There are two basic elements to master before you start surfing - the paddle and the pop. Learning one isn't much good without learning the other, so be sure to get both techniques locked in.
How To Paddle
To position yourself in the best spot to catch a ride in anything more than waist-deep water, you'll need to paddle your board whilst lying on top.
The correct place to lie to reduce drag and move through the swell most efficiently is in the centre of your board. The nose of your board should be around 5 cm out the water - lie too far back and this distance will increase. Lie too far forwards and your nose will plummet.
Arch your back to reduce weight on the board and get in the best position for paddling. Your head and shoulders can weigh around 20 kg on the board, so arching your back is essential. Imagine there is a football under your chin, resting on the board to maintain the position.
Keep your body steady in the middle of the board, and paddle perpendicular to the wave facing the beach, until you have fully caught the wave.
How To Pop
The most important part of paddling is not to stop until you have fully caught the wave - if in doubt do 2 extra paddles, then pop up.
- To pop from a lying position to standing, first plant your hands to either side of your pectorals. (It is a common mistake to place your hands either side of the board, this creates drag in the water and will make it harder to catch a wave).
- Push yourself up into a press up position.
- Bring what will be your back foot forwards, until it is in line with your other knee.
- Slide your front foot forward in between your hands.
- Keep both hands planted on the board, until your feet are in position and stable.
- Raise your hands and stand, keeping your knees bent. Your back foot should be at 90 degrees to the direction of your board, and your front foot at 45 degrees.
Make sure you keep looking where you are going immediately after popping up, to avoid falling away to either side, and you are up and surfing!
The best advice we can give on how to progress on from this point?
Get an instructor to show you! Reading up before you get out in the water is a great idea, but there is no substitute for having a knowledgeable, experienced instructor there to show you first hand and give specific pointers based on your technique.
Learn the Basics of Surfing Beach Etiquette
Part of learning how to surf is learning beach etiquette, first and foremost on the list of surfing faux pas - don't 'drop in'.
A sure-fire way to identify yourself as a beginner on the beach is 'dropping in' and stealing someone else's wave. A great wave can really only be ridden properly by one surfer as there is only space for one in the best, most powerful area of the wave.
The surfer nearest the peak of the wave has priority, so look to either side when paddling to catch a ride. If anyone is nearer the break than you, (and so will have a longer ride), leave them to it and wait for the next one.
Snakeing is deliberately paddling around someone to get the best spot in the break and pinching their wave, obviously not a way to make yourself popular with the surf town locals, and definitely to be avoided.
Finally just make sure you pick a surf spot which suits your ability - you don't need to head straight for Hawaii on your first trip, best find a beach suitable for beginners or you just run the risk of disrupting the more experienced surfers, and struggling to progress yourself. So where to go?