The answer to the question ‘Is surfing hard?’ is a resounding yes. However, it is absolutely possible to learn surfing, at any age! The below points elaborate on why it is hard to learn surfing, and offer insights and advice on how to make it easier.
Over the last few years, it seems like everyone wants to learn how to surf. The pandemic taught us that gyms, fitness centers, and other indoor sports leave us at the mercy of closures and shut downs.
Outdoor sports like surfing, however, are usually always available to us, making them that much more valuable and enticing.
“Is surfing hard?’ is a question on a lot of people’s minds nowadays. Especially those interested in learning this enchanting sport.
Because I’ve taught surf lessons for 6 years, and surfed for twice that amount of time, I feel fairly qualified to answer that question. Here are the reasons surfing is hard, and how to make it easier:
- 1. Is surfing hard? Probably, if you don’t have the right surf equipment.
- 2. Is surfing hard? Yes, if you aren’t surfing in the right conditions.
- 3. You need to spend more time in the water.
- 4. You need to take a lesson.
- 5. Is surfing hard? Maybe you need to work on your fitness outside the water.
- 6. Is surfing hard? You might be using your knees to pop up.
- 7. You’re grabbing the rails when you pop up.
- 8. You’re not starting with the basics.
- 9. Is surfing hard for you? Crowds may be inhibiting your learning.
- 10.You’re afraid of falling.
- Is surfing hard? Final thoughts
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1. Is surfing hard? Probably, if you don’t have the right surf equipment.
Not having the right equipment is the #1 issue I’ve seen new surfers struggle with. Usually when people are struggling to learn to surf, it is because their surfboard is too small!
It’s easy to see a few videos or photos of pro surfers effortlessly riding a tiny shortboard, and to think to yourself, “Hey, I could do that!” and then to go and buy a board that’s far too small to learn on.
Avoid this temptation! It’s always better to catch waves on a larger board than to catch no waves on a shortboard.
As a general rule, you want to begin your surfing journey on a board that is 8-10 feet long, foam, and 22-24 inches wide. The bigger platform you have to stand on, the more stability you will have, making it much easier to stand up on your board.
2. Is surfing hard? Yes, if you aren’t surfing in the right conditions.
Surfing is an unusual sport in that we surfers are totally dependent on the conditions of the ocean. There are a few general things that really affect the quality of your surf session, no matter what level of surfer you are:
Most surf breaks are heavily affected by the tides. If you’re not surfing at the right tide for your break, the waves may not be cooperative. Check websites like Surfline to see what tides your break works best on.
There are two types of wind that surfers usually are concerned about: offshore and onshore winds.
Offshore is when the wind blows from the shore, towards the waves. Offshore winds typically make the waves much nicer.
Onshore winds come from the sea, and blow towards the shore. Onshore winds usually make the surf choppy, and heavy onshore winds can make the waves unsurfable.
As a general rule, onshore winds tend to pick up late morning, blow harder through midday, and relent in the late afternoon/evening. The best time to surf is usually when winds are light/nonexistent, or offshore.
You need waves to surf! As a beginner, you certainly don’t need big waves, but you do need something. Again, websites like Surfline will let you know if there will be waves at your local break.
Ideal Beginner Conditions
The tide, wind, and swell are all necessary components of surfing that surfers of all levels should consider.
For an absolute beginner, the best condition is going to be in gentle, waist deep water, at a medium tide, with a small swell. In these conditions, you’ll be much better suited to catch long, white water waves that will give you plenty of time to stand up, and work on your stance/balance.
3. You need to spend more time in the water.
When it comes to surfing, water time is everything. This sport has a long and difficult learning curve, and the only way to make surfing easier is with more surfing.
Surfing at a consistent break, where you can surf every single day, can infinitely shorten the amount of time it takes to progress.I also recommend surfing somewhere that is good for beginners! Check out my guides to the best beginner surf beaches in Portugal, best beginner surf breaks in California, and the best beginner surf breaks in Costa Rica to see some good places to learn, and log those water hours.
4. You need to take a lesson.
This is advice I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self. Seriously, taking a lesson makes learning to surf So. Much. Easier. It took me months to get to the point people in my surf school get to in one week. If you’re wondering “Is surfing hard?”, sign up for a lesson at your local beach and it will be so much easier.
5. Is surfing hard? Maybe you need to work on your fitness outside the water.
This is probably the biggest and only way you can progress your surfing outside of the water. Surfing is an incredibly physically demanding sport, and a higher level of fitness can only help you.
While there are a myriad of workouts that can help your surfing progress, a few key things you can work on are core strength, hip flexibility, and upper body strength for paddle power.
6. Is surfing hard? You might be using your knees to pop up.
This is one of the most common mistakes new surfers make, and it makes surfing that much more difficult to learn. When popping up, it is best to avoid going to your knees. Jump straight up to your feet instead, using your hands and feet as a platform.
7. You’re grabbing the rails when you pop up.
This mistake in new surfers is less talked about than using your knees, but is equally important. When popping up, if you instinctively grab your rails, you will have much less stability than if you plant your hands flat on the board, under your armpits. Try to avoid grabbing the rails(sides) of your surfboard when learning to surf.This is one of those important beginner surf tips I wish someone had taught me!
8. You’re not starting with the basics.
If you watch surfing videos, or experienced surfers at your home break, you’ll see that they surf farther out from the shore, and ride ‘green’ waves on the shoulder, surfing parallel to the shore. While this is the goal of most surfers, it is a difficult way to start out. It is best to start your surfing journey in ‘white water waves’ where you can still touch the bottom, and ride perpendicular to the shore.
9. Is surfing hard for you? Crowds may be inhibiting your learning.
When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to go to the best, most crowded spot on the entire beach. When you’re just starting out, it’s ideal to pick a spot where you have a little more space to yourself and don’t need to worry as much about other surfers around you.If you do have to surf somewhere crowded, take a look at the rules of surfing so you have a better idea of how to navigate the surfing lineup.
10.You’re afraid of falling.
The only thing guaranteed in surfing, is that you will fall! It’s best to embrace that early on, and learn how to fall safely, and away from your board. The safest way to fall is away from your surfboard, and to wrap your arms around your head when you resurface to avoid a fin to head collision.
Is surfing hard? Final thoughts
Surfing is one of the hardest sports to learn and progress at- especially if you’re learning as an adult! My best advice to make surfing easier is to log those water hours, don’t be too hard on yourself, and if you haven’t already- sign up for a surf lesson at your local surf break!