Learn to Surf—Any Way You Like

Here at Learn to Surf, we’re a firm believer that there is no one right way to learn how to surf. Sure, there are popular programs and rules of thumb to follow. We’ll introduce you to some of the major things to watch out for. If you can afford it, the best way to learn is from a professional, attentive instructor with one-on-one private lessons. But not everybody can afford this, and if everybody could there wouldn’t be enough instructors available. Group lessons for beginners are a more common way to get that very early instruction, but it’s also true that many people can learn to surf on their own—at least with extensive learning and practice.


It’s different than skiing, snowboarding, or wakeboarding. Water and ocean waves in particular are inherently unpredictable, even when compared to lakes and mountain slopes. Expect to struggle with surfing long after your peers have more or less mastered these other disciplines. Surfing is harder. There is no point in which you outgrow wipeouts and embarrassment, but there is a moment that occurs for most people—something akin to beginner’s luck—before they’ve given up entirely—in which they do catch a wave and fall in love with the combination of luck and skill needed for surfing.


Online Resources


  • This passion will provide a lifetime of joyous frustrations, but it’s also fair to say, as this YT video shows, that with the right situation you can introduce yourself to surfing in a single day. Note: Even these one-day learning tutorials emphasize that the first step occurs out of the water by learning how to situate and balance yourself on the board. On the other hand, there’s no reason you can’t practice these postures and movements, long before you ever hit the beach.


  • There’s nothing out there that says you can’t learn the “right way” on your own or even learn in your own right way, BUT there is something to be said for seeking out the guidance of someone who can help you refine your technique, before you hardwire an inefficient method for surfing, or some aspect of surfing. Check out #4 on this Top 5 list, and think about this: Maybe it’s not your first day of surfing that you buy professional lessons. Maybe it’s the second or third or fourth day—it’s that moment when you’re hooked and you know you need to learn the fundamentals, but all of the fundamentals and recently well and as soon as possible. That’s the day you should buy lessons.
  • Looking for tips geared for adult beginners? Because we didn’t all grow up next to the beach and with a surf shop membership card in our wallet. Here’s a solid read from com. And please understand that 9 times out of 10, kook is a term of endearment—or at least not an outright slur. It’s NEVER TOO LATE—and this is coming from someone who now has physical limitations that make it too late to take on certain kinds of surfing challenges. But it’s the spirit of the saying, and if you can surf, you should surf. Only not that preachy. More waves for the rest of us, as it were.


Things to Know, Things to Avoid

So, what are these rules you need to observe and be on the lookout for as you introduce yourself to the insatiable love that is an honest surfing habit? Almost all the biggest and most common blunders that beginner surfers make involves over-reaching, if not outright false bravado.

It starts with your choice of surfboard. You gain nothing, and set yourself back from the start, by opting for the more highly skilled short boards. In fact, you should avoid hardboards altogether and start rather with a softboard, also known as a foamie. Seriously, so long as you don’t drop in and try to steal someone else’s wave, nobody cares what sort of equipment you’re riding. Once you’ve fallen in love with surfing, it’ll be easy to learn about waxing your hardboard, long and short, and how to use the versatility of a shortboard to challenge yourself and take your surfing skills to the next level. And a new round of learning frustrations.


NEVER Steal a Wave

The most common mistake may be the choice of board, but the biggest sin of all is the aforementioned “dropping in.” Before you try to catch that perfect wave, you need to make sure someone else isn’t trying to do the same and with the inside track to get into the wave. At first, this can be confusing and with an unexpected turn, beginners even with the best of intentions can make this mistake. Once you’ve gotten out a couple times and looked around at others, this is something you should be able to easily and consistently avoid. And do avoid it because there are few things that will get you shunned in the surfing community, but this is one of them. This also helps explain why the most popular surfing destinations aren’t necessarily the best ones for beginners. The quality of the waves aside, what you really need is space to explore what catching a wave looks like. You want some experienced surfers around to take cues from, but you don’t want huge and hugely crowded beaches, either.


