Can you learn to surf solely through video tutorials?
Yes. We think so! And, we’ll prove that you too can learn surfing through the wonderful medium of the video tutorial & vlog.
So, if you’re someone thinking of learning the art of wave-riding, dancing atop a wooden surfboard, or gliding along point-break perfection, here’s your ultimate resource to get you started.
What’s the benefit?
Learning to surf has never been easier than right now.
Whilst we highly recommend getting lessons from a qualified instructor at a surf school, there is much that can be learnt from simply finding the right video tutorials for surfing online.
Sure, having a competent surfer show you the ropes can be a successful method, and some would even think that taking lessons is unnecessary; we would never recommend grabbing a board and heading out into the water to ‘learn as you go’.
And, if you can’t swim – you shouldn’t be considering surfing until you can.
But How long does it take to learn surfing?
Choose any of the below options to see a rough estimate of how long it’ll take, depending on fitness & equipment:
Low Fitness + Wrong Board
Between 2 Months – 2 Years
Good Fitness + Wrong Board
Between 2 Weeks – 2 Years
Low Fitness + Right Board
Between 2 Hours – 2 Months
Good Fitness + Right Board
Between 2 Hours – 2 Weeks
Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule for everyone. But it’s a good way to manage your expectations from the get go.
Let’s take a look at what’s covered in Surfstraat’s ultimate guide to learn surfing:
Video Tutorials for How to learn surfing:
Places like Youtube are the perfect location to get yourself ready before getting your very first surf lesson, where you can pre-load the information needed to give you the highest chance of success, in the shortest amount of time!
Here’s our list – in no particular order – of the best Youtube surf channels to familiarise yourself with the basic necessities of surfing knowledge:
- Kales Broccoli
- How to Rip
- Barefoot Surf
- Jason Klunk
- The Surf Rat
- Surf Insight
- Holly Beck
- Mazarine Aqua
- Pura Vida
Each of these Youtube Channels cover the much needed basics of surfing technique, knowledge and fundamentals. It’s the differences between them that can be most valuable to the types of beginner getting into the sport.
Let’s do some cherry picking then.
Where should you start? Ocean Safety & Awareness
The Surf Rat
By far the most important thing to grasp when starting out to learn surfing, is to have a basic knowledge of the ocean, the waves, and the forces you can expect to have working with and against you.
Simply heading out into the unknown on the quest for ‘the stoke’ is irresponsible, and downright stupid. This type of action is what puts the beginners, and rescuers in danger – should the worst happen.
Even in places that aren’t ocean adjacent, and have smaller bodies of water that produce waves, bad things can and do happen.
Getting your head around the power of the waves, the currents and rips before even dipping your toes can only set you up for success in the long run.
It’ll also keep you safe and happy.
If it were up to us, the above explanation would be the initial piece of information for any beginner learning to surf, as it demonstrates some of the key principles that will stick with you for the rest of the learning journey.
- How waves are created by storms or wind patterns thousands of miles away
- How the wind itself affects the waves once they arrive (onshore vs offshore conditions)
- An introduction to tides, and what this means for the surfers dealing with them in & out of the water.
- Basic bathymetrical concepts (how the sea floor affects waves themselves)
After all, every surfer considers these points when deciding to go for a surf, whether it be before choosing the location hours, days or weeks before, or from the beach itself.
What size of surfboard should a beginner get?
The next step for the beginner is then to choose a board, or to recognise why the boards at surf schools & coaches are sized and shaped the way they are. For this we turn to:
Learning on the right board is crucial to enjoying the first steps taken to learn surfing. As a general rule of thumb, bigger is better for beginners.
Trying to balance on and paddle into waves on a board that’s even a touch too small can drastically decrease the enjoyment of the beginner surfer, so it pays to stay on the safe side in terms of volume.
Barefoot Surf’s tips cover much of the same content as the other channels listed in this article, although it pays particular attention to the mental challenges faced by the beginner surfer also.
Staying calm whilst under the pressure of a looming set of waves, or indeed under the white water itself is a skill that is re-learned again and again. What might normally be a momentary hold-down under the waves for some, can feel like an eternity for the new recruit.
It’s important to know that this is commonplace for all surfers, and to be accepted. This way you save your energy, and can make the difference between what feels like a near death experience or a fun tumble.
So, we’ve got a board (and wetsuit – if needed) and we’re standing at the water’s edge. We’ve taken stock of how the water is moving around the beach, the various currents to look out for, and the other surfers too. Time to learn surfing!
Is a 6ft surfboard good for beginners?
No, unless you are 4ft tall. As a general rule, aim for a board that’s at least 2-3ft taller than you.
It’s all too often a sight to see someone attempting to learn surfing on a board that’s too small. You’ll need something that contains roughly the same volume in litres as your weight in kilos.
If you have no other choice, you CAN learn surfing on a tiny board. However, expect a much steeper learning curve.
Time to get paddling.
“the better you are at paddling – the better surfer you will be.“
Unfortunately, we were unable to locate footage of Michael Phelps paddling into 10ft Bells.
Jokes aside, proper paddling technique and strength are crucial to both surf safety and progression at all levels to learn surfing.
Jason Klunk’s short video below goes into some detail on where you should place yourself on your board as a beginner.
What sets Jason apart from most of those listed in this article is that his surfing skill level is closer to the intended audience than the others, mainly being competent to advanced in their progression.
One might argue that the advice given from someone at Jason’s level is more appropriate for new surfers than an expert, bridging the relatability gap rather well.
Surfing can indeed seem like a gated community at times, and is never more apparent than for the mature beginner.
