How Surfing is Done: A Complete Overview for Beginners

Surfing appears graceful and straightforward from the shore, but is actually a complex skill. Learning proper surfing technique is key for catching waves and developing as a surfer. Here is a comprehensive guide on the fundamentals of how surfing is done from paddle out to ride.

Paddling Out

Paddling out through waves to reach the lineup is the first challenge:

  • Identify rip currents or channel breaks to paddle out easily
  • Time your entry to avoid oncoming set waves
  • Duck dive under smaller waves by plunging the nose of the board underwater
  • Push the board forward and dive down holding the rails as waves pass overhead

Paddling fitness helps conquer challenging surf to reach better breaks.

Sitting on the Board

Once outside, you’ll spend time sitting on your board waiting for waves:

  • Sit near the board’s sweet spot about 1/3 back from the nose
  • Place one foot on the tail of the board for balance
  • Keep your body perpendicular to the stringer line
  • Arch your back to lift the nose and prevent drag

Proper sitting position helps you pivot quickly and generates speed.

Catching the Wave

Catching waves with proper timing and technique is key:

  • Spot an approaching swell and turn to face the beach
  • Begin paddling forward with the wave to generate speed
  • Arch your back raising the nose and pushing down on the tail
  • Pop up to your feet in one swift move as the board glides down the wave

Timing your takeoff andpop up is crucial to catching and riding waves.

Standing Up

Popping up from prone to standing is the most critical technique to master:

  • Place your hands flat on the deck near the board’s center point
  • In one explosive motion, push your torso up and swing your rear foot forward
  • Land with knees bent in an athletic surf stance centered on the board
  • Stand perpendicular to the stringer line and distribute weight evenly

A proper solid pop up sets you up for good wave riding.

Riding Down the Line

Once standing, it’s time to ride the wave:

  • Look over your front shoulder down the line to see the breaking wave
  • Bend knees and loosen ankles to find balance
  • Shift weight to your back foot to turn right, front foot to go left
  • Use the wave’s face to gain speed for maneuvers
  • Absorb bumps by bending knees and keeping body relaxed

Ride down the line til the wave closes out or becomes too soft.

Turning the Board

Turns are how you traverse the wave and generate speed:

  • Initiate turns by shifting weight onto your front foot for a heelside turn
  • Press down on the toeside rail to pivot into a toeside turn
  • Use your lower body, head and eyes through the maneuvers
  • Carve to trim across the face or snap to whip the tail loose

Turns allow you to harness the wave’s power and have fun surfing!

Getting Tubed

Getting barreled or tubed occurs when you ride inside the curl of the wave:

  • Angle your takeoff to position for the barrel
  • Stay low and centered on the board to maximize speed
  • Press down on the rails to stay tucked behind the curtain
  • Keep eyes forward until you see the exit approaching
  • Lean back and kick out the back of the board to escape

Riding inside barrels is considered the pinnacle of surfing achievement.

Wiping Out

Falling off your board and going for a tumble is part of surfing:

  • Relax your body to prevent injuries
  • Cover your head with your arms as you freefall
  • Angle slightly sideways to avoid landing flat on impact
  • Surface, grab your leash, board, and take a deep breath
  • Swim away from approaching waves until safe

Learn to fall safely and stay calm if you wipeout.

Exiting the Water

Finally, knowing how to properly exit the surf is important:

  • Paddle in through channels not directly against shorebreak
  • Prone out before waves break and bodysurf yourself in
  • Protect your head if caught in big whitewater
  • Hold your board upright carried under your arm
  • Rinse off with fresh water and apply sunscreen

Paddle in carefully and exit the water safely.

With practice, these fundamental skills will become fluid allowing you to progress as a surfer. Mastering how surfing is done takes time, but leads to a lifetime of wave-riding enjoyment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Learning to Surf

New surfers have many questions when first attempting this exciting yet challenging sport. Here are answers to common beginner FAQs.

What is the easiest way to stand up on a surfboard?

The ideal pop up uses an explosive upward jump with hands under chest, then swinging back foot forward to a low athletic stance. Practice pop ups on land first before trying in water.

Why do I keep sliding off the back of my board?

Sliding off the back is common. Position further forward on the board and keep more weight on your front foot to avoid this. Arching your back also helps.

How can I duck dive more easily under big waves?

Approach waves head on, grab both rails about 1/3 back, pivot the nose down forcefully, push the board under while diving down. It takes much practice.

How do I know which waves to go for?

Look for smooth well-formed swell lines without chop that have already broken further outside. Go for waves with enough push but not closing out too fast.

Is it better to learn on longboards or shortboards?

Longboards 8-10 feet are best when first starting out. The extra float, volume and stability helps master basics before moving to shorter boards.

How can I tell if conditions are safe for my skill level?

Assess if waves are high, fast or powerful beyond your comfort zone. Avoid large surf or strong rips if new to surfing. Speak to locals or lifeguards for advice.

Why do my feet slip when trying to stand up?

Wax your board thoroughly for maximum grip, especially the tail section. Bend knees more when popping up and land with weight centered over the board.

How do I get in shape for surfing?

Paddle training, swimming, yoga, and full-body functional fitness are best to build endurance and strength for surfing. Also simply spend more time out in the water.

Learning to surf takes perseverance. But sticking with proper technique will get you up riding waves in no time!

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