Surf’s Up

Now, Learn to Surf!!! Go find the right time and the right place!! With a quick review of online tutorials and a foamie rental, you can introduce yourself to surfing for hardly any cost at all!


Surfing Gear for Beginners

Compared to skiing (water and snow), surfing doesn’t have that many requirements and financial obstacles to get started. But there are a handful of things that you will need and, for the most part, you won’t be able to do without them.


Surfboard: If you know nothing else about surfing, you probably know that it’s done on a board. There are three basic types of surfboards. 1) Softboards, also known as foamies. 2) Longboards, typically measuring 8-12 ft. in length and 3) Shortboards, typically between 6-8 feet long and available in a variety of styles and names (fish board, fun board, etc.)

Your very first time out, it’s typically best to stick to a softboard, or at least an easy-to-use longboard. There are many paths to choosing and owning a surfboard. Maybe you rent or borrow a foamie your first time or first couple times out. Maybe you buy a foamie for yourself at first and which can be saved and used later to show others how to surf. Many people get introduced to surfing through a friend or family member, but you’ll be able to pay it forward if you have your own softboard. From there, you can also buy a longboard and eventually a shortboard, or you can try to go straight from a foamie to a shortboard.


Surfboard Accessories: A leash and surfboard wax are the two big ones. The leash is an absolute must and will keep you from swimming all over the place trying to track down your board. Without a leash, it won’t take long before your board is either lost or rudely smacking into other people. Once you’ve graduated to a hardboard, the wax is no longer optional, either. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself hopelessly sliding off the board.

Another common surfboard accessory is a car rack. The longer boards are easier to balance on and especially important for larger surfers, but a twelve-foot surfboard can also be a challenge to transport. Naturally, the size of your vehicle and its storage compartment/seat configuration will also matter a great deal. If you can’t safely fit your surfboard inside the vehicle, you’ll need to invest in a car rack. They’re not terribly expensive or difficult to install.


Rashguard and/or Wetsuit: You’re also going to need some kind of protective covering. If you’ve never thought about it, you may never have noticed, but you don’t really ever see a surfer, even men, ride their surfboard with nothing but swimming trunks on. And there’s a reason for that. The chafing would be a huge problem that would make surfing no fun in the short-term and a health hazard in the long-term. There are two basic types: A rashguard, or rashie, is meant to cover primarily torso and protect against abrasions and sunburn. It does not provide significant insulation to help keep you warm in cold ocean waters. That’s what a wetsuit is for. A wetsuit is made from special materials, most commonly neoprene, which do act to keep you warm and make you slightly more buoyant. These wetsuits typically come down to mid-thigh or all the way down to the ankles. Likewise, various brands, models, and sizes are available for better fit and personal comfort.


Personal Accessories: There are watches that give conditions at hundreds of different locations. There are shark repellant bracelets. There are hats and gloves. There are backpacks with customized compartments. There are balance training materials. Most of these are optional, if nifty, items. Once you’ve gotten into surfing, you’ll be able to explore what, if any, additional items are right for you.


Surfing in South Africa: A Trip Worth Going

Most serious surfers live close enough to the coastline that they have a favorite surf spot—a kind of home base as it were. It’s true that the surf conditions are constantly changing and that no two waves are the same. In theory, you can find a lifetime of endless enjoyment without traveling very far, but what fun is there in that? Every surfing beach and regional coastline has its own characteristics and charm. Plus, if you’re like me and like a lot of people, you like to travel anyway. Everybody is a benny somewhere.

My favorite vacation and one of the best weeks of my entire life was the time I spent in South Africa—going on safari, yes, but also surfing along the coast. Learn to Surf isn’t the only one who’s noticed that the surfing in South Africa is some of the best in the world. It’s not just the intensity or consistency of the surf, it’s also the breathtaking views that span almost the entire length of the country’s coast. There are amazing spots for pros and beginners alike. We’re not the only ones who are saying it, either.

