Like anything in life, you can think or talk about doing it all you like, but actually going and doing it for yourself is another thing! Luckily surfing is not as difficult to get into as you'd think, and there is lots of help available.
Preparing to go surfing
One of the first things to remember about surfing, is there are dangers involved. You are doing strenuous exercise in the sea, a very un-predictable place! Safety is always important, if not for your own sake, then the people around you! Always take notice of the local conditions. It is a good idea not to surf alone, not just for the obvious safety reasons, but it can be more fun with a friend, to keep you stoked, to enjoy the surf with!
Also your general fitness is something you should think about, paddling out can be exhausting, often against on-coming waves! Your upper body strength and endurance are important. The better these are, the longer (and better) you will surf. Also, remember to warm-up (no it's not for girls!). If you don't warm-up you'll know about it the next day!
Where to surf
The best surf near you depends on where you are in the world, so it's hard to advise from here! However as a beginner, bare in mind that you are not going to turn pro on your first attempt, you most certainly won't be doing anything resembling what you've seen your heroes doing in those surf magazines you read! Learning in small, even mushy waves is best for learning, it will teach you the basics you need to progress onto the better waves, you will also learn quicker this way!
You may need to travel for this one, and time can be an annoying factor for us working kind! But don't worry, most to all surf destinations will have B&B's, hostels, hotels, camping areas, park benches, that are more than accommodating… and cheap if you shop around! If you contact a surf camp or school they will more than likely help you out with such things! The Internet is always a good place to start for all these things, hopefully some of the links on this site will help you.
You may find it best to book a weekend away, and book into a surf school for a weekend course maybe? Having a car would be an obvious help. But as all the equipment you will need can be provided for you, a train or coach ride, with just you and your bag will do. Or get your mates together, and book the week off work, you could all learn together, and it would be an awesome time!
What you need
As a beginner you don't neccessarily need anything (depending on whether you use a surf school to learn or not). If you use a surf school or camp to learn you should be provided with everything you need. Or alternatively if you have an experienced surfer friend, maybe they can lend you equipment, if not you can always rent it from some local surf shops.
Depending on the temperature of the water, you may need a wetsuit, you can get different thickness' depending on how cold the water is. If the water is warmer, and boardshorts will suffice, it is still a good idea to wear what's called a 'rash vest', which is exactly what the name suggests. The deck of the surfboard is coarse from the surf wax and can rub your chest, it is also sticky (not great for the hairier of guys!). Surf wax is a wax (in the shape of a bar of soap) that you rub all over the deck (top-side) of your board to create friction for your feet to grip the board. You can also buy friction matt's for your back foot that stick directly onto the deck of the surfboard.
Other surf accessories are a surf leash, which ties at one end round your ankle (back foot) and the other to the tail (back-end) of your board, this is as much a safety precaution as it is to prevent you losing your surfboard! Other wetsuit add-on's include gloves, booties and hoods which aid you in the cold, but also further protect your skin, good for reef or point breaks as there are a sharp rocks and coral around, not to mention jellyfish!
And yes, we haven't forgotten the surfboard. Different surfers will tell you different things regarding the best board to learn on, or what's cool and what's not! Ignore them. For learning you need a board that is…
- More stable in the water (easier to stand on, and stay standing!).
- Light and easy to paddle on.
- Preferably soft, so you don't hurt yourself or others around you.
Generally the longer and wider the surfboard, the easier these things become. A longboard is a good place to start, as is what's known as a softboard, funboard or foamboard. You are likely to learn on one of these at a surf school.
As you progress you will no doubt want to try different shapes and sizes of boards, the type of board you ride, will greatly effect how you ride the wave, or how quickly you progress, certain boards are designed for different sizes of swell.
Spending a fortune is not necessary at first with surfing. For learning, everything you will need can be provided. As you improve and find more time to go surfing, you will start to build up the equipment you feel you need. In time, it is worthwhile investing in a good wetsuit, the cheap suits you can buy or loan will barely do their job, so for the sake of a few quid more, you'll stay much warmer and much happier!
Surf school's are a great place to start and can be a lot of fun! They will tell you everything you need to know about surfing, from the equipment, to the technique, through to surf etiquette and more. You don't even need to go with anyone, you will no doubt meet some cool people along the way to enjoy the experience with, and maybe go surfing with in the future?!
So our advice is to find a good surf school, book in for a day, couple of days or more, and enjoy the surf!