There’s nothing like the thrill of sliding down the front of your first wave with just a board under your feet, but we wouldn’t tell you, as a beginner surfer, that it comes easy. Similar to riding a bike or playing guitar for the first time, learning how to surf can be a challenge and wipeouts are a part of the game—but every toss will be worth that first great wave.
Location is Key - If you’re not sure where to find waves as a beginner surfer, ask around your local community. Pick a beach with easy, small, and rolling waves for more mellow rides. Here Linda Mar is a beginner-friendly beach.
Scout the Waves - If it’s firing, don’t go out! Scout the beaches—either online at surfline.com or do a driveby— for wave heights and conditions. Once you’ve chosen a beach with some laid-back vibes, watch the waves & time the sets from the sand to determine when to jump in. Charge in-between the sets of larger waves. If you’re unsure of timing, watch other surfers. Once you’ve made it in the water and past the break, look to see where the other surfers are positioned. Even when your surf skills are EPIC and advance beyond that of a beginner surfer, you’ll continue to watch the waves before jumping in for a session.
Pick a Landmark - It’s common for surfers to drift up and down the beach. It all depends on the current, so pick a landmark on the beach to help you stay even with where you want to be in the lineup. The best place to be is on the outside, where the waves are breaking, or on the inside shoulder (to the side). Line yourself up with the landmark and repeatedly check-in to make sure you’re in the right spot.
Don’t Learn by Yourself - No matter how easy you think it looks, never, ever approach surfing by yourself. Get an experienced friend to teach you, go to a surf camp, or join a local surf club (like SF Surf Club) in order to avoid injuring yourself and others, or even putting your life in danger.
Pick a Good Teacher - If you decide to take some surf lessons, research the teacher in advance. Make sure they are experienced and have good reviews. Sometimes, a good teacher won’t just teach you how to surf, but they’ll inspire you and help you love surfing.
Right of Way - The surfer closest to the highest point of the wave (the peak) has the right of way on the wave. This means that if you are catching a wave on the right-hand side of its peak and a surfer to the left of you intends to catch the same wave, this surfer has priority and you must get out of their way.