We’ve started to see it in car commercials, in clothing stores, on billboards and even on television. There’s no denying that surfing has eased its way into the mainstream in recent years, and for good reason too. Every surfer can tell you, there’s just something different about the sport – it’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s exciting and it’s peaceful at the same time.
If you live on the ocean, or are just headed there for vacation in 2014, there’s no doubt you should try the sport of surfing. But before you rent a board and jump into the lineup, there are some simple rules you should follow to ensure your first experience on a surfboard is both fun and safe for you and everyone else in the water.
After working three years as a surf instructor and traveling the world as a surfer for ten, I’ve noticed the following tips are often forgotten during instruction, and they’re some of the most important lessons you need to know, whether you’re a novice or an expert.
Be Respectful of the Locals
Wherever you learn to surf, it’s likely there are a handful of people who live in the area and surf there often – every surf spot is somebody’s “home break.” As a beginner, it’s important to understand that locals have the right of way. It’s likely they’re more experienced at wave riding than you, so if you’re both paddling for an upcoming wave, allow them to take the wave, and you can have the following one. Staying on good terms with the locals, especially if you’re in a foreign country, will save you a lot of hassle in and out of the water.
Learn What’s Under the Water
Every wave is different – there are rights, lefts, point breaks, beach breaks, reef breaks and an incredible amount of different wave scenarios. A soft beach break is ideal for learning to surf because the ocean floor is made of sand instead of rocks or reef. Ask around the area you’re visiting for the best place to learn, and you’ll likely be directed to a sandy-bottom beach break.
Find a Spot to Yourself
Nobody likes to see a beginner surfer on a heavy longboard barreling toward them in the water. Find a spot away from the crowd to practice your skills. Steering clear of other surfers (especially other beginners) will keep you and everyone else in the water safe.
Beginners typically learn on large longboards that are great for stability but are tough to maneuver. You don’t want to get smacked in the head by that unwieldy longboard either, so always keep it alongside or behind your body when it’s not underneath you. Never place the board between your body and the breaking wave, or it could very likely be swept into you and cause a serious injury.
Know About Take-Offs
Examine the wave you’re about to ride before you hop on your board and paddle out. Some waves break right, some break left, and some have peaks that break in both directions. The rider taking off closest to the curl of the wave (where it s breaking) gets the wave every time. Only if the rider falls or pulls off the top of the wave can the next closest rider to the curl take off.
Know Your Limits
If the waves look like a picture you’ve seen in a magazine, it’s probably not a good day to learn. Ideally, you want to learn on small, soft conditions – not a strong, tall, barreling wave. The days that aren’t great for seasoned surfers are often the best ones for honing your new skills on those long rides all the way to the shore.
Don’t Be Afraid
You’ve probably seen the movie Jaws or watched a few episodes on Shark Week, but that’s no reason to stay out of the water. Learning to surf could be the best decision you make this year, and it could turn out to be a hobby that you enjoy for the rest of your life.
Whether you’re fortunate enough to live right near the ocean or will be buying a plane ticket to get to your learn-to-surf destination in 2014, you won’t regret trying your hand at what most enthusiasts argue is the best sport in the world.
And if you’re looking to cross more than one adventure off your bucket list in the new year, check out some of these big adventures for 2014. From climbing a volcano in Mexico to diving in the Maldives and cycling through Africa, there’s a new and exciting activity waiting for you in every corner of the globe, so get out there and make 2014 the most incredible year yet.