The Fundamentals of Surfing: A Beginner’s Guide to Catching Waves and Having Fun


Learn the fundamentals of surfing with our beginner’s guide. From board selection to catching waves, we’ll provide tips and techniques to help you improve your skills and have fun in the water.



Fundamentals of Surfing; A foot-high wave will propel a surfboard, but the average size of a ridden wave is about 3 or 4 feet (0.91-1.2 meters). The fastest surfing is done on waves that reach heights of 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters).

To get to the takeoff point offshore where the waves are suitable, the surfer, lying flat or kneeling on the board with his weight slightly aft to keep the nose clear of the water, paddles with his arms. Just before the unbroken wave he has chosen to ride reaches him, he begins paddling shoreward to gain speed. As the wave moves him forward and his paddling speed increases, the board starts sliding down the wave face. At this point the surfer has caught the wave, so he pushes up with his hands and stands, legs apart and flexed, one foot leading the other. Now his objective is to stay involved with the breaking part of the wave. He maneuvers the board close to the breaking section of the wave and travels a path somewhat parallel to the shoreline. The beginning surfer must keep away from the breaking part of the wave, or else he will be knocked from the board or have to ride it straightforward to the shore. He maneuvers the board to the right or left primarily by shifting his weight to the right or left. As the wave diminishes, he leans back and turns the board over the back of the wave. In a spill, the surfer should stay under water a few seconds and then come up with his head protected to avoid being injured by the board.

Surfing experts perform exciting maneuvers, such as riding the nose while going at full speed, turning back and forth, and climbing up and dropping down the face of the wave. One of the most challenging feats is riding completely within the curl of the wave.

Many surfers have come to regard the sport as an aesthetic and spiritual experience, involving the mind as well as the body. The individual operating within a territory of danger feels the power of the wave. The closer he can bring himself to the power, and therefore the danger, the better he is at surfing. It is the same with bullfighting.


In body surfing, the swimmer strokes hard down the face of the wave just as the wave begins to break. With one arm and body fully extended or with both arms at his sides, he slides down or across the face of the wave much the same as a board surfer.

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