How To Surf For Beginners

If you’re thinking of learning how to surf, you’re smart to do your research before hopping on a board.

While there is no right and wrong in surfing, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you succeed. 

The biggest thing to remember when learning how to surf is to have an open mind, be patient, and keep trying.

The more prepared you are for your first few sessions, the more comfortable you will feel in the water. 

Paddling out blindly is not only going to leave you confused, it may even create an unsafe situation for you and those around you.

So if you want to learn to surf, you’ve come to the right place!


Before you even make it to the beach, there are a handful of things you’re going to need. You may be thinking… “a surfboard, duh”. While the right board is the obvious answer, you’ll also need to make sure that you find the best place to ride it.

A beginner surf break is usually a slow, mellow point break with multiple peaks. Beginners will sit on the inside to make sure they’re not getting in the way or getting stuck inside of bigger sets. Ask around or do some research to find a good beach to start. Once you find out where to go, you can begin your hunt for the right board.

While there are tons of options to choose from, learning to surf is much easier on a bigger board. This will make paddling and catching waves much easier, and give you a larger area to balance on. You can invest in one of these recommended boards, or rent one from the local surf shop. Visiting your local surf shop and asking questions is a great resource to learn more about the conditions specific to your area.

Now What?

You’ve got a board and you’re walking up to the beach, but what’s next? You don’t know where to paddle out, or when, or what to do once you’re out there. Surfing isn’t a game of follow the leader because surfers with higher skill levels are going to paddle out in different places and try to catch bigger waves.

When you’re ready to paddle out, look for the peak that is the farthest away from the largest peak. For example, if you’re looking at a righthand point break, you’ll want to sit with the surfers farthest to the left. If you’re surfing a beach break, this won’t be the case, so make sure you learn about the wave you’ll be surfing before you go.

Once you identify where you’ll be sitting, you need to figure out where to paddle out. Watch where other surfers are entering the water, and take the route that goes around the lineup. You don’t want to get caught inside of a wave that someone is riding while you’re paddling out. If this happens, don’t panic – just paddle towards the part of the wave that’s already broken, so that you won’t get in their way.

Surf Training
Standing on board

In the Water

Now that you’re in the water, the universal “rules” of surfing are going to be enforced. While up until now, what you’ve learned is specific to a particular break or particular conditions,  these tips can be applied anywhere at any time.

What is commonly referred to as the “Surfer’s Code”  is a set of rules that promotes safety and respect in the water. Memorize these and follow them to a T, because breaking these rules could put you, and others around you, in danger. While there will always be a few surfers who don’t follow this code of conduct, you should still follow the old saying, “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. This promotes mutual respect - for each other and for the strength of the ocean.

We recommend checking out our main page to help you find the best beginner surfboard!


Hopefully you’ve had a great first session and you’re feeling more confident about your ability to surf. If you didn’t stand up, don’t be discouraged – most people don’t stand up their first few times. The beginning stage is more about getting an understanding of a wave and of the way to behave in a lineup. The more that you paddle out, the better you will get. It’s also a good idea to stick to the same break so that you can gain familiarity with one lineup and understand the way that the wave breaks.

While you might be exhausted from paddling, it’s a very good idea to do a few simple things to recover from your long workout. First, make sure to drink tons of water. Although you’re probably not dripping sweat in the ocean, your body is losing tons of water. After hydrating, do some simple stretches to loosen up your tight muscles. This will alleviate soreness the next day and keep your body ready for your next surf session.

Surfing is a beautiful dance with the ocean, and your decision to become a part of this sport is something that you won’t regret. Try not to think of it as a competition, but as something you do to make yourself happy. Phil Edwards once said, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun”. Even if you’re just laying on your board and enjoying the weather, you’re still harmonizing with the ocean and soaking up some Vitamin D. Now that you’re prepared for your first surf session – get out there!

Sophia Cancelmo

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Contributing Author