Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

How to… surf

With these basics you'll be amped and ready to carve up the beach break in no time. But don't forget, this doesn't preclude the need for a lesson

So how difficult can it be to become the next Kelly Slater or Layne Beachley? Want to gen up on hanging ten before hitting the Cornish beaches to show off your stuff? With the beginner (or ‘grommet’ in mind, we’ve done our research: we asked 26-year-old surf instructor Guy Russell  for his top ten tips for preparing to catch those waves this summer. Then we asked a U.S. surf camp to show us the ropes. Here’s the skinny on how to surf:

Get kitted out

To get started, you’ll need a board, a leash and some surfing wax. Neoprene covering isn’t necessarily compulsory as it is dependent on the water temperature. Generally, in summer in the UK, a 2 – 3 mm wetsuit will be suitable. If you’re fortunate enough to be surfing in warm countries however, you’ll get away with just wearing boardies. To be honest, today’s technology and equipment is so advanced that we’re able to surf in tropical conditions as well as sub zero waters.

Choose the right board

For a beginner, I would recommend a long thick board. The bigger the board, the easier it is to stand on, which is the most important thing. Then again, a bigger board is harder to paddle out on. Essentially, there are many designs, so it’s purely down to choice. It’s like a totally different set of golf clubs for every hole on a golf course. There is no one board perfect for any surfer or wave. I personally have four boards, each for different conditions.

Train to tone

Surfing requires you to use all of your muscles. If you check out anyone who surfs a lot, they will be lean and toned. Shoulders, and in fact the entire upper body, is used more because you need to use your upper body strength to be able to paddle out. This is probably the most strenuous part, so the surf back towards the beach is almost a bit of a break!

Prepare your body

Any form of exercise, from cardiovascular (swimming and cycling are great), to press-ups, can help to prepare your body for surfing. Anything for your core body strength is essential. Doing sit-ups and training with exercise balls can help with your overall fitness levels, meaning you have more stamina to stay out in the sea longer. And don’t forget to stretch! (yoga is perfect for this)

Don’t head out unprepared

A few surfing lessons should prepare you well enough to know when you’re ready to ride the waves. If in doubt however, don’t go out. When learning to surf, it is important to be visible and ensure you are on a lifeguard-patrolled beach. Even if you’re experienced though, it’s advisable not to surf on your own.

Know the right conditions

Not only can conditions vary dramatically, but so does the surfer. Generally, the most favoured condition is clean surf, which is a smooth surface of water. No or light wind, preferably blowing off shore, is best, however choppy seas should be avoided. It doesn’t have to be an adrenalin rush either. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a quiet sunny surf with your mates.

Be prepared for the unpredictable

The sea is an incredibly unpredictable place. Even veteran surfers need to respect its power and nature. Riptides are common, so take the time to brush up on your knowledge of the tides. Surfing and weather conditions are also essential to look into. It can mean the difference between spotting a great wave or a dangerous one. This knowledge helps the surfer to stay safe and have the ability to make the most out of the conditions.

Stay calm

If you get into trouble in the water, it is important not to panic. Stay with your board as it is buoyant, shout for help and wave your arms to get attention. This is why it’s crucial to have someone spotting you or surfing nearby. If you have the misfortune to get stuck in a riptide, you need to swim parallel to the shore to get out of it: fighting a current can leave surfers and swimmers exhausted and in danger, so just try your best to get back to shore and try to stay calm.

Research the science

The science of surfing really interests me. Don’t let the word science put you off, because it is extremely useful to know what creates surf and how weather conditions will affect your time on the beach. Tides and local geography also helps, as does surf forecasting. Sites like magicseaweed.com are useful, but learn what the information means.

Enjoy yourself!

Go down to your local beach and get comfortable with the sea. It doesn’t have to be particularly clear conditions. Surfing is meant to be fun, so jump in your car with your mates, drive down to the beach and have a good time!

The technique

Lie flat, face-down, on your board, right down the centreline with your feet just touching the bottom end (the tail). In the water, you’ll wait for a wave and then begin paddling.

Paddle alternately with your arms using long strokes, stretching right out in front of you and then scooping downwards, arms straight. When you feel the wave come underneath you, slide your hands to the middle (the rails) of your board (around hip-level) and push your chest up, keeping your arms straight (you’re essentially doing a press-up on your surfboard here).

Now using all your arm strength, twist slightly to the side and slide your legs up and your feet on to the centre of the board.

Balancing carefully, stand up, knees slightly bent, feet one in front of the other along the centreline of the board.

To see Guy and other top surfers in action, visit: www.magicseaweed.com. The site also offers information, advice and quality surfing gear.

Thanks to www.texassurfcamps.com which offers one-on-one surf lessons on the Texas gulf coast year-round, and week-long intensive camps in the summer. For more information, email [email protected].

For information on Port Aransas, Texas, and where to stay when you’re there, visit: www.portaransas.org