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Beginner's Guide to Surfing

Steps to Surfing A Wave

1) Paddle out until you are outside (slightly beyond where the waves break) and position yourself so you are looking out into the ocean watching approaching swells and just beyond where the wave will first break or just to the side of it.

2) You see a swell approaching that you feel will form a wave and will break just past you and you turn the board calmly toward shore and lie down in the middle of the board, putting your chin on the mark that tells you you’re in the middle (we will discuss this mark later.)

4) Stroke hard four or five times to get the board moving.

5) When you feel the board start to move on its own power, push up and stand in your surfer sideways crouch. Make sure you are relaxed with ankles and knees flexed and arms out for balance.  Most important is that you and your feet are over the center line of the board.

6) Take a big breath and ride the wave in toward shore.


Notes on Paddling Out

Positioning on the surf board for paddling efficiently:

1.                  Laying on the surfboard find the position of balance on your board where the surfboard floats level.

2.                  If you are too far back, the submerged tail of your board creates drag and you lose efficiency. If you are too far forward your board will have water flowing over the top and you dig the front tip into the water.  Lay prone on your surfboard in the water and extend your arms out to either side. Adjust your body forward or back to make the board float very close to level.  Locate on the board at your chin this will be your mark and when your chin is over that mark when you are lay prone on the board you know the board is level.

3.                  Keep your feet together and begin an overhand crawl. Establish a slow deliberate rhythm and work your breathing pattern into the paddling rhythm.

4.                  Fully extend your arms and dig deep.

5.                  The smoother your paddling technique the less energy you will expend. For beginners try paddling two strokes and then glide a bit then two strokes again and then glide.

Observe the surf from the beach to time and plan your entry into the water:

1.      Watch the waves from the beach before you go out. Watch for where the waves are breaking.

2.      Also, watch for sets (the patterns of a big waves and smaller waves)

3.      Know when any lulls are going to happen and how long they might last so you can sneak out during them instead of fighting your way out through the set waves. Paddle out around the break and where the surfers are coming in on the waves.  Watch other surfers at the spot where you will surf, where they paddle out and how they time their go out in between sets. Watch them paddle they will paddle around the incoming waves where surfers are riding.

4.      Watch the foam on the surface and look where the foam moves out to sea.  These are channels where the incoming waves are smaller because the outflow water is neutralizing them.  These are usually good places to paddle out.

5.      Once out far enough then cut across to where the waves are breaking.

Paddling Out

1.      Go for nice, even, alternating strokes. When you have to get through the whitewater get up some speed and

2.      if it is small plow right through it and

3.      if it is a little bigger than raise your chest up with your arms so that the water passes between you and the board.


Here are others ways to go through White water.  Where we will be learning these will most likely not be necessary unless you want to practice them.


4.      if it is fairly big you can do a “Turtle” which is: just as the wave is about to hit you, roll over on your back (roll the board too), and pull the nose of the board down. Then roll back up.

5.      or if it is bigger still,  then you can do a “Duck-dive” by raising up on one knee, push the nose of the board under the wave and follow with your body. (This takes lots of practice).

6.      or you can “Bail” but Make sure no one is within 20-30' of you, get off your board, and dive for the bottom. Reserve this for emergencies only. You lose a great deal of distance this way, and you endanger people around you by letting go of your board.



Sitting on the board


1.                  Once you are out beyond where the waves break. You want to get some height so you can see the swells beginning to build up to become waves. 

2.                  Facing out toward the ocean you sit up, assisted by the push of your arms as your hands hold the sides of your board. 

3.                  Your legs squeeze slightly the side of the boards letting your legs dangle and act like loose paddles in the water. 

4.                  You may fall over on your first time, not being use to a chair that bobs and floats on water.  If you do tip over into the water just remain calm and you will soon realize that you float very well in salt water.  Having one hand gently on the board as you float will keep the board next to you. 

5.                  Your board will most likely have flipped over so the first thing is to flip the board back on its proper bottom side and then crawl back onto the board in a prone position.  

6.                  Then try to sit up on it again.  You will find the second time to be so much easier to keep your balance.


How the wave is able to catch you

1.      When you lie on your board, you want to be in the center. As you paddle, the nose should be about an inch or two above the water surface. Being in the middle of your board is critical to catching waves. Here’s why.

2.      If you’re too far back on your board and the tail is sunk in the water, it’s like putting on the brakes. When the wave comes up under you, it can’t push you forward, it just rolls on under you.

3.      You must be in the middle of your board, so that when a wave comes up from behind, it’ll want to tip the nose down under the water but, at that point you paddle hard, hitting with both arms, pushing the boards nose ahead of the wave and keeping the nose out of the water. If you keep the nose out, the board will be caught by the wave and your board will slide forward, and you’re taken for a ride.

4.      You’ll have to experiment a bit to find the middle of your board. Note where your chin is when you lay down. If the nose was too far up when a wave went under you, move forward a bit. If the nose sank under the water when you tried to catch the wave, back up a bit, an inch or two. Find the spot where you’re in the middle of your board and can control the tilt when a wave picks you up. You always lie down in that same spot.

Practicing how to Stand up (or Pop-up)

1.     A pop-up takes you from a lying prone position on your surfboard to a standing position. To practice a pop-up draw a surfboard in the sand, or tape one out on your floor or put your surfboard across your bed (simulates water and protects board. Just don't fall off your bed and onto your head!)

2.     First you have to figure out if you're goofy or regular foot. You may already know which foot you favor if you skateboard or water ski or snowboard. If you don't, stand with both feet together at attention and pretend to slide over a clean, waxed floor in your socks.  Which foot goes forward? That forward foot is the same foot you will have as your lead foot on a surfboard.  Left foot front is regular, and Right foot forward is goofy foot.

3.     You need to find your stance. A good stance is spreading your feet as wide as is comfortable. Both feet centered on the stringer (the line down the middle of the board) and the feet pointed at 90 deg to the stringer.

4.     Do not stand straight up on your surfboard. It will put your center of gravity so high you are sure to fall over fast. Create the lowest center of gravity possible by bending your knees.

5.     Your hands should stretch forward and backward along the line of the stringer to help stabilize you further. In order to stay centered on the board your feet and shoulders should stay centered over the surfboard's stringer.

6.     Now lay flat on your surfboard or pseudo surfboard taped out on the floor with your hands beside your waist like your going to do a pushup.

7.     Take your back foot and roll it over on your inside ankle.

8.     Push your chest off the board and start sliding both feet under your hip beneath you such that the feet end up along the midline of the board and each foot facing perpendicular across it.  

9.     Stay low on the board with knees flexed and feet flat on the board.

10. This should take you in one continuous motion from a prone position to both feet on the board . Try not to go on your knees in the middle of the pop-up, but instead to move onto your feet in one continuous movement.

11.  Keep practicing, your motion will become faster and more fluent. Make sure you feel stable and are standing in a crouched position with your feet over the center of the board (on the stringer) and your arms out stretched for balance.



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