have fun

If you take anything away from these beginner surfing tips, it's to remember to all of your surfing experiences fun. You want to make the your surf session feel amazing. Not a competition.

Book Your Surf Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book your flight
Find a cheap flight by using Google Flights. They are our favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know you're getting the best flight.

Book your surf hotel or surf accommodation
You can book a really unique and local place with AirBnB anywhere in the world. We used it recently in Sri Lanka to book a place withing a 3 minute walk to a surf break. If you want to stay somewhere other than an AirBnB, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, surf gear theft, and cancellations. Basically, you get protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a surf trip without it. We’ve been using World Nomads for close to ten years now.

Protect your personal data
When you travel, you're constantly logging into public Wi-Fi. VPNs are designed to protect all of your Internet traffic. This includes email, streaming music and video, voice calls, and anything else you can think of. We use ExpressVPN when we're on a surf trip.

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!