Thinking About Surf Lessons? Here’s What You Need To Know First.

January 5, 2021

If you are curious about surfing but don’t know where to start, surf lessons are an excellent idea. Although it’s fun and exhilarating, surfing without any training can be risky. 

Surf lessons allow you to shorten your learning curve and protect you from injury.

Your instructor will teach you proper technique and etiquette right from the start. That’s easier than retraining yourself later after you’ve developed bad habits by learning the wrong approach!

But before you run right out and sign up for surf lessons, there are a few things you should know. I’ve worked with surf coaches and I’ve logged a fair number of hours in the water. In this article, I’ll share some of what has been most helpful to me.

6 Things to Know Before Your First Surf Lesson

It’s exciting to sign up for surf lessons. I’m still excited every time I take to the water! I’m sure you’re excited, and maybe a bit nervous too. It might help to know what to expect ahead of time. 

These tips will make your experience more enjoyable and accelerate your learning curve.

1. Maintain a positive attitude

It’s natural to be nervous when starting something new. This advice may seem obvious, but try to relax and not take yourself too seriously. 

You’ll enjoy your surf lessons way more with a can-do attitude. Let go of the ego and try and go with the flow, and let the ocean be your teacher. 

Release any frustrations, apprehensions or fears. Focus on living in the moment. Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly, and definitely don’t worry about wiping out. That’s going to happen … and it’s okay!

It’s all part of the learning process.

2. Become familiar with rip currents and how to navigate them

There’s no doubt you’ll encounter rip currents when surfing. For your own safety, it’s important to know what rip currents are and how to navigate them.

According to Earth Networks, “A rip current is a localized current that flows away from the shoreline towards the ocean.” There’s your science lesson for the day. And here’s why you need to know that. These powerful currents move at speeds of 8 feet per second.

That’s faster than an Olympic swimmer!

Thankfully, rip currents are pretty easy to spot.

Look for a noticeable break in the wave pattern. The water looks flat in comparison to the waves breaking on either side. Rip currents may appear more opaque, cloudier, or muddier than the surrounding water. They may look lighter or darker as well. On the surface, rips may be foamy or carrying floating debris away from shore.

The number one rule about rips is don’t panic if you get caught in one. 

Remember, although they’ll pull you away from the shore, they will not pull you underwater. To escape this current, simply swim parallel to the shore. Once free of this narrow channel, you can swim to shore.

Avoid trying to swim against a riptide. You’ll tire yourself out and put yourself at risk. Remain calm while navigating out of this powerful current. 

If you can’t seem to escape it, remain calm and afloat, and wave for assistance from a lifeguard or instructor.

3. Remember to warm up

It’s a good idea to prepare your body before surfing. If you hop in the water before your body is slightly warmed up, you may run the risk of being sidelined by pulling or tearing a muscle.

I’m not talking lengthy prep, just a quick warm-up to get the mind and body connected to what you are about to do.

Here’s a 5-minute pre-surf warm-up routine you may want to try.

4. Eat and drink properly

What you eat and drink before each surf lesson is important. Drink lots of water so you’re hydrated before you surf. Being hydrated and well fueled is essential to your performance since you’ll be out in the sun burning a lot of energy.

Avoid eating a heavy meal and avoid oily or greasy fast food. You don’t want to overeat, but you need to consume sufficient calories to prevent exhaustion.

I love to start my morning with fresh fruit, a handful of cashews or a banana and peanut butter smoothie. You’ll need to experiment to see what sticks with you and doesn’t weigh you down.

5. Protect your skin

About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s UV radiation.

To avoid risks like this, it’s best to remember to protect your skin by applying sunscreen. It’ll help you prevent sunburn and minimize your chances of skin cancer. Be sure to apply it at least 15 minutes before you arrive at the beach so it has time to stick.

I choose sunscreens that have natural materials and avoid chemicals that are harmful to humans, reefs and wildlife. This is an incredibly important topic for the health of ourselves and our oceans, so please do your research and support brands that prioritize ocean and human health. 

6. Dress properly

It’s natural to want to wear your cutest bikini for your first surf lesson, but it’s more important to be practical, especially as a newbie. 

Depending on the water temperature and where you’re taking your surf lesson, you may or may not need a wetsuit. That doesn’t mean you need to purchase one, your surf school may provide them if needed. Check with your instructor or coach ahead of time. 

Do your best to avoid being distracted by your apparel, so you can focus on your surfing.

Go for something form fitting, yet comfortable. This prevents you from pulling up your bottoms or trying to keep your top on. A simple one-piece or a high-waisted bottom with a supportive bikini top are good choices. Add a standard rash guard or tee shirt with a snug fit.

The rash guard will provide additional protection from the sun as well. Plus, it prevents skin irritation caused by contact with the wax on your board.

Remember to avoid a half-zip rash guard. It may be cute, but by the end of the session, its zipper’s teeth will be filled with wax from your board and it may be painful when you are pushing down on the board. 

Hit the Waves!

Now that you’ve read my 6 tips for taking a surf lesson, I hope you are ready to hit the waves and avoid any unpleasant surprises! 

Relax and have fun. Be patient. With practice, you’ll feel comfortable riding waves and in my humble opinion, surfing will change your life.

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