You’ve had your first surf lesson. You loved it. Maybe a second one. But you probably quite quickly realised that surf lessons only take you so far and really what you need is practice. Surfing is fun and rewarding but it’s one of these things that you won’t pick up in a lesson or two. You just need to get out there. Luckily, practice has never been more fun as it involves waves and being outdoors.
So you bought a board (after you read our guide to buying your first surfboard, of course…). And, now it’s time to go out for the first session without your trusted surf coach.
Admittedly, it can be a bit intimidating at first, when you go out there on your own. All of as sudden there’s no one to tell you where to go out and how far to go out and where to catch the waves.
Here are a few tips for your post surf lesson practice:
What are the best beginner conditions?
Good conditions are half the battle. If you are a beginner 1-2ft are ideal conditions for you. 3ft can be ok too if you are just catching waves in the whitewash. A lot of beaches work best on mid tide – which means the tide is half way between low and high tide. If the tide is too low, it’s very shallow in the whitewash and you end up catching ankle-biters and get stuck in the sand if it’s a very low tide. If the tide is too high, sometimes the waves are not even breaking until the reach the shore and you don’t have any whitewash to practice or only very short rides.
How do I know if the conditions are going to be any good?
Especially if you live far from the beach, it’s advisable to check the surf report before you get to the beach. You don’t want to get there and then there are massive waves or it’s flat altogether or you end up going there at the wrong tide. Have a look at sites like Coastalwatch or Swellnet for beach cams, the latest surf report and tides. Sometimes they read a bit cryptic at first. Check out some Surf Report Crash Course 1 and part 2 if you get confused. Also bear in mind, their reports are usually geared towards more advanced surfers, when they say it’s pumping and best conditions, it usually means biggish waves and probably not so good if you are new to the surfing thing. On the other hand, sometimes when they say forget surfing, it’s only 1-2ft , it’s actually a perfect training ground for you.
How do I find the best spot?
Make sure you watch the line-up for a little bit and ask yourself a few questions:
- Where is it really busy? Try to not go there. You would not practice driving a car in peak hour traffic, would you?
- Where are the really good surfers? Is there a beginner spot?
- How big is it? Sometimes it’s a bit hard to tell but watch other surfers. Judging by their size you can tell wave size (more on wave size >>) Usually, one end of the beach is littler than the other depending on the swell direction.
- Where are the sand banks and rips (look out for the yellow signs, they are usually a good indicator)? In between rips you usually find sandbanks with breaking waves.
- Where are crumbly whitewash waves? You don’t want to practice in dumpy waves unless you really like nose-diving.
Even reading the conditions, takes a bit of practice. Sometimes it’s a bit easier to see all these things if you are a bit elevated so watch from a hill. And don’t be shy, if there are lifeguards around or other surfers just ask them where the best beginner spot is.
What do I need to look out for in the water?
Especially if you have a brand new board (and not a massive softie like in the surf schools), you might be surprised by the difference at first. So just to get used to it, it’s good to walk out to waist deep water and turn around and catch broken waves on your belly just as you would have done it in your first lesson. Once you are used to the different feel and stable riding it on your belly, try your pop-ups again and again and again and again…While in the water, especially on busy city beaches, always make sure you look out for others. Before you try to catch a wave standing or not standing make sure there is no one else on the wave already and make sure you there’s no one in front of you. Especially, when you don’t have the steering bit quite under control yet.
Time to get out?
If you get tired and start falling off after you’ve been standing heaps, just get out for a break or call it an end for the day. Chances are that you won’t make any more progress when you are tired and you’ll only get frustrated.Another reason to get out, might be changing conditions. E.g. tides starting to change. Sometimes waves get smaller while you are out there, sometimes bigger. If it gets bigger and you are out of your comfort zone, get out of the water. You don’t have to proof yourself to anyone. Just do what feels right to you.
Good luck aspiring gidgets. You can do it. It sounds more complicated than it is. A little bit of practice and it will be like second nature soon. Just remember to enjoy every wave…that’s what counts after all.
PS always feel free to get in touch Claudia@nullvenusgoesgidget.com if you have any surf questions.