Key things to note when paddling:
- keep your head up and back muscles engaged
- make strokes close to the rails of your board
- zig zag your hands through the water, not straight lines
- smooth, strong strokes equal faster board movement
Now, the scenario is developing. We’re paddling on our board out into the coming waves. We’ve already felt and seen the power of the ocean, and we know that to avoid it we should always go under the white water, and back out the other side.
What is a Duck Dive and how do you do it?
Picture a duck, now picture it diving. Now imagine that you are the duck, with a surfboard. Holly explains it much better:
What if my board is too big to duck dive?
Much of the boards used to teach beginners are not typically able to be submerged easily enough to duck dive effectively, so no stress if you can’t manage one. They have extra volume to ensure you can get up on your feet and riding waves stably, where fun is more important than maneouvreability.
When you’re in this situation, the safest way to maintain control of your board so that both you and everyone around is safe – you do a ‘turtle roll’.
How do you turtle roll?
Where a duck dive has you on top of your board pushing down, the turtle roll has you underneath your flipped board before the wave hits.
The key here is to hang on at all costs. Remember, your board is both a flotation aid for yourself, but also a potential hazard to others if you let it go. In a few short moments, the power of the wave subsides, you’re able to right yourself and get paddling further out again.
Expect this process to be repeated a number of times before you’re in a position to get some rest, and scope the horizon for potential waves to catch. Once you’re there, the excitement really begins!
Let’s imagine you’ve caught a few whitewater waves now, and have ventured further out into where the unbroken waves are.
How to Paddle into a wave
Now that a wave is coming our way, it’s time to point the nose of our board back to shore. Everything is set in place for this to be the wave of your surfing life so far.
Paddling, paddling and paddling, you feel the tail of your board rise as the wave gently picks you up, ready to propell you on a smooth glide towards enlightenment.
The tail of your board lowers, the nose rises, and the waves passes by underneath you like an unconcerned whale.
What went wrong? Were you in the wrong position? Did you disrespect the wave? Let’s consult the pair of Aussies below:
How to rip
Yes, the divide between when you think you’ve caught the wave, and when you’re actually on the wave is larger than you think. Always best to overdo the paddling in the beginning.
When paddling for the wave:
- always look back to see what the wave is doing
- if possible, try to point your board to where the wave isn’t broken
- give it 2 extra paddles before committing to standing up
This time things haven’t panned out so well, and you’ve done a spectacular nose-dive. Coming up for breath, some concerned onlookers take delight in the beautiful beard of snot that’s magically grown on your face.
Glamorously, you make your way back out to the safe area to take stock of what just happened.
Why do you nosedive, and how do you stop it?
Generally, the nosedive is caused by being too far forward on your board while paddling. As in the below explanation, it’s as simple as shifting yourself back on the board, or lifting up your shoulders and head by pushing up with your arms to counteract it.
And, everyone does it in their journey to learn surfing!
Remember to enjoy the process, no matter how many times you fail!
Since you’ve figured out your board position, and you’ve paddled onto a wave correctly, what now?
How to pop up on your board
Probably the single most difficult part of the beginner’s journey in learning to surf is the pop up, as it requires timing, balance and all of the techniques mentioned previously.
Steps for a consistent pop up
- Move your hands underneath your shoulders, evenly across the width of the board to push your upper body up.
- Keep your legs and toes together until you start to raise your hips
- Maintain your eye level in the direction of travel, and pull your front knee up to your chest
- bring your front foot directly to the centre of the board, roughly underneath your shoulders, and leave your back foot at the tail.
- Your stance should be wider than shoulder width, and comfortable.
- Your arms are your ballasts, keep them engaged and dynamic.
The Surfstraat definition of the pop-up may differ from what you’ll be taught, but it’s important to not overthink it when giving it a try. Luckily, there’s quite a few explanations online, each with a great run down of the techniques required:
They lay out two different methods, one being the ‘Australian pop up’ and the second: the ‘jump up’ method. Both are completed with you stood up on the board, however the latter is generally considered more physcially difficult for beginners.
Since this skill is so crucial to the act of surfing, we’ll add another bit of reference material from the hugely popular surfing channel:
Now that we’ve got you mentally standing up and riding waves, it’s important to reiterate the safety aspects to consider once the wave is over.
So, you’ve caught a wave and either fallen off or jumped off your board into the water. If it’s deep enough to completely submerge your head, always make sure that when you come up for air you have a hand or two to shield your face.
Noone wants to catch a 9 foot surfboard with their teeth, nor do they wish that upon you. Accidents can happen, even in the relatively safe sport of surfing. Let’s reinforce this idea with:
So far, we’ve looked at the complete list of skills to be at least aware of before your first surf lesson.
Complete surfing skills checklist:
- Ocean awareness & Mindset
- Board size, and Board choice for beginners
- Paddling on your board
- Duck diving & the Turtle Roll
- Paddling into a wave
- How to counteract the nose-dive
- Pop-up techniques & Riding
- Surfing safety in the water
Where to next? Here’s a channel that masterfully links all these together, and get’s you ready for the next stages:
Where Kale’s 20 minute tutorial succeeds is in the process of explaining the relevance of the intermediate surfing concepts that beginners can look forward to and work towards, such as the simple skills of catching white water waves in order to move to more open faced waves.
Once you’re catching 80% of the waves that you are paddling for, then you are at the point to be looking for a smaller, shorter board.
Also covered in Kale’s beginner guide is the necessary type of flexibility & fitness to give you the best chance to pick it up quickly, with emphasis on Hip flexibility and core strength a key factor in quick progression.
This listicle has hopefully given the beginner surfer a place to find the best free, online surf coaches that they can gain learn from before their first surf.
It’s also an SEO experiment on the effectiveness of the listicle, or list article – and its effectiveness in quickly gaining ranks in google. By doing so, we are testing the so-called best practice for ranking higher in search results through the format shown.
Let’s see if it works.