The thrill and excitement of riding a huge wave or watching someone do it is unparalleled. Surfing is a hugely popular sport especially among the young. When they watch surfers weave through the waves, people assume that surfing is just a walk in the park. As easy as veteran surfers may make it look like, surfing is a sport that requires agility, dexterity and most importantly, the correct technique.
As beginners, it is easy to forget this fact. Caught up in the excitement to ride the big waves, many beginners make some common surfing mistakes. Getting the wrong board, not paddling correctly or underestimating the size of the waves and currents are some of the common mistakes that most beginners tend to make. Unfortunately, the ocean can be a hard taskmaster, as it is unpredictable and often fraught with dangers. So, it is best to be equipped with some knowledge of how to avoid these common beginner surfing mistakes before you head out.
One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is choosing the wrong size of surfboard. When learning to surf, you need a bigger board which needs to be as stable and buoyant as possible. This cannot be achieved with smaller and narrower surfboards that may be fast and easy-to turn but require experience to handle. As opposed to this, longboards which are 8½ feet long are easier for paddling and wave catching but often very slow.
Funboards are a cross between the longboard and shortboards. They are easy to maneuver as compared to a longboard and more buoyant than a shortboard. As a beginner a funboard or a Mini-Mal (wider than a funboard) are great options.
Most of the time beginners tend to rush into the ocean without checking the conditions like the wave, size, and rip currents. If the waves are too big and the conditions are extremely crunchy then, as a beginner, you are sure to get mashed up. Moreover, it is important to watch out for rocks and reefs too, when surfing.
The best way to avoid this, is by learning to surf on softer, gentler waves that are not higher than three feet. Veteran surfers refer to these fat-breaking waves as “mushy” or “crumbly.” However, for a beginner it is best to test and make mistakes on smaller waves, then venture out onto the big waves.
Paddling is one of the most important aspects of surfing that a beginner absolutely needs to get right. Unfortunately, it is a little tricky to get this right. While paddling if you find your nose diving under the water along with your board, then chances are that you are lying too far forward on the board. Shuffle back a little but ensure that you do not go back a long way, else the wave will pass underneath you when you are lying too far back on the board.
Another common mistake that surfing beginners make while paddling, is not paddling fast enough, paddling too early, or too soon, or stopping too soon. This can make you miss out the wave completely.
While paddling, it is important to match the wave’s speed by increasing the power in the stroke. Pull firmly through the water, while still keeping the stroke as long as possible. Keep the body as immobilized as possible. After this, increase the stroke rate. Paddling at the right time is also important. If you are too early then you will miss the wave, and if you are too late then you will get hit by the wave sooner than you are ready.
The take-off or pop-up which involves standing on the board after paddling is a difficult task for many. While you may have tried it many times on land, you do tend to make mistakes when in water. One of the errors that people instinctively make is when they try to get up on their knees. While this may work well for longboards and white foam, in the long run, it can be a bad surfing habit that can be really hard to break. Moreover, once you are on clean waves this technique will probably not work.
Practice on dry land and in water until it becomes reflex and you do not even have to think before doing it.
“Bend your legs and not your back.” Even after hearing your instructor yell it out to you a thousand times, you are bound to do it. Balance is the key to surfing, and to achieve balance the center of gravity needs to be lowered. Unfortunately, poor pop-up technique can cause the back to be bent while keeping the knees straight. Sometimes, if the pop-up is correct, surfers make the mistake of not lifting their shoulders and head fast enough, thus causing an over balance.
Bending the knees causes the center of gravity to be lowered. Bring your feet underneath the body while trying to stand up. This is a more stable position.
If you are falling off and slipping more often, then it is probably because the surfboard is not waxed properly.
Wax your board properly, ensuring that there are no gaps in the places. If the board is too slippery it could also be because too much wax has accumulated on the board. Use a wax comb to remove it.
If you are tipping off a lot, especially when a good wave is near, then it could be because you are standing far too back on the board. Incorrect feet placement when either the foot is too far back or in front from the stringer, can cause you to tip back. Sometimes, frequent tipping off could be attributed to bad posture.
Allow both feet to cross the stringer. Try and improve the pop-up technique. If you are falling off far too often then lower the body closer to the water, to get closer to the center of gravity. This will help you stay balanced.
As a beginner, we instinctively look down at our feet (to ensure whether we are standing correctly) or at the board (to check whether it is tipping back or in front). while surfing, it is essential to look at the wave or where you want to go. This is because the head is heavy and when we look down instead of straight ahead, the center of gravity will be altered.
This is a common mistake that even advanced surfing learners are bound to make. The trick is to condition yourself to focus on the wave and where you are going instead of looking down.
Although surfing is an individual sport there are bound to be a lot many surfers out there. Some would be beginners while others would be veteran surfers. It is important to be polite and obey the code of conduct of surfing when you are out there. Wait your turn in the lineup and do not catch in a wave that another surfer is already riding. Avoid getting in the way of surfing veterans who probably do not have the time to handle your beginner woes. These little tips will just help avoid mishaps, and help you grow and improve as a surfer.