How To Prepare For Your First Surf Lesson

Getting ready for a surf camp? We’ve compiled a list of quick tips to get you started with your surf lessons!

Who doesn’t love a relaxing holiday by the sea? It’s a great chance to learn a new sport. And… nothing can be better than surfing when it comes to the sea, sand and the sun!

Many of us watched the sun-kissed hunks and ladies cruising on the waves with flair and flow in Baywatch when we were young.

And, most of us dreamed to do the same.

But while it may look easy riding suavely on the waves, soon you realize that you may not look as good as those you’re admiring.

These folks look fly surfing on the water with finesse while you may feel you look like an aground whale in anguish.

But, wait! Don’t let that put you off.

Just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and these suave and supercool surfers were once where you are now.

With some great tips and tricks, you’ll soon find yourself popping up on the board instead of wiping out in the water.


In this article, you’ll find 10 actionable tips to get started with your first surf lesson. These include:

1. Have a positive attitude

2. Trust the process

3. Be physically prepared

4. Start with the basics – the pop-up technique

5. Learn about water safety

6. Wear the right swimsuit/wetsuit/sunscreen

7. Eat well

8. Read to get familiar with the common terms

9. Plan in advance

10. Stay close to your pack

So, let’s get rolling!

Things You Need to Know Before Your First Surf Lesson


Want to ace your first surf lesson? Keep these things in mind and you’ll be soon riding the waves like a pro.

1. Dive in with an uncluttered mind and a positive attitude


When it comes to trying out something new for the first time, it’s natural to be nervous and apprehensive.

Same goes for learning how to surf for the first time.

Before you jumpstart your surf journey, it’s imperative to join your first surf lesson with a can-do attitude and willingness to learn new skills.

Keep all negative feelings and uncertainties about not being able to learn aside.

Become involved with an open mind and be ready to give in your 100% to get the most out of the surf lesson.

You’ll be popping up on that board in a flash.



2. Trust the process and leave everything else behind


One of the best things about surfing is that it empowers you to enjoy the moment.

So, you can let all your expectations and reservations fade away.

Don’t anticipate to straightaway become an expert or to never fall into the water.

Remember, slipups are a part of the learning curve…

Be ready to wipe out all your frustrations, distresses and objections from your mind and, focus on living in the moment.

In the end, the finest surfer is the one who has the most fun.

Once your anxiety diminishes and you start feeling at ease, you’ll soon be flowing with the waves with a huge smile on your face…..

…and eternal memories in your heart.

Like we often say, “It’s all about having fun in the water and feeling like we’re 10 years old again!

3. Focus on your physical fitness


Surfing is an exhilarating experience. But, it’s quite a physically challenging sport.

Before you join your first surf lesson, try to be in the right “surfing shape”.

You’ll need an extensive range of physical abilities to paddle out, angle off your take off, catch a wave and stand up on your surfboard…

…as you go down the face at full speed!

Think you can run a marathon? Unfortunately, this won’t be of much help!

Tip: Surfing involves short spurts of cardio and adrenaline so, you should focus on doing intense workouts in short intervals.

Cool down for about thirty to sixty seconds then repeat the workout.

For example, if you’re into jogging, you should sprint for 1 minute and jog for 3 minutes.

Then sprint again for a minute and jog for 3 minutes and, repeat the process.

But if you have access to a pool, then you should swim as fast as you can for around 30 seconds.

Then swim slowly for about 2 minutes to recuperate before another 30-second sprint and, so on.

Popping up and paddling are two vital steps of your first surf lesson and both these steps involve extensive upper body movements.

So, before heading over to the surf camp, try to hit the gym and work on your shoulders, back, chest, and arm muscles.

But, don’t overdo it at the gym and don’t forget to stretch a lot.

Else, you’ll end up with a sore body.

Effective surf training will help you catch more waves, stay fit longer in the water and prevent injuries after a bad fall.

The best surf training is surfing more.

