Now, being a lad from Manchester (not that well known for its point breaks) surfing at a young age happened when it could and it was only in later life that I returned to the sport, quickly rekindling the passion and adrenaline. I’m not sure that anyone writing about surfing will ever do it justice; the only advise I could ever give anyone is to ‘try it’, even if it is just once, just try it and you will straight away know why so many people live for that one perfect wave (which will never comes as we all think the next one will be much better).
So rather than preach to you what a great sport surfing is I thought I would throw together a little ‘how to’ guide hopefully answering any questions you might have.
First of all there are numerous health benefits of surfing; Cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, muscle endurance, core stability to name a few but the biggest benefit for me is the mental benefits. For the best of my knowledge when man searched for the holy grail or the fountain of youth it wasn’t for fame nor wealth but for the feeling of infinity and well being… they could have saved themselves a lot of money and time if they had just hit the waves. The ocean has a fantastic way of washing the stress away, as you paddle out and head for the pick up point only two thinks really matter… you and the wave. It is this feeling that gives surfers their laid back approach to life allowing everything to be put in perspective. And if this isn’t enough to sway you, it gives you a different action packed adrenaline rush every time.
Beginners Guide to Surf Equipment
The board – When you are learning make sure you get a big board, the bigger the better. The type of board you will need is a longboard or a Malibu, something over 9ft and as long as you adhere to this rule you will pretty much have instant success.
Softboard or “Foamies” are very buoyant and stable, as the name suggests made of foam and are soft, which means they won’t hurt as much if it hits you in the head but they can tear your hands up with friction and rubbing.
Pop-outs – another good beginner board, made with a foam core and a fibreglass outer, they have plenty of float and more realistic to a custom surfboard, but a lot cheaper.
Wetsuits – are a must, not only will it keep you warm but it will reduce soreness on the knees and reduce impact damage to the body. (get a full wetsuit to learn in, a shortie does not protect your knees and these soon get sore when your learning).
Gloves – as a learner they can be a massive help to reduce the soreness of your hands as you are constantly holding on to the rails of your board.
Rash Vests – worn with board shorts in hot climates to stop the board rubbing and irritating your skin or under a wetsuit to give extra warmth and again reduce skin irritation.
Leash – this keeps your board attached to you, firstly it stops it washing up on the beach every time you fall off, it stops it hitting other people when you fall off and more importantly it allows you to get your board back to you if you get into trouble.
And that’s it, that’s all you need, your ready to go…
Learn to surf
The biggest question asked ‘Do I need lessons or can I teach myself’, the answer is simple really, of course you can teach yourself, but it will take longer and it is no way near as much fun. But if you are going to teach yourself ensure you do not go alone. The ocean is a dangerous place with under currents and rips so never surf alone. My advice would be to get some lessons off an approved surf school, you will meet people who are in the same position as you which will help and encourage. All this being said… below are some hints and tips to the different stages of surfing which will help you to learn.
Where to surf – Pick the right spot as a wave isn’t just a wave. Surf breaks have a massive variation, get the wrong break and you could end up on the wrong side of a wave beating. Avoid breaks that break over rock or coral but select the nice beach breaks that have a nice 2-4ft average wave. Once you have found your ideal spot, stand in the water; see if there are any nasty rocks or undercurrents and if all clear you’re ready to go. Practice in the white water not green (white water is where the wave has already broken, green water is the unbroken wave)
Paddling – This isn’t necessary to paddle out around the break when you first start to learn how to surf, you are far better to walk your board out until you are at waist height then hop on your board ready for a wave. Position your body so that your feet only just hang off the end of the board; lift your head and your shoulders up so you can see where you are going. When your chosen wave is about five meters away, start to paddle; stretch your arms out one after another pulling the water back to give propulsion (your upper body should remain still). When you feel the wave grab you and the board stick in a double handed paddle. You should now be ready to stand up.
Standing up – Firstly you will need to know you leading foot, the best way to determine this is which foot do you put in a pair of pants first. If it is your left foot then this would go in the forward position and this is called the ‘natural stance’ and if it is the right foot forward is a goofy foot stance. Now we have established your lead foot and without sounding very ‘Point Break’, have a practise on dry land first. Place your hands on the rails of the surf board at shoulder height, push up with your arms (this steadies the board while you pop up into the standing position) and in one motion jump / stand onto both feet at the same time, this is called the ‘pop up’. The biggest mistake that people make when doing the pop up is the stand straight up, stay low with bent knees pointing your shoulders forward and you will have greater success at staying on the board. Once you have got the hang of popping up it’s time to get out there on the water to have a go.
1) Paddle for a wave – just as you feel the wave momentum take the surfboard faster then your paddle, you are ready to pop up.
2) With your hands firmly grasping each rail (side of the surfboard) push up quickly.
3) At the same time as pushing your arms up, pull your knees quickly up to your chest.
4) Place your feet firmly on your board, one foot near the tail and one foot just above the midpoint of the board.
5) Remember not to stand up straight, bend your knees staying low, shoulders forward and your surfing wooohooooo.
It’s that easy!!! -Well I wish it was, it could take you weeks to stand up, some on their first go; but I think within 6 hours everyone can stand up on their board while surfing in white water.
Good luck to all and remember, the wave doesn’t have to be massive nor do you have to be the world’s best surfer to have an awsome time
Some Questions I have been asked
Surfing in the UK sounds ok in summer, but what about the rest of the year?
Let’s not beat around the bush, surfing in the UK is cold in the summer and freezing in the winter, but it just adds to the feel good factor when you get out. It’s like natural swimming, you don’t just get the benefit of the swim, it’s the blood circulating around your body, the tingling from head to toe that drags you back to the pond rather than the baths. The only advice is to dress appropriately (6mm wetsuit in the winter as a minimum and gloves, boots and a hood are definite advisories) and have warm clothes to get into.
I don’t live near the coast so need to plan ahead, how will I know where to find the best waves?
Planning ahead will save you time but will not guarantee you waves.
Use a website like http://www.a1surf.com/surfreports/ to check your surf, but more importantly choose your beginner surf well. Either book lessons or choose a beach that has a life guard, for top beginner surf spots check http://www.e4s.co.uk/docs/topsurfspots.htm .
Where’s your favourite UK spot for surfing?
My favourite local surf spot is to head down to Abersoch, I can be there in 1hr30mins, the main “spots” are Porth Neigwl (“Hell’s Mouth”) and Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) when one is bad the other is generally good, generally smaller surf than Cornwall but still great fun. The Village of Abersoch is a fantastic place for food, beers and a great night, well set up for tourism there are places to stay from campsites to hotels, well worth a visit.
Remember surfing is not just a sport it’s a way of life and if you have any great surf tips, questions or great surf spots please list them below along with what ability it suits, thank you, and I we will look forward to your replies.
The Freeride Project
Mapping the Extreme Sports Spots of the World