Beginner Surfer Q&A June 26 2017
As a surf instructor, I’m asked a lot of questions. Even though I meet people from all over the world, most of these questions are the same. Some of you haven’t quite committed to the world of surfing, so your queries are full of uncertainty, while others have taken the first step, but want more details on a variety of topics.
I absolutely love answering these questions, so I compiled a list of the most popular ones, just for you!
Q: “I’m older, can I still learn how to surf?”
A: Yes! You can learn to surf at any age, actually. Although you may think surfing is a sport best left to the groms (young kids), it’s a sport anyone can master. There’s a catch, though. As an adult, there are three things that can slow your learning curve: 1. Past injuries, 2. Inflexibility, 3. Mindset. Keep reading, because I’ll delve into how you can move past these adult road bumps.
Q: “I have an old injury, how will that affect my surfing?”
A: First, check with your doctor before you dive into this sport and make sure it’s safe for you to proceed. Old injuries can make us less flexible or cause discomfort during high-impact sports. With an instructor, you can learn how to modify your surf lesson to suit your needs. For example, an old back or knee injury may slow your pop-up. The solution? A bigger board and smaller waves. This will give you more time to get to your feet without stressing the injury.
Q: “What if I’m not athletic or good at balancing?”
A: Surfing will make you athletic and balanced! You’ll just have to be patient and work hard. Flexibility, core strength and shoulder power play a huge role during surfing. Most beginners don’t start with these qualities and that’s okay. With proper instruction and practice, you’ll get there. Because surfing isn’t a sport you can do consistently, you’ll have to put in some land work to progress during those flat or incredibly stormy days. Circuit workouts targeting your abs and shoulders (push-ups, surf pop-ups, planks, etc.) will address your strength needs. Yoga or deep-seated stretches will improve your flexibility and balance.
Q: “Are there sharks here?”
A: Yes, there are sharks in this area, as well as sea turtles, dolphins, manatees and several other amazing sea creatures! The most common types of sharks around here are blacktip, hammerhead, bonnethead, lemon, and bull sharks. Contrary to “Jaws” and every other media-related shark propaganda, sharks would rather avoid people altogether. Our surf instructors will teach you a few safety tips during your lesson to ensure you always have a safe session, such as avoiding surfing through “bait pods” (large schools of fish), paddling in areas near fishermen, and understanding shark body language (a shark cruising through will swim differently than one that’s hunting). Encounters/bites are extremely rare in this area and can be avoided using the tips above.
Q: “What does surf season look like in Florida and when is the best time to go out?”
A: This is a question requiring a several-layer answer, but I’ll keep it short. The surf season in Florida is late fall through early spring. Winter produces the most consistent swells, as the Atlantic is bustling with storm activity. Don’t despair if you’re a summer fan, though. Hurricane season runs August through October and can provide some of the largest waves in Northeast Florida. Water temperatures vary throughout the year here, dropping as low as 50 degrees in the dead of winter and jumping into the 70s and 80s during summer. Florida’s surf is unique and because our waves break on sandbars, the waves vary in form and size. Learning to surf here will make you a better surfer in the long-run, as you’ll experience various swells and learn to work with different and challenging conditions.
Q: “When will I be good at surfing?”
A: There’s a huge learning curve in the beginning stages of surfing. Everyone is a little different, but it boils down to persistency. The surfer who paddles out as often as possible, even when conditions aren’t ideal, will be the better surfer at the end of the day. Consistency, practice and patience are key. In my opinion, surfing is 50 percent physical (meaning your athletic ability and strength) and 50 percent mindset (your outlook, including determination and positivity). You’re not only dealing with your own elements, but nature’s elements. How you perceive your surf session affects your learning rate. If you paddle out and have a rough session, but glean a learning experience, you’ll be more likely to succeed next time. If you’re easily frustrated, it will hinder your progress. Also, the more you practice, the better surfing shape you’ll be in. In terms of time, though, the average learner masters the basics (paddling out, reading and catching waves) in anywhere from six months to a year, depending on consistency.
Q: “I’ve taken a lesson, now what?”
A: One lesson is great for an introduction, but there are several levels and techniques you can gain from additional lessons. More time in the water, especially with an instructor, eliminates the frustrating aspects of the learning phase. Because I taught myself to surf, I understand the grueling process of learning alone. I wish I could go back in time and get the six months I wasted floundering around and sign up for a surf series instead! It’s worth the investment. We offer a five-lesson surf series and a 10-lesson surf series. The series really encourages consistency and allows guidance. If you prefer self-learning, I encourage you to rent different types of boards and figure out what works best for you before you invest in buying one.
If you have more questions, call our surf school and sign up for a private lesson or class
Lineup Vibes: Know Your Surf Etiquette February 24 2016
Ah, etiquette. It’s something we’re all obligated to learn, whether we’re at the dinner table, behind the wheel, or navigating a crowded surf lineup. We learn many forms of etiquette at a ripe, young age. It’s second nature (for most of us) to place our napkins on our laps at restaurant and sweetly open doors for elderly folks.