But if you don’t have access to the ocean, surf training is a good way to optimize your surf holiday.

It can help you ride more waves and relish an exciting surf session.


4. Practice your pop-up technique


The first step that you’re probably going to learn in your surf lesson is how to stand up on the surfboard.

Popping up on your board is something that you can easily practice by yourself……

…….without any coach, waves, or even a surfboard!

Your surf camp will introduce you to a number of precious tips on how to master the pop-up technique. But until you get there, you can rehearse it on a yoga mat at home.

Draw a straight line and make sure your feet land in the middle of that line.

And, here comes the best part:

Practicing the pop-up technique will not only prepare you better for the surf lesson, but you can also incorporate it into your interval workout!

Developing the muscles you need to pop up fast and efficiently will help you enjoy your surfing experience within no time.

5. Get acquainted with rip currents and how to manage them


As a surfer, you must understand what rip currents are and how they can impact your surfing experience.

A rip current is a strong, speedy water channel that moves directly away from the shoreline and cuts through the lines of breaking waves.

Propagating at speeds of up to 8 feet per second, a rip current can move faster than an Olympic swimmer.

It can carry even the toughest swimmer away from the shoreline!

Although lifesavers rescue thousands of people annually from rip currents in the US, it is assessed that almost a hundred people are killed by rip currents every year.

Now we don’t want to scare you with these stats.

We just want you to be able to identify what rip currents are and how you can keep yourself safe.

Some identifiable characteristics of a rip current include:

…a line of seaweed or rubble that’s flowing gradually out to sea

…a jerky channel of water, or

…a disturbed pattern of arriving waves.

It’s vital that you know how to distinguish a rip current and also how to escape one if necessary.


If you get caught in the current, it’s natural to feel like swimming against it and back to the shallow water.


This won’t work as the sea is definitely stronger than you, no matter how expert of a swimmer you are.

Tip: The best strategy is to not fight the current. Instead, swim parallel to the shore or follow the current out.


Try to swim sideway or parallel to the seashore and you’d be able to escape and swim back to shore.

In case you can’t swim parallel, the next best option is to ride the current out and follow it to unruffled waters.

Regardless of what route you take, it’s essential to remain composed and not to panic.

You don’t want to waste energy by flogging around and freaking out.

So, before you climb on your board and start surfing, keep the rip current safety in mind.

Here is a good tip to remember:

Tip: Before you get in the water, remember to have a point of reference on the beach (like a tall tree, a flag or a lifeguard chair).

This will allow you to be able to notice if the water is taking you out of your desired position in the water.

6. Wear the Appropriate Surfing Attire and Sunscreen


Wetsuit for surfing


If you’re at a surf spot where the water is cold, you’ll be required to wear a wetsuit for your surf lessons.

During different months of the year, some regions in Central America can see their water temperature vary greatly due to strong winds.

Tip: Find out about the water temperature by contacting your surf camp before the trip.

This will help you make sure you have the right equipment during your trip.

Also, make sure that you wear the right wetsuit for your lesson.

Too thick and you will feel uncomfortably hot and stuck in a heavy wetsuit.

Too slim and the cold water will get to you and force to get out of the water after 30-45min to warm up on the beach.


Swimsuit for surfing


Girls, ensure that the swimsuit fits you properly.

If your attire is too loose, you’ll be focusing on not losing parts of your bikini while all your attention should be on being at the right spot in the water to catch that wave.

Tip for girls: Try to find a good swimsuit for surfing and not the sexy one piece tiny swimsuits you see on Instagram.

You can always wear your favorite Baywatch-inspired swimsuit after the surf lesson!

Guys, if you’re travelling to a tropical country, get a rash guard or a tight t-shirt.

It will help you protect your chest from the irritation of the wax and the board along with protecting your upper body from turning lobster red.


Sunscreen for surfing


Did you know that about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are related to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun?

