11 mistakes you make as a beginner surfer
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11 mistakes you make as a beginner surfer (and how to fix them)

There are a whole bunch of mistakes that can easily be made when learning how to surf. Been there, done that! The good thing about making mistakes is that it’s actually one of the best ways to learn what to do better in the future. We list some of the most common mistakes that beginner surfers make – and what you should do to fix them!

If you’re new to surfing, you may have noticed that it’s not as easy as standing up on a board and catching waves right off the bat. There are many unwritten rules to follow and things that you should and shouldn't do. It may feel a bit overwhelming at times to keep up, especially when you’re new, but you’re far from alone! There are beginner mistakes in every sport, surfing is no exception. To make the start of your surfing journey a bit easier, we’ll share the most common mistakes that beginner surfers make and some tips on how to avoid them. 

After reading this post, please don’t be discouraged if you’re guilty of any of the mistakes listed below. Making mistakes is a part of the learning process and it helps us become better surfers. Keep in mind, that even experienced surfers make mistakes too!

Mistake number 5: Heading out in unknown conditions

Problem: Knowing which conditions to surf in isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for an inexperienced beginner. The ocean can be frightening and you shouldn't underestimate its power. When you don't know the conditions you’ll find it hard to pick the right time for you to surf and you can even get yourself into bad situations if you paddle out into unknown water. By not knowing the conditions, you’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk. For example, you can get caught in a rip current and all of a sudden notice that you have drifted far from shore. So learning the surf conditions is important not just for the good times, but also to keep yourself safe. 

How to fix it: The best way to learn how to read the ocean and know which conditions that’s good for you to paddle out in is to learn from an instructor at a surf school. The instructor knows where to go and what to do to keep you safe. Once you start going without an instructor, asking more experienced friends for advice and checking the surf forecast are the next steps to take. Being a good swimmer is also important since it will help you manage uncomfortable situations. When getting into a rip current, paddling parallel to the shore is the best way to get out safely.

Check out this post on how to read the surf forecast!

Mistake number 6: Bad pop-up timing

Problem: The pop-up is a crucial part of surfing and one of the absolute first things you learn as a beginner. But it’s tricky! You need to know the momentum of the wave to find that perfect moment to get up on the board. As a beginner, you’ll mistime many waves and fall off your board a lot before you get a sense of when to stand up.

How to fix it: In surfing, timing really is everything! So when you are doing your pop-ups, make a mental note for yourself to not get up too quickly (or too late!). When you see the wave you want to ride, start to paddle with efficiency and speed. When you feel that the wave lifts you up, give it one or two more paddle strokes and do your pop-up. Remember to not rush this movement! Keep in mind that it will require a lot of practice before you’ll get it right, so be gentle with yourself. 

Mistake number 7: Rail grabbing

Problem: Gabbing the rails, the sides of your surfboard, is a common mistake amongst beginner surfers. When performing the pop-up, beginners tend to hold onto the rails for stability, but this usually ends up in an even more unsteady pop-up with a wipe-out as a result. 

How to fix it: When starting the pop-up, position your hands right under your chest. This may feel a bit unstable at first, but it will feel more and more comfortable as you practise. If you want to know more about how to do the pop-up, check out this post where we show you how to do it step by step.

Mistake number 10: Not playing by the rules

Problem: You may haven't thought about it, but there are quite a few rules in the ocean that need to be followed when surfing around other people. These rules aren't like in basketball or hockey, it’s called surf etiquette and can be different depending on where you surf. Breaking these rules can lead to making enemies in the water, which none of us wants to get.

How to fix it: As a beginner, it will take a while before you start surfing in the lineup and need to adapt to all the rules in the water. Your surf teacher will tell you about the dos and don'ts, such as not to snake or drop in. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about respecting the other surfers and apologizing when you’re making a mistake.

If you’re interested in learning the basic rules of surf etiquette and ethics, check out this post.

Mistake number 11: Having a shitty attitude

Problem: Learning to surf is a long journey, and yes, it can be really frustrating at times. It isn’t uncommon among beginners to believe that they will be great surfers in no time and then get disappointed and annoyed when that doesn't happen. 

How to fix it: At the end of the day, we’re all out here surfing because we enjoy it and have an amazing time in the ocean. Keeping a good attitude is key for you to enjoy your progress, it may be slow but feeling grumpy about that won’t make it go any faster. Enjoy every moment of it and don't give up!

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