Can You Teach Yourself to Surf?

Surfers have a certain stereotype: blonde hair, grew up on the beach, and live super relaxed lifestyle. To non-surfers it might seem like if you weren’t born a surfer then you’ll never be able to simply become one. But we’re here to tell you that this notion isn’t true. In fact, anyone can become a surfer, but how do you do it? Can you simply teach yourself to surf without surf coaching?

Can You Really Just Pick Up a Surfboard and Start Surfing?

Honestly, you can just pick up a surfboard and start surfing, but like many other sports, it’s probably a good idea to have at least a few lessons before just jumping in the deep end. Surf lessons and surf coaching can teach you the basics so that you feel confident that you know what you are doing.

In my personal opinion, there is nothing worse than showing up and feeling out of place. So, if you simply buy a surfboard and show up at your local beach to surf for the first time, you might find yourself feeling a bit self-conscious and confused. 

This isn’t to say everyone will feel this way, but your first surf experiences will probably be more successful and enjoyable if you understand some basics like how to prepare your surfboard properly, how to carry your surfboard, how to identify an appropriate place for beginner surfers, and how to paddle out into the water.

Take Time to Learn the Basics

How Surf Coaching or Lessons Can Help You

In addition to feeling prepared, it is important to learn good habits from the beginning in order to help your surf progression. For example, if you teach yourself to surf and start paddling with poor technique for months, your muscle memory will learn incorrect movements that will be harder to correct later on. 

Other examples of beginner mistakes include using a surfboard that is not appropriate for your level, surfing in bad conditions, poor positioning when trying to catch waves, and poor habits when popping up. All of these things will slow your progress and inevitably lead to frustration.

Even a few surf lessons early on can make a big difference. So, take the time to do your own research such as by watching YouTube videos, taking an online surf course, or taking an in-person lesson.   

Surf Coaching Can Make a Big Difference

If You Choose to Avoid Surf Coaching or Lessons

If you choose not to take a course or a surf lesson, you should at the very least follow the below tips before heading out on your own. As a disclaimer, we go over all the following topics in great detail in our Online Beginner Surf Course and we recommend you take this full course before heading out for a surf, so the following list is just meant to draw your attention to the most important points.  

First, make sure you prepare your surfboard correctly. You should use a surfboard specifically meant for beginners. This board should also have a correctly attached surfboard leash in the correct length. Additionally, your surfboard fins should be securely attached and facing the correct direction. Next, your tail traction pad and deck pad aka front traction pad should be properly placed on the board. Finally, you should wax your board on the correct side.

Safety is Key

Before going out for your first surf, it is also really important to learn surf etiquette and safety precautions. These two topics go hand-in-hand and they are intended to keep you and other people safe (and to keep you from making other surfers angry). There isn’t enough space in this post to elaborate on these in great detail, but as an introduction you should at a minimum learn about the ocean conditions and potential dangers at your surf spot and learn how to safely get in and out of the water. 

Additionally, you should be comfortable handling your surfboard in the water, including in waves. You don’t want to be in a situation where you get hit by your board or you are hitting other surfers with your surfboard. You should also be comfortable maneuvering your board so that you can move out of the way of other surfers and avoid collisions. 

Overall, it is possible to teach yourself to surf. But, we do think you will have a better time and will be more successful if you learn some basics first. Surfing can also be a dangerous and competitive sport, so it is critical to take some safety aspects into account before paddling out. 



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