Here we are at your first surfing lesson. Now, there are a few different approaches to catching a wave, and most of the time it begins with lying on your board in the sand and practising what is called the ‘pop up’. Popping up is the term used where the surfer has caught the wave and goes from the paddling position, lying on top of board, to a standing, upright position. We are going to skip pop ups at the moment as it will be covered in surfing lesson four.
Let’s get straight into the water and talk about catching the white water part of the wave (where the wave has already broken). For more details about waves, take a quick look at the waves page. It is more fun getting straight into things and having a mess around than getting all sandy on the beach.
Here We Go!
You are now at a comfortable depth out where the whitewater is rolling towards the beach. Place your board at your side, nose facing into the beach. Keep an eye on the waves that are coming towards you, and pick one that looks like it is big enough to pick you up and take you in.
If you are on the ideal beginner’s board, the wave won’t have to be that big, and you’ll hardly need to paddle at all. On a very small, light board you may have to work a little harder.
Just as the wave is about to reach you, push the surfboard towards the beach and, at the same time, pull yourself on to the board so that you’re lying flat on top of it. When you are lying balanced on top of your surfboard, paddle with both arms as the wave approaches from behind. Keep paddling as the wave starts to pick you up. You should feel the board rise in the water as the wave picks you up, and you’ll feel an increase in your speed as the wave starts to take you. With a bit of luck you’ll have caught your first wave.
Here are a couple of common problems you may encounter:
You pearl forwards and get thrown off your board.
- You may be too far forward. Try lying a little further back on your board.
- As the wave starts to take you, arch your back a little to put more weight on your legs / thighs.
- Try not to catch a wave that is in the process of breaking just yet. This will pitch you forwards.
The wave passes you by or you can’t catch the wave.
- You may be too far back on the board. Try shifting your weight a little farther forward. You only want the nose of your board a couple of inches out of the water.
- Start paddling earlier so you have more speed when the wave reaches you.
- Paddle faster and keep paddling until the wave has passed.
At first, it’s a good idea to practice catching waves without attempting to get up. This will give you the feel of catching a wave and help with the timing that is required to pop up.
By practicing in small waves like this, you’ll develop a feel of when a wave picks you up. You can also develop your timing and practice some paddling to get extra speed to catch the wave. (We cover paddling next.) You’ll also experience some of the common wipeouts, but you should not get into any difficulties in the small surf — great for building confidence.
I Want to Stand!
Great, so now you can catch the whitewater waves in to the beach, but what is next? Obviously you want to be standing on the surfboard when you are heading into the beach—after all, that is what we are here to do.
We need to have a look at how to position yourself on the board, and how to comfortably paddle around. As you progress with your surfing, you will be out in deeper water and will have to control your surfboard while you are out there, and to learn how to get through larger breaking waves. Lets find out more about paddling in lesson #2—paddling.