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Learning to surf Pt I

To follow is a series of articles on learning to surf. Whilst there is no substitute for “water time” there are a few hints and tips that can help you on your journey to becoming a competant surfer.

The first in this series of articles is about preparation. That means your equipment, your fitness, your goals and your choice of location.

Whilst the water is there for you to have fun in and enjoy, you will get more out of a session if you have made some basic preparations.


It may be that for the first few times you choose to rent a surf board. This is probably a wise choice, as buying surfboards isn’t a particularly cheap process, and while you are learning it can be quite easy to ding or damage a board. Rental beginner boards are usually reasonably tough to take a few knocks and can easily be fixed up once you have returned it, unless its snapped! The guys and gals from the rental shops will probably advise that certainly for your first few times at the very least, you choose the biggest board thats manageable for you. This is because the bigger the board, the more stable it will be for you, and whilst you are learning it takes a while for your balance to get up to speed.

If you do decide that you want to buy a board, again it is suggested that you start with a board that isnt going to cost a great deal so that when rather than if you damage it, it will either be easy to repair, or not so expensive that you need to be overly cautious about it. Second hand boards are great for this, they are usually cheap and often are a bit bruised already, meaning you dont need to worry about the board and can focus on what you are doing.

If you have made up your mind that you want to buy a board for the long haul, I recommend (if you are from or surf near devon or cornwall) The Woolacombe bay surf shop has a great selection of boards, but more importantly they know what they are talking about, and can advise you on the best board for your size / shape / goal. http://www.baysurfshop.com/. If you are not close enough to be able to pop in, then either check out your local surf shop, make sure if you do that they take into consideration your height, your weight and your experience before advising you on a board to suit. Unfortunatly not all surf shops will be looking to sell you the best board, rather the one with the best markup, so be a bit carefull and ensure they are asking the right questions.

If you fancy buying a board online, and feel you know what you want, then try extremepie.

The next important bit of kit you will need, unless you are planning to surf somewhere nice and warm, is a decent wetsuit.

The most important thing to get right on a wetsuit is the fit. You can buy the most expensive suit in the world, and if it doesnt fit right you will be cold and uncomfortable, which will ultimately mean you wont stay in the water for very long.

Again if you are in the south west, its recommended to check out the bay surf shop, but if at all possible, wherever you go, try the suit on. All the manufacturors make their suits very slightly anatomically different, and one size might fit like a glove, and the other be baggy like an old bin bag! Try to forget the brand to start with and focus on a good fit. Here at Sunset Surf we have reviewed a number of different suits, to help you create a shortlist, check out our reviews section here for details.

Fitness! A tricky one this. The bottom line is to get surf fit, you need to surf! There is no substitute for water time, however there are things you can to do help. Ensure that you have a good level of cardio fitness. The best way to do this if you can’t get out to surf, is to swim. Swimming excersizes a significant number of the muscles required for surfing, and will help your overall cardio too. You also will benefit from a strong core, as well as good upperbody and back strength for all that paddling. Its important to note that its also beneficial to be nice and flexible too. I’ll say it again, surf surf surf, to get surf fit… even if its flat, paddle around the bay. For professional help! Try this book > Fit to Surf: The Surfer’s Guide to Strength and Conditioning or if you prefer to watch something on your TV, try this DVD > Surf Stronger 2 – The Surfer’s Workout DVD – Volume 2 – Core Training with Serena Brooke

Finally for this part of the series, your goals and location.

Its important to set yourself small goals so that you can see yourself progress, even if it is slowly to start wtih. I would always suggest that your first goal you always have is to enjoy yourself. Sometimes it might be really frustrating, sometimes the wind might be blowing so hard you can’t even get out the back, but remember, enjoy youself and think that every session you are a little fitter than you were before you went out. Remember, whatever goals you set make sure they are attainable, otherwise you will just get more frustrated when you dont meet them!

Location, chat to the locals, and the guys in your local surf shop if you can, but make sure that where you go to start with is a good beach for beginners. Thats not to say it likely wont get good waves, but it will mean that you are less likely to be caught in a really bad rip, or injure yourself if its tight between lots of rocks or reef.

The Stormriders guides are very good, with a great rating system to help you find local beaches that are suitable for your current ability level, check the latest one out click this link > The Stormrider Surf Guide Europe or for the world guild click this link > The World Stormrider Guide: v. 3

Thats it for part 1, be sure to check out part 2 where we will be talking about surf ettiquette, beginner techniques and lessons – will they help?

If you wish to be alerted when part 2 is available click here and enter your details along with the subject “Subscribe to the guide!”

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