But when it comes to surfing, etiquette is often learned the hard way. Because all surfers begin their ocean cavorting at different ages and stages of life, there’s no classroom opportunity to learn gently.
Fortunately for those of you perusing this blog, I’ve done all the physical research and squished surfing etiquette into five rules to follow in the lineup. Keep in mind, just because you’re a seasoned surfer doesn’t mean you understand these rules. I’m sure we’ve all been disgusted by that 40-year-old dude who chews sloppily with his mouth open (like ew, man, didn’t your mother teach you manners!?). That example holds for the 40-year-old dude snaking waves from other surfers out of pure ignorance.
So without further ado, I encourage you, beginner or expert, to read, master, and live these rules.
1. Don’t Drop in on Another Surfer
This is the ultimate, golden rule! I see this happen all of the time, especially during a good swell in North Florida. Everyone is starving for that perfect peak, and they’ll do anything to catch it, even at the expense of other surfers.
“Dropping in” simply explained means surfing in front of another person. Not only is this rude, it’s obtrusive and potentially dangerous. Always respect right of way!
For example, if you are paddling for a wave breaking to the right, and your buddy “Bob” is on your left paddling for it, you need to yield and let Bob shred the gnar. Similarly, if you’re plugging into a wave breaking left, and your girl “Sally” is paddling to the right of you, yield and let her drop in uninterrupted.
Look both ways before you drop in on a wave, and if you accidentally find yourself dropping in on someone else, pull out and let them go. Chances are, there will be other waves, and you’ll avoid getting yelled at. Or punched.
2. The Surfer Closest to the Peak has Right-Of-Way
Piggybacking off the first rule is rule number two. The “peak” is the part of the wave that breaks first, and the surfer closest to it has right-of-way.
This rule is a tad controversial, since everyone surfs on different boards. Longboards, due to size and buoyancy, tend to catch waves sooner than shortboards. Because of this unfair advantage, peak proximity determines right-of-way, which levels the playing field between surfers cruising on logs and surfers shredding on shorties.
A shortboarder (at the peak) and a longboarder (at the shoulder) can still surf the same wave, as long as the longboarder references Rule #1 and moves out of the shortboarder’s path if necessary.
There are a few smaller rules to this one. If surfers split a peak, they both have right-of-way because they will be going opposite directions. If two surfers find they are surfing towards each other, they should both either straighten their boards, or kick out. Overall, Rule #2 can be summarized as learning to be nice and give another surfer the opportunity to get the most out of their ride.
3. Paddling Surfer Yields to Surfer Riding Wave
Even if you’re ridiculously excited to jump into the water at a fun break, you should never paddle straight out towards the lineup. Instead, paddle on the outside of the lineup and then once you’re out, you can paddle parallel to find your spot at the break. If you follow this rule, you won’t be in the way of someone paddling into or surfing a wave. You won’t end up being a speedbump for a set of fiberglass fins either, which is always a plus.
In Florida, we deal with a lot of sandbar breaks, and because sandbars tend to shift over time, you’ll inevitably be in someone’s way at some point. If this happens, make sure you paddle BEHIND the surfer, that way you don’t mess up his/her opportunity to ride the wave.
4. Don’t Ditch Your Board
Hey, we all get intimidated sometimes by heavy, angry set waves. But that does not mean you can chuck your board away. You’re not the only one out in the water and it’s important you remember that. Leashes aren’t always reliable either, so don’t depend on one to keep your surfboard in check.
If you’re new to surfing, you’ll need to learn how to duck-dive (pushing your shortboard under the wave) or turtle roll (flipping your longboard upside down as the wave breaks). But until you learn how to control your board, avoid lineups where other surfers can get injured if you lose control.
And being a seasoned surfer doesn’t mean you’re in total control, either. Sometimes you’ll be victim of a less-experienced surfer, and you're still just as likely to tumble in a rough set. Avoid paddling in-front or behind anyone, and give yourself a comfortable amount of distance in case anything goes wrong.
A little advice: Sometimes you can time wave sets, so watch the break a little bit before you paddle out. Hopefully your timing will be perfect, and you won’t have to bother with rough conditions. But this is Florida, not Hawaii, so learn to handle your board anyway.
5. Don’t be a Snake
Snakes are gross. Snakes are unwanted. Snakes are...okay, you get it. I don’t just mean the reptile, either. I’m talking about the guys and gals in the lineup that knowingly get in your way and steal a wave in total disregard of the rules. Snakes are usually experienced surfers who think they’ve earned the right to mark their territory and claim whatever pretty little peak comes their way.
You can’t teach snakes to be nice, but you can avoid becoming one. Don’t steal someone’s wave just because they did it to you. And don’t terrorize beginner surfers. Surfing is a learning experience, and it’s also an enlightening one. There will always be someone a little better than you, so don’t get a big head, because that kind of attitude will come back to bite you.
In conclusion, knowing and respecting these rules will enhance your experience in the lineup. Not only will you avoid injury (self-induced or otherwise), you will display respect and etiquette out in the water. You’ll make more friends, less enemies, and chances are, you’ll learn a lot more.