When they are first learning to surf, newbie surfers make it harder than it should be to catching waves. If this sounds like you, don't worry!
Read on newbie surfer. With a little practice and the right board, you'll have your wave count up in no time.
Mo' Foam is Mo' Betta
When you're a beginner, your surfboard should have a lot of foam so it floats easily. The faster you paddle, the more likely you are to catch waves. If you don't have a board with a lot of foam, consider getting one. It will go a long way in keeping you motivated as you learn to surf. Try a board in the 8 foot range to help build your surfing skills and confidence.
The Basics of Paddling a Surfboard
Begin by finding the sweet spot on your surfboard. Lie down on the surfboard with the middle of your body lining up with the middle of the board. Finding the sweet spot on your board will make the surfboard lay flat on the surface of the water.
Your feet should be closer to the tail of the surfboard than your head is to the nose of the surfboard. Leaving too much nose space will cause the board to push the water and prevents the board from easily gliding on top of the surface of the water.
Additionally, not enough space at the nose will cause a nosedive and will result in you falling head over heels into the bottom of the wave. Practice is the most important factor in determining where your body is best situated on the board. Most of all, have patience with yourself as learn how to paddle.
Paddling Out Into the Lineup
Keep your knees and feet together as you paddle. Keep your head up and your back arched. Once you're positioned, you can begin to paddle. Cup your hands and make long, freestyle swimming strokes with your arms. Complete each stroke and repeat the same paddling process.
Surfing Broken Waves
If you haven't gotten your confidence up just yet, check for broken waves to help build your skills. You may feel silly at first, but there is no shame in catching broken waves. They are great learning tools and we've all been there.
To catch broken waves, stay closer to shore and just turn around as the whitewater is coming at you. Stay on your stomach and get to your feet as fast as possible. Remember to stay low. Ride the wave as long as possible, but don't ride it up onto the sand as you can damage the board.
Paddling to Catch a Wave
When padding to catch the wave, do everything you would do when padding into the lineup.
As you paddle to catch a wave and the wave gets closer to you, you will feel a lift in the tails as the tail of the board starts to move up the face of the wave. At the same time, you will notice the nose of the board angled slightly downward. This means, you are about to catch a wave!
Once the wave reaches the tail of your surfboard, paddle twice as fast. Surfers call paddling in double timea burst paddle. If the tide is high or the waves are soft, you'll need to paddle harder. If you paddle too far beyond the breaking wave, you'll also notice more resistance.
Reading the Waves
Being able to read the waves allows you to determine which ones are the best for surfing. Look to the horizon to find the wave and identify the tallest part of it. Look to see if the sides of the waves slope down from the peak. If they do, this is a good wave to catch.
Waves that break in both directions are called "A-Frames". Unlike A-Frames, many waves only break to the left or to the right.
Where to Catch Your First Wave
After learning how to paddle out and read the waves, it's finally time to catch one! When you are a beginner, the smaller, less perfect waves will be the easiest for you to catch, as few surfers will be padding for them.
Stay closer to shore to catch as many waves as you can. Wave count is the most important factor when you learning how to surf.
The goal is to catch the wave before it breaks and glide into the wave, ideally without feeling any turbulence and avoiding bouncing around in the white water (the broken wave)
Getting Your Timing and Positioning Right
When it comes to catching a wave, you also have to learn the right timing. As you get faster with paddling, your ability to catch a wave will improve. Catching a wave at the right time means that you have to estimate where it will break.
As you paddle to get into the wave, you will want the broken part of the wave on one side of you and the open face on the other side of you. Paddle as hard as you can so that you essentially throw yourself down the face of the wave. Check your position in relationship to the wave as you paddle by looking over your shoulder as you paddle and make adjustments as the wave gets closer to you. You will get better at adjusting your position to the wave the more you catch waves.
Be sure to continue to paddle hard as you look over your shoulder as this will keep your padding speed up and will enable you to catch the wave. Even a slight pause in paddling can result in a missed wave.
Waiting for the Wave
If you are lucky the wave will come to you. Many surfers are not as lucky and need to paddle to where the waves are breaking. You will have to learn to judge how long it will take you to get to the wave from your current position. This too, comes with practice. If haven't notice by now, learning to surf takes practice and patience.
Once you can estimate your speed and where you think the wave will break, start paddling to catch waves a little further from your resting position in the lineup. When you get to the spot, turn your surfboard so its nose faces the beach.
Try to not stop paddling as the wave is coming toward you. Lie flat on the surfboard as the wave approaches. Make sure that the center of your body is on the board's sweet spot. Paddle faster as the wave gets closer to you.
You will know you caught the wave when you feel a lift or glide. At this point you are riding the wave. Let the wave do the work from here.
It all comes with practice, so keep up with paddling! Time yourself or have a friend do it for you. Remember, just a fraction of a second could make a big difference in catching the best wave.
The more you practice paddling, reading waves and timing yourself, the better you will get at catching all types of waves and the more fun you will have learning to surf.