Surfing_beginner notes #1
I started to learn how to surf around 3 years ago) “Are you still a beginner?”, you say. And i say, “Yes”:) As i’m from Russia, not Hawaii, we have some troubles with waves.
Now I work as a manager with surf school 9NineLives in Algarve, Portugal, and I look at this process from another side, I learn myself, I have my personal difficulties to overcome and aims to reach, and for me it’s very important to share this experience and my thoughts to rearrange it in my head. And I guess, it could be interesting and useful for people who learn to surf as I do.
Well, here are my ideas about what is important on the first step:
Be in a good fit
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try if you haven’t been visiting gym for last half a year, but your good fit just let you do it easier, have fun and enjoy the process. So, don’t be lazy, even if not for surfing, but do it for your good feeling) Internet is full of “short workouts”, which is absolutely enough. And my advice is to choose that kind of activity you like, it could be even everyday walks, but it would work, I promise. And don’t forget to warm up before surfing!;)
Have an experienced friend or instructor
I never wanted to spend money on courses. I usually learn everything myself. But now I’m inclined to think that you should really take at least couple of lessons from the beginning: first, you will get priceless advice about gear, weather conditions, the sertain spot details and dangers (it could be whatever actually: sharp reef and tricky bottom, sharks and other animals, currents, enormous waves etc.), second, you will get the correct directions from the beginning and avoid many mistakes which are hard to get rid of afterwards, third, the instructor will correct you if you do wrong, and last but not least, sometimes you simply need physical assistance, e.g. you need someone to push you with white water to make it easier to get used to this feeling and try to stand up. The experienced friend is also good for this purpose:) But be sure, this friend wants to spend much time with you in the water.
The proper equipment appropriate for your level of skills can change evrything! For example, it’s extremely important to choose the wetsuit which is fitted you tight, so that water won’t come inside and the wetsuit will complete its mission, but it shouldn’t be too tight to make you move easily, otherwise you will get tired in 10 minutes. When you try, just try to sit, stretch your back and legs with it. You should do it with comfort. When you start, choose softboard to make your first try safe and easier, there is no sense to make yourself troubles with hardboard which is much harder to balance, your first goal is to understand how should you actually move and get used to these movements, you can go into all details later. Also if you are a tall person, for your comfort you should pay attention to the leash, make sure it is at least as long as your board. This gives enough space between you and your board when you are washed and when you don’t swim on the top of the board, but more stay in the water. If your leash is too short, you’ll find yourself hitting your board or being hit with your board.
Learn the theory
I mean, just read at least a bit about how the ocean and waves work. It really helps you to feel comfortable in the water, when you know what is happening in the exact moment: it makes you understand quickly where the danger is, and how to avoid it, where is the best position to catch wave (as i feel now, it’s actually the key skill — even if you know how to paddle and stand up, you can spend years swimming around in the green water and always find yourself in the wrong position). Knowing the theory makes you feel confident, relax and enjoy your surfing. The useful thing is also the ability to understand the surfing forecast (good website with forecasts around the world is www.magicseaweed.com), it gives you freedom to choose the best spot for you, as well as it gives you information about what to be ready for.
Choose spot carefully
When you are a beginner, your teacher usually recommend the spot, but if it happens that you are alone, first thing that can help you — internet, where you can find spots for beginners around. Don’t be a hero and never go to any empty, unpopular and wild spots, especially alone, it’s simply dangerous. Surfing is not about it:) If you know how to read forecast, it can also help you before you go. Then when you come to the spot, find a good viewpoint and just spend 5–10 minutes watching: see where are most of the people surfing, where are beginners, where are pro, try to see, how swell are coming: how often, how big sets are, pay attention on some marks on the land which can help you to orientate yourself when you are in the water (e.g. you can notice that wave is breaking with good height for you in front of certain rock, so when the ocean is calm you can swim to that place and wait), try to estimate how big are waves, i usually compare it height with people in the water. So if you see that the wave is the same height with a person stood up on it, it’s probably not your spot today... :)
P.S. if you are interested in spots of Algarve, south Portugal (which is actually one of the best places to surf in Europe, for both beginners and pro), please, see this article http://www.9ninelives.com/blog_spots_of_algarve/
Stay calm and think
This is a bit philosophic moment:) You can easily get this state, performed all the previous steps I described. If you arranged your first experience well, you will feel that there is nothing to be scared of and the only matter left for you is your communication with the ocean. And this is the hardest part of surfing actually, and something that make this sport really distinguished. Because the ocean is alive, it always moving, and surfing is like friendship, you have to understand your friend to stay happy and peaceful together. And it comes with practice only. So the great thing to do while in water is to watch, discover and communicate indeed. Don’t forget to watch yourself, your feelings and movements to “fix” your skills. Stay calm is also a good advice when you are washed. Did you know that your brain requires much more oxygen, when it thinks it’s in danger and just because of simple bad feelings and thoughts? It’s true, you can try to keep your breathing for several times and just watch your thoughts, when you are relaxed — you can keep it longer. So, if you washed under the water, the main and the only thing you can do is protect your head and neck with your arms and relax.
Well, i hope this note will hepl you, it already helped me:) Do surfing, it just gives you happiness.
And if you want to share your experience with me or ask something, feel free to use FB page and write it to me: https://www.facebook.com/9ninelives/