A Paradise for New Surfers

Whether you’re a local or traveling halfway around the world, don’t think that South Africa, despite being such a well-known spot for surfing, is just for the pros. As The Telegraph points out, beginners can find their own surfing paradise in South Africa.


Finding and Choosing Your Spots

Trying to figure out exactly where to go and what to expect when you get there. Look into Trip Savvy to find a handy list of blurbs for all the popular surfing spots in South Africa.


The Time of Year Matters

More than touristy praise, you’ll want to find some of the real trip-planning tips for surfing in South Africa. First thing to know, the seasons are reversed. So, while the best swells are generally found in July and August according to Surfing Waves, this is also the coldest time of year, so be sure to pack your wetsuit. January and February, you can probably get by with just a rashie.


Get Last-Minute Information

If you have a flexible itinerary during your South Africa trip, there’s no reason to miss out on the best days and the best conditions for surfing. You can use this surf forecast and local data from MagicSeaWeed to make the best decisions, even the morning of the same day, about when and where to go surfing.


Plan the Perfect Trip for Your Interests

Of course, to have fun, you have to be prepared. Hardcore surfers may pay the extra fee for oversized luggage, but most people of all skill levels will do just fine with surfboard rentals. If you are interested in traveling with your surfboard, the last time we checked, you were lucky if you found an airline that would only charge you $50 each way. $100 each way is more likely, and possibly $200 each time if you’re traveling internationally.

Durban Surfing


Safari with Surfing in South Africa

Let’s go Surfing Safari! It’s also worth pointing out that South Africa provides opportunities for more than one type of surfing trip. A lot of people think South Africa is all about Johannesburg, Cape Town, and going on safari. And they’re not wrong—If you’re going to be in South Africa, I also highly recommend seeing Kruger National Park. But for those who love surfing, you probably don’t want to spend your entire time looking at land-based wildlife and the African savannah.

These other attractions make for great combination trips to South Africa. They can also be especially important to convince a group of friends and family to go on the trip with you when surfing may not be their first love. Go with a mixed group and there will still be plenty to do in South Africa for everyone. And the waves don’t always cooperate. While Durban is known for the most consistent waves, even Durban has its off days. It’s also a myth that you can’t find South African safari package trips that, nonetheless, allow for the necessary flexibility to get in a fair amount of surfing. We went on the Rothschild Travel and Leisure South African Safari that gave us four days to spend in and around Cape Town and where there’s plenty of surfing in the surrounding area.

Final myth, the days of scams on South African vacations are over. Yes, it did used to happen, but everything is different now. The industry and the country is cleaned up its act as they have come to rely on foreign travelers to help run the economy and now everyone is in on the concept of making everyone safe and protecting their interests. Here is a short list of the companies that we have either used personally or people close to us have used and would recommend. But do your own research. These are safari companies, not necessarily surfing outfitters:

Scott Dunn

Bear in mind those are some high-end operators. There are cheaper ways of doing things, I just don’t have experience with many of them.


Surfing-Focused Vacation Trips

Now, with this in mind, if you’re like way into surfing and have heard about the South African coast, know that it won’t disappoint. I was fortunate enough that I had a group of people who were committed to surfing. So, in addition to hitting Muizenbuerg, Long Beach, and Dungeons (my personal favorite) while we were in Cape Town, we also spent a couple days around Port Elizabeth and the famous Jeffries Bay. We hit the Supertubes and Cape St Francis, before also hitting Look Out in Port Elizabeth before circling back to Cape Town. It was a great time with a few really great waves, but it wasn’t anything like they said it can get, with one bomb after another. And just in the handful of spots we did hit, there was such an incredible variety and consistency to the spots. We also stopped at a couple more remote places, including one spot that I don’t know if I could find again if I had to.

But here’s the other thing to note: We didn’t even do nearly all the surfing there is in South Africa. If we had had more time and money, we could have kept going to East London, KwaZulu-Natal (what a name), and Durban—where there’s another cluster of surfing destinations that rival Cape Town and Port Elizabeth! If you’re interested in competitive events and professional leagues in South Africa, you’ll want to contact Surfing South Africa.