If I got a dollar for everytime someone asked me that question, I would be pretty well off by now. Well, short answer is: no, not really. Really you can only teach yourself. Surfing is one of these things that comes with lots of practice and you only get heaps of practice if you enjoy being in the water. What I can do is give you some useful hints and tips and guide you along the way so you get confident enough to go out there on your own.
I’ve learnt a thing or two myself what troubles aspiring gidgets most at the start of their surf career. Besides, I still remember well enough the ups and downs of an apprentice surfer from my own experience.
Everyone can try to surf, but there is one basic pre-requisite before you even think trying. You MUST enjoy being in the water and feel comfortable in the water. That sounds like a no-brainer, does not it? Well, you would be surprised how often I hear: “I really want to try but I’m actually scared of waves.” Sorry, forget it.
Learning how to surf on a crowded beach like Bondi is tough. You need a thick skin, not just because of the bruises that are inevitable but also some insults you might hear if you accidently drop in on someone. A few tips to avoid bruises, insults or other people for that matter:
- Always, look both sides if anyone is already on the wave before you take off, STOP paddling. You don’t want to drop in. You annoy the shit out of other surfers if you do that.
- Having said that, it happens to the best of us, sometimes it’s just too late to pull out. If you happen to drop in, make sure you apologise (and mean it). Who can be pissed off with a girl who is sincerely sorry… (it helps if you are in a bikini I have to admit). If they yell at you, despite apologies, ignore it. That’s where the thick skin comes in handy.
- Don’t be in the way. I know, easier said than done. But there is nothing more annoying than having lots of beginners floating around where people actually want to surf. The answer to that problem. PADDLE WIDE. How do you paddle wide? Paddle out through the rip. It’s not easy to spot a rip (especially if you did not grow up on a beach). Best thing to figure that out is watching other surfers before you even get into the water. If you watch long enough, you’ll see that they catch the wave at a certain point and always paddle back out through the rip. So paddle out where everyone paddles out. Another sure sign of the rip is the yellow ‘beware of the rip’ sign. Whilst not recommended for swimmers, that’s where you get out easily and avoid those crashes. Also, after you catch a wave, paddle over to that rip again to paddle back out rather than just going straight back. That’s what ‘PADDLE WIDE’ means. I know it might seem the longer way at the time, but believe me, it’s not. It’s by far the most efficient and safest way to get back out.
The other thing my lovely learning gidget friends are concerned about is standing up on the board and I always give the same advice:
- First things first – you need to catch a wave before you can stand up. And catching a wave involves paddling. Countless times, I’ve seen beginners doing a couple of half arse strokes and jumping up despite not even being close to catching that wave. So forget the standing up bit for a second and a get a feel for catching a wave. Paddle as hard as you can and see what it feels like when that wave picks you up (amaaaazing).
Some other hot tips to fast track your surf career:
- Don’t be too hard to yourself – don’t go straight back up to the line up where all the other surfers are. Play around in the whitewash. No one’s expecting you to catch those waves out the back with all the others. Don’t go out in waves that feel too big for you just because you think you need to proof yourself. Trust your instinct and most importantly, have fun!!! The stand up part will come to you naturally eventually.
- Practice paddling – there is no way around it. Paddling is a big part of surfing. You’ll see once you’ve got your paddle fitness up, it’s much easier to catch waves. In general, you’ll be more confident as you can get around (and out of the way) faster too which helps you avoid those nasty crashes.
- Go out in shit waves – let’s face it, you don’t need perfect waves when you just start surfing. You can practice paddling and catching waves in shit conditions too but there are less people. I used to go out practice every day no matter the conditions (not that I knew any better).
I hope I have not completely put you off now, it takes a long time to get the hang of it but it’s worth every bruise and every wipe out. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever learnt, but at the same time the most rewarding.