Currituck’s Outer Banks are a great destination for surfers, and the weeks or months leading up to your beach vacation provide the perfect opportunity to learn a cool new skill like surfing. But… what should you do if you don’t exactly have an ocean handy for practicing? Here are a few simple steps to get you ready to ride that wave.
Step One: Locate a surf board. A long board is best for beginners, and the softer the foam the better, as this is less likely to cause injuries in the water. Scope out local yard sales and look online for used options. You’ll need wax, too!
Bonus Tip: A brand new board can be expensive for learning but would make a great reward for yourself once you’ve mastered the sport!
Step Two: Get fit. One of the most exhausting aspects of surfing is actually paddling out. You will benefit greatly from some preparatory training and cardio. Swim laps at your community pool, do push ups and jog a few times a week to increase your stamina. You’ll have to be able to make it past the breakers and out to calmer waters, and you’ll want to be able to do it quickly.
Bonus Tip: NEVER hold the board straight out in front of you as you walk into the waves. This will cause the board to smack you in the face — ouch!
Step Three: Practice. Lie down on the board, pretend-paddle around the grass, and try to ‘pop up’ as quickly as you can. To pop up, grasp both sides of the board and jump up, one foot in front of the other. You will need to do this motion very quickly in order to maintain your balance in the water.
Bonus Tip: It may be worthwhile to invest in a Carrom Balance Board if you feel that your balance or stance are severely lacking.
Step Four: Mind your manners. There is a very specific etiquette to catching waves, and ignorance of these rules can result in some pretty painful injuries. Plus, nobody will want to get fish tacos with you afterwards if you haven’t brushed up on your surf etiquette. It is rude and dangerous to ‘drop in’ on a wave that another surfer is already riding, so don’t do it. Additionally, respect the right of way of whoever is closer to the curl of the wave.
Bonus Tip: It is also important to paddle out of the way quickly after you’ve ridden your wave. Stick to the side of the set, and keep the center aisle clear.
Step Five: Make friends. Before you actually paddle out into the briny blue barrels, look around. Do you see any other surfers in the water, or on the sand? If not, you may be in the wrong spot. Waves break different ways, depending on the shape of the shoreline. If your spot breaks well, there will most definitely be fellow boarders around.
Bonus Tip: Ask the locals if the spot is decent for beginners, and if they have any tips or tricks to help you out. Also, they may be able to help you wax your board if you are unsure how to do it.
Step Six: Observe. Watch those other surfers for a little while, study the way they paddle out, where they stop and wait, and which waves they choose to go for. Keep an eye out for technique and etiquette, as well as stance.
Bonus Tip: Are the waves glassy and smooth, or are they choppy and rough? Depending on the mood of the ocean, you may want to put off your maiden voyage for a nicer day.
Step Seven: Paddle Out, Dude! You’ve got your board and wax, you’ve gotten in shape, you’ve perfected your pop-up, learned the etiquette of the waves, spoken to and watched the local pros, and checked the conditions. What are you waiting for? Get out there!
After you’ve paddled out to about waist-to-chest-depth, turn around and face the shore. Keep your body straight and stiff in order to avoid wobbling.
Check behind you frequently — don’t let a wave sneak up on you. When one starts to break close to you, start paddling hard. You want to catch the current before the wave actually breaks.
Bonus Tip: You will miss many waves, and that’s fine. Simply paddle back out and try again.
Step Eight: Start slow. When you do hitch a ride, you may want to ride on your belly the first time, or raised up on your knees.
Once you feel comfortable, pop up! Keep your knees bent with your feet planted firmly near the back end. Keep your arms loose at your sides for balance.
Congrats! You are now a surfer!
Want more surf tips, help waxing your board, or a professional guided lesson before you head out on your own? Check out our watersports companies and surf schools.