Is Surfing Hard to Learn? (28 Easy Surfing Tips)

Has surfing always been something you wanted to try while traveling?

Then you may be wondering, Is surfing hard to learn?

Short answer: With the right intruction, you can stand up on a surfboard in under an hour.

Anyone can learn how to surf!

In order to help you get started, we have put together a list of 28 beginner tips.

How to catch a wave in 8 steps

  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 your surfing abilities

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 any of these best places to surf for beginners around the world.

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 surf

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 most important beginner surfing techniques you can learn.

A larger board will give you more space to learn on, and it will also be easier for you to float.

When you're starting out, use a foam surfboard for the best results.

9. To start, surf only at beginner spots.

You can find a spot to practice surfing where the waves break softly over a sandy bottom.

You don't need perfect waves, like you would see in paintings of surfers.

Keep your eyes peeled for knee-high whitewater on its way to the beach.

It's fine to practice anywhere there are surf lessons and kids are surfing.

10. Seek out a master surfer

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 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 your surfboard

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 surf 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 when walking out with your board

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 your surfboard 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.

Also read our guide to surfing with a paddle board?

18. Learn how to avoid pearling while surfing

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 surf 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 while surfing

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 before, during, and after surfing

Don't push yourself too hard when starting something new.

If you're tired, bored, or don't feel like doing it anymore, stop and take a walk on the beach.

You can always come back and continue where you left off the next day.

22. Have a surf 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.

Usually, only one surfer can ride a wave. The person who is closest to where the wave breaks (deeper) has the right to go first.

But let's say there's a wave coming in, and you and another surfer are both paddling towards it to try and catch it.

Suppose this particular waves is going to break on your left and peel off towards your right side.

If there's someone surfing on your left, they have the right of way–which means you need stop paddling and wait for next wave.

However, if two surfers can ride the same wave in different directions, that creates an exception!

If you are at a breaks with one takeoff spot, wait your turn to go.

Paddle slowly toward the take-off point as others finish their turns. It is impolite to paddle around them.

25. Stay out of the way when paddling out.

Always grasp your surfboard securely. If there is a channel (a deeper zone where the waves do not break), go there.

Do not paddle through the surf or in the lineup if another exit is available. This protects you as well as conserving energy.

Keep out of the path of a surfer riding a wave if you have no alternative means of departure other than through whitewater.

If someone on a wave in your direction is riding, and you must paddle against him or her.

26. Ride the right board

For beginners, I recommend getting a big board before anything else.

A lot of people make the mistake of buying an expensive shortboard as their first board. It's really hard to learn on those.

Longboards are much easier to ride and stable, so you'll be able to catch more waves and actually improve your skills.

By doing this, you'll get lots practice reading the ocean and popping up with ease.

Once you're more skilled, then you can buy your first serious board that is shorter in length.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the options:


Shortboards are thinner and have less volume than longboards.

They usually have three fins and are designed to surf big waves and do quick turns.

We recommend learning on a longboard first, and then progressing to a shortboard.

Mid-Sized Boards

Four types of boards fall under this affordable category: the Mini Board, Mini Tanker, Funboard, and Fish.

The Egg and Bonzer are also within this price range but they aren't as popular.

All of these choices are smaller than eight feet; some are even five feet or less.

Despite their size though, they're able to float better because of how much volume they can hold.

If you're a beginner, any one of these would be ideal since they're so easy to control when paddling.


A single-fin setup on a surfboard with nine feet or more is fairly typical.

These boards are also ideal for tiny waves and offer excellent stability, making them great for enthusiasts looking to enhance their abilities.

You may also mount a tri-fin set up on these types of boards to increase speed and make the board easier to maneuver.

27. Get the right gear

The greatest thing about surfing is that it doesn't require a lot of equipment.

Here's what else to have on hand: A swimsuit that won't move, a rash guard with good fit that will prevent sunburns and chafing your stomach, and wax to keep you from slipping.

If the water is cooler, you'll definitely want a wetsuit.

A leash. At the very least, your leash should be as long as the length of your surfboard.

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.