Surf’s Up: What You Need to Know Before Riding the Waves

June 11, 2014

Some summer days it seems like everyone’s gone surfing, but taking those first steps on a board can be pretty darn daunting. Even if you’re pretty fit and active.

Whether the goal is a colada-sippin’ surf vacation or to ride the gnarliest waves in the world, there are a few basics every aspiring wave rider should know.

If surfing were easy, everyone would do it. But the thrill of catching that first wave is more than worth the wait.

Besides the obvious bonuses, surfing guarantees a kick-ass workout, no matter how much of a beginner you may be. From all-out paddling to the most basic pop up, surfers cash in on high-intensity aerobic exercise plus some solid lower-intensity anaerobic benefits. The kicker? Surf enough, and balance and coordination may quickly follow suit.

The Pre-surf warm-up and stretching is an important part of your surfing routine. If you are going to regularly surf and want to be ready for the waves, make sure you do not sustain any unnecessary injury while in the water, especially if it’s cold. Without going into detail, just make sure you stretch all the main muscle groups and don’t enter the water cold.

Before selling your soul to the nearest surf shop, remember not all the newest gear is necessary for your first run. Most surf towns and resorts offer board and wet suit rentals, but if that’s not an option, consider going for used items if cash is tight. For a beginner, a longboard is key.

The length provides balance, helping you feel more stable, whether you’re paddling, sitting, or standing. Shorter boards are meant more for carving and turning on the waves and aren’t as stable, so they’re harder to use. Make sure you board is properly waxed and your leg rope is attached to your back leg at the ankle.


Much like the pop up, there’s an art to getting past the breaking waves. To complete the duckdive, drive the board under the breaking wave and harness the tube’s energy to shoot you out past the break waves.

The alternative: becoming shark bait under the crashing white water. An encounter with Jaws is actually pretty unlikely, but that doesn’t mean surfing’s risk-free.

Rip currents, dangerous weather conditions, and jagged rocks and reefs aren’t to be messed with.

And of course, every surfer should be a solid swimmer, know the basic surfing maneuvers, and be able to safely surface after falling off the board.

For beginners, the most common roadblock is cardio and upper body conditioning, and learning how to time a wave. But don’t get frustrated — surfing ain’t easy. Keep at it, stay positive, and don’t forget to have fun!