If you're ready to give surfing a go, where do you begin? Enthusiasm for taking up the sport is just the start. Integrate the following five tips from Rory Brown, Charleston, SC lifestyle writer and nomadic surfer, so you can focus on getting the right equipment, the best safety education, and the correct attitude to succeed.
1. Understanding your capabilities
The first thing to consider is how strong you can swim and how far you will be able to swim. Paddling on a heavy board in the open ocean isn't the same as using a rubber flotation device to keep yourself afloat at the local pool. Like all sports, there is a component of risk, and the sea is a lot more unpredictable than a football pitch or tennis court. When you have gained significant board riding experience, you still will not venture past your limits of freestyle swimming capability. Do some laps in a pool or near the shore to get a feel for your swimming fitness. Remember that waves and currents can place more stress on your abilities.
2. Get the right gear
It is important to get the proper gear from the start so that your surfing technique can quickly progress. The main barrier to progress is beginning on an unsuitable board. Talk to the staff at the board shop to select the right one for you. This has much to do with your height, strength, and prior experience.
Additionally, study and seek advice from other surfers about the best products and accessories such as board fins, ankle leashes (leg-ropes) and board wax, which is suitable for your local annual water temperatures. A cold water wax may be needed in winter and is essential for giving you grip on a wet board. Wetsuits are also useful for more frigid waters; investigate what is typical for your local conditions.
3. Beginner's lessons and practicing
Beginners need an experienced surfer or trainer to show them the main skills required before taking to the water alone. Lessons and skills to learn include catching a wave, duck diving under big waves, paddling, positioning on the board, and much more. You will need to fine-tune and practice your technique extensively.
Another way of practicing that many beginners do is to stay in the shallow, white water area near the shore. Or they will seek out a quiet bay that may not be open to the larger swells. This allows them to learn to ride small waves at first. It is advisable to stay near, or on the edge of, the lifesaver swimming areas in case of trouble. Look for the flags at a patrolled, popular beach, and surf just outside of them.
4. Surfing etiquette
Surfing has some unwritten rules that ought to be remembered while out in the ocean with fellow surfers. The rules are simple concerning who has the right to surf a wave first. Generally, stick to one wave per rider, and everyone travels in the same direction while riding it: left to right or right to left.
Other general rules include respecting other board riders and being aware of swimmers at all times. Avoid the temptation of 'dropping-in' on another surfer who has begun riding their wave already. Once you have mastered the basics, you will become versed in manoeuvring the board to steer yourself away from trouble when catching waves. A final note here is, don't let go of your board when you roll over or dive under a wave. You may have a good leg-rope on, but it isn't safe or courteous to lose control of a large board while surfing.
5. Personal fitness
Surfing is a physically rigorous sport. You need to be strong, versatile, and have good endurance. The fitter you are, the longer you will be able to surf. The more body strength you have will give you more wave time! But don't worry, this will improve over time. Before you start surfing, you might like to find out how to do basic stretches and perhaps practice some cardio or strength exercises to get a head start.
Having the right gear will also help you get the most out of surfing at your level of fitness. A large, buoyant board will easily allow you to catch waves but may be harder to steer. Finding a balance here will help you to avoid injuries or excessive strain on your body.
Water sports, like surfing, are very pleasurable hobbies once you begin. Safety should always be at the back of your mind. On a final note, consider educating yourself about the local beach conditions in your area. Some preparation now can prevent mishaps later in the outdoors. The better you plan, the more fun you can have - you will be fit, have the right gear, and be in the right frame of mind. So get out there!
About Rory Brown
After spending the first 40 years of his life in the United States, Rory Brown decided to focus on the quality of life and began living internationally. He now spends his time in Lake Como, Italy, Sydney, Australia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Kauai, Hawaii. His appreciation for simple health food that embraces local traditions of excellence has earned him credit among farm-to-table communities everywhere he goes.
Rory Brown began his career as a technologist and has always focused on healthy lifestyle choices. His well-researched lifestyle writing has increasingly focused on living life to the fullest each day throughout the world.
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