A Beginner's Guide to Surfing

December 10, 2015

Surfing is undeniably a huge part of Australian culture thanks an abundance of awesome beaches and sparkling clear water. If you're keen to join in the fun and make the most living the great southern land, here's everything you need to know to get into surfing.

What do you need to start surfing?

Surfboard

When it comes to surfboards for beginners, the bigger the better. A larger surfboard will provide a solid base and give you more control than a smaller board. The surfboard should be taller than you are, six to ten inches taller as a minimum.

You also want to choose a board with good thickness. A thicker board, such as a soft board, will provide more buoyancy and make catching waves much easier.

Make sure your surfboard is complete with a leg rope. You don't want to be paddling after your surfboard in the ocean after falling off a wave.

Wetsuit

Depending on where you live, your choice of wetsuit will change dramatically. Aside from those living in warm climates, a full-length arm and leg wetsuit is the preferred option. During warmer months, you may opt for a short arm / long leg wetsuit or even a short arm / short leg option. If it's super hot, you may only need a rashy and some board shorts.

Wetsuits come if difference thicknesses, so it's worth considering the climate you live in and when you are likely to do the majority of your surfing - early morning vs. day time, summer vs. winter.

The thickness of the wetsuit material is measured in mm's and represents the thickness of the torso area and the extremities. This is presented as a 3/2 for example - 3mm is the thickness of the wetsuit material around the torso, 2mm is the thickness of the wetsuit material around the arms and legs. Wetsuits can go up to a 6/5 if the conditions call for it.

The torso area is thicker to keep your core body temperature up, while the arms and legs are thinner to allow for greater movement.

A 3/2 or 4/3 wetsuit option is suitable for most Australian beaches. But if you're interested in learning more about how to choose a wetsuit, check out our video with Nathan from Ocean & Earth.

SURF4

Surf Wax

Surfwax is applied to the face of the surfboard, providing some traction to stop you from slipping off the board. The hardness of the wax should depend on the climate and water temperature. Thankfully most companies will have the recommended temperature printed on the packaging. If the wax is too hard, it won't provide enough grip, and if the wax is too soft, it is likely to melt and slip off the board.

Surfing tips for beginners

The wind

The first thing you want to check is the wind strength and direction. For beginners, little to no wind is preferred. These conditions will produce smooth waves without the chop that is difficult to navigate.

An onshore wind blows in from the sea, pushing down on the waves and destroying them. If the wind is onshore, save your session for another day.

Conversely, an offshore wind blows in from the land, creating perfectly formed waves that are clean and hold up ever so slightly, making them easier to catch.

SURF2

The swell

The swell will dictate the size and power of the waves on offer.

Most weather sites will have a swell rating scale that provides information on the quality of the swell and how powerful it is. A high rating equals greater size and power of waves.

The period of the swell is also important. The longer the swell period the greater chance you have of catching a wave. This is typically measured in seconds, and anything above seven seconds is considered worthy of a session.

Knowing the swell direction and the orientation of your local beach will give you a further indication of whether the surf is good or not. If the beach is open, you want the swell direction coming straight at the shore, whereas if the beach is located on a cove or sheltered in some way, an angled swell direction is preferred.

Swell height is the final piece of information to take note of. A swell height of between two to three feet is perfect for a beginner.

The basics of standing up on a surfboard

Positioning on the surfboard

In order to ride that wave for as long as possible, you want to position yourself correctly on the surfboard. Too far forward and the nose will dive, dunking you straight in the water. Too far back and you won't have enough momentum to get onto the face of the wave.

Position yourself in the middle of the surfboard with a nice wide stance and as low as possible. This position will create a wide centre of gravity and give you greater control over the surfboard.

Paddle as hard as you can

As the wave approaches, you need to put in 15 or so big strokes to ensure you get on the wave. Creating this momentum will not only ensure you get on the face of the wave, it will make it easier to stand up as you will be travelling at a similar speed to the wave.

Standing up

Now comes the time to sink or swim... standing up. Once you have built your momentum and sitting perfectly on the face of the wave, it's time to stand up. Put your hands on the rails of the board (the sides of the board) and push yourself up.

A beginner may choose to just go to their knees first before standing up. This will make the progression easier and not require as much force from your upper body. This approach will also enable you to get used to the balance required and build you confidence.


To help you find the best local waves, here is a list of Australia's best beaches!


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