How to surf

How To Surf?


Learning how to surf on your own is not easy. Surfing is nothing like other more traditional sports.  The learning curve is slow but that’s also what makes it fun. Even after 10 years of surfing, you will still be challenged to improve on something in every session. And surfing is probably the only extreme sport that you will manage to do in your 60s, so start investing now on the learning process!

Unlike other sports, surfing is practiced in an unpredictable environment and largely depends on climatic and geographical conditions. Above all, we have to share our playground with other surfers. In essence, you cannot learn how to surf at the same ease, as you would learn how to play football or tennis. 

Here’s what every beginner surfer should know to learn how to surf:

1- Understanding Your Environment

2- Being In Good Physical Shape

3- Learning How To Paddle

4- How To Pop Up On A Surfboard

5- How To Catch A Wave

6- Passing The Break: Turtle Roll and Duck Dive

7- Understanding Surfing Etiquette


Finding the right spot to learn how to surf


We strongly suggest getting a few surf lessons before going on your own. Or at least going with someone of experience: they will be able to provide you with proper advice that will keep you and the people around you safe. Make sure that your friend stays next to you during the session and does not leave you behind while he goes surfing further at the peak.

One of the beginner surf spots where we host surf retreats in Costa Rica.

The waves are long and not too strong, perfect to learn to catch unbroken waves without many consequences.

Once you’re up on the wave, you can correct your position and movements while surfing the same wave. It creates many of those HA-HA moments.

Find out if the waves are the right size for you.


The risk of ending up in the water and losing the board is always lurking. As a rule of thumb, do not go in the water if you judge that you would not be able to swim back to shore if you lost your board.

Look at the wave before going in


Can you tell which kind of surfers is in the water? Are they mainly very experienced surfers? Maybe there is a reason why… Are there a few beginners? How are they managing the wave? Where will you be sitting in the water? Are there any rip currents?

Any surfer in the know who respects the ocean will take a good 10 minutes to observe the spot before going surfing in a new place. This will allow you to notice who are the locals, what are the dangers, and if this spot is the right one for you.

Surfing is a tough sport that can help you build muscles, lose weight, and burn calories very fast.

Overall, it is a demanding sport that requires you to be able to swim in the open sea when the waves are high, to get back on your surfboard while being pushed by the water, and to stay balanced on the board in precarious conditions.

To be able to sprint your paddle to catch waves and paddle out of the impact zone, paddle back to the peak and push yourself up on the board, you need to be in decent physical shape, so you must make sure you are physically fit to doing high endurance sports.

Since it’s impossible to become fit from one day to another: start training as soon as possible. If you leave everything until the last minute, you certainly can’t expect miracles.

Which muscles does surfing work?


Biceps and Triceps

The biceps and triceps are two of the main muscles you need to train if you want to become a good surfer. These muscles are mainly used to help your body rise properly and stand on the surfboard.

Also, biceps and triceps help you paddle with strength as soon as the wave is coming.


Abs are very important when you are lying on your surfboard. They allow you to lie down more comfortably, facilitating all the movements that are needed for paddling and standing on the surfboard.

Shoulders, dorsals, and pectorals

These three muscles are also essential for surfing. They help you swim, paddle, and lift yourself when you’re about to ride a wave.


Legs are extremely important if you want to maintain a good standing position on the surfboard. Once you manage to lift yourself on the board thanks to your biceps and triceps, it is essential to be able to keep balance with your legs whilst you are in a semi-erect position.


Swimming is fundamental to maintain the toned shape that your body needs when facing the stormy sea, the currents, and the waves. Swimming against the waves, and then swimming to catch other waves, is very tiring.

It is obvious that to be a surfer, you will also need to be a good swimmer, so go swimming regularly in the local pool.


Surfing and mindfulness go hand in hand. So why not try another meditative practice? Yoga can play a key role in your training it can provide you with good balance and focus.

To paddle, lay down in the middle of your surfboard. To be able to do this, you will need some practice. Initially, you could position yourself incorrectly and end up placing too much weight on the nose or the tail of the surfboard (causing it to sink beneath the water level).

No worries, this is a common mistake: if you lie too much at the bottom of the board, you will end up dragging the surfboard rather than gliding the water. You will, therefore, need to experiment a little to find an adequate way to distribute your weight.

If you position your body closer to the nose of the surfboard, the nose will go beneath the water level and as a consequence, you will end up sliding off your board. So here are some proper surfing tips to keep in mind: 

  1. Once you’re lying down on the board, slightly move downwards so that the tip of the surfboard is lifted
  2. Remember to keep your chest elevated so that it doesn’t touch the board
  3. Form a 90-degree angle with your elbow: this will allow you to paddle and dig deeper into the water
  4. Keep your feet out of the water in order not to create resistance when you are paddling.
  5. While you are on the boards, keep your legs and feet together
  6. To maintain equilibrium, you must stay centered on the board and be able to balance your weight on the board carefully
  7. Paddle with one arm at a time and make sure to finish each paddle as far behind as you can (be careful not to do half paddles).


Do not cup your hand when paddling back to the line-up. Instead, keep your hands relaxed and straight (just as you would do when swimming).

Learning to stand up on your surfboard is what every beginner surfer desires. First, you will need to discover whether you are a regular or goofy surfer.

How do you find out? Although you may still not know, being a regular or a goofy surfer will be determined by your instincts. Use the following method:

  • Think about when you slip on an icy or slippery surface.
  • When you slip, which foot do you put first?
  • If you put your left foot first, then you are a regular surfer.
  • If you put your right foot first, you are a goofy surfer.


So, How Do You Pop Up?

The Pop-up movement consists in going from a paddle position (when you are lying down on your surfboard) to the standing position. If it’s your first time doing a Pop-up, practice on the beach.


Here are some instructions that can help you stand up on your board:

  1. Align your hands next to your rib cage with your palms flat on the deck of the board (not grabbing the rails)
  2. Place your back foot above the trackpad or the fin at the back of your board sideways with the board (make sure it’s not pointing toward the nose of the board)
  3. Push yourself upwards using your arms and that foot to bring your front leg as far as you can between your hands.


Special Tip: Fix a point at the horizon, like the top of a tall tree, to help you keep your balance.

Practice makes perfect: once you’ve practiced this on the beach for a few times, you will be ready to try it out in the water.

However, if you are having some difficulty with this technique, here is a different solution that can help you stand up:

  1. While lying down, place your hands on the top of the surfboard
  2. Push yourself up and pull your legs behind you, to slide your feet at the right spot (back foot where the rear fin is, front foot around the middle of the board)
  3. Do this sideway, not facing the front like if you were climbing a ladder. Make sure to turn your body to the correct angle.
  4. When your feet are firmly planted, stand up slowly but keep your knees bent to be stable on the board.
  5. If you are just starting as a surfer, aim for the smaller waves.  Stay closer to the shore since larger waves can be dangerous and require a certain level of experience.

    Remember to keep things fun (and safe!): it is not worth risking your life or putting yourself in difficulty. Learning a new skill takes time and practice: however, you will soon be able to ride cooler waves.