Now we’re sure you wouldn’t want to take any risk…Before you ride the waves, don’t forget to wear sunscreen. It’ll help you prevent any skin burns and, eventually, skin cancer.

Oh, and don’t put it JUST before going in the water on your sweaty arms because it won’t be so useful.

Sunscreen takes at least 15 minutes to be absorbed by your skin to be beneficial.

(yes, it’s written in the instructions on the bottle)

The kind of sunblock you choose must be water resistant, specifically formulated for water sports, and it should guard against both UVA and UVB rays.

It usually works for 80 minutes. So it’s best to wear a rash guard, especially if you’re escaping Northern winter.

We strongly recommend not using any normal sunscreen for your face. It will eventually leak and burn your eyes.

Tip: Use Zinc face stick to protect your face from the sun.

There are many different kinds of brands. From organic zinc paste made with cacao like Surf Yogi or Manda to traditional surf zinc that’s been around for years like Head Hunter.

Ask your surf camp where you can buy this product, as it may be difficult to find in your hometown if you’re not close to the sea. You can probably find zinc face stick made specifically for surfing once you arrive at your destination.


7. Eat well


Eating well doesn’t mean to fill your tummy with a heavy meal.

Surfing is a rigorous exercise and you’d want to properly fuel your body so that it can handle a few hours’ worth of physical activity.

Avoid eating oily and greasy fast food.

Just like overeating, not eating enough could be bad too. Consuming insufficient calories could lead to exhaustion.

So take a pleasing, healthy athlete’s meal of good carbs.

Not sure what to eat?

A bowl of whole wheat oats or grain cereal with some fresh fruits would work well. (Psst…..find out what Kelly Slaters eats for breakfast to surf like a king in his mid-40s)

8. Read Surfing Blogs and Guides Online


You’ll find plenty of instructional guides and surfing tutorials over the internet. So, go online and read the basics of surf lessons.

We have an exhaustive list of informative articles on our blog here.

You might not remember everything written in these blogs but that’s okay. Just try to acquaint yourself with the fundamentals.

This way, you’ll be fairly familiar with what occurs in the preliminary surf lesson.

You may, later on, recall all that you’ve read at some point during your surf training.

And, your body might just follow the mind when the time comes to perform those moves on the surfboard.

Here’s another benefit of reading surfing related articles: You’ll get acquainted with the common terms.

Imagine you’re out there for your first surf lesson and the coach starts tossing words at you that you’ve no idea what they mean.

Wouldn’t it be challenging and a bit embarrassing?

So, make sure that you catch a few common terms and phrases via surf blogs and other online resources ahead of time. This way, you’ll have a rough idea of what each word means.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything. Just ask your instructor about it, that’s why he’s there.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.


9. Plan Your Surf Trip and Surf Lessons in Advance


Here’s how you can plan your trip ahead in time to avoid any last minute mood-spoilers:

Want to save money without compromising on the fun?

Avoid planning your trips around holidays such as Christmas, New Year, and Spring Break etc. as flights are super expensive during the typical holidays season.


Keeping the water temperature in mind


Do you prefer surfing in warm water? Or, would you like to ride the waves with the cold breeze flowing around you?

Keep in mind that in cold water you’ll have to wear a wetsuit which means you’ll be carrying extra weight when paddling.

How long of a vacation you can get off work? Can you afford to go all the way to Asia and spend 2-3 days of flight time?

If your holiday time is limited and you want to surf as much as possible then flying to Central America might be a better option!


Think about what kind of experience you want…


Do you want your holiday to be focused mainly on surfing (so that you may surf as much as possible)?

Then, choose surf lessons with only a few other students.

When learning in a small group, your coach can give you individual feedback between waves so that you can improve fast.


Do you want to go low budget and stay at a hostel on the beach with less support in the water and just chill on the beach and party late at night?

Think about this since surf conditions are usually good early morning…

And drinking late at night will be counter-effective.

Booking your surf trip to a party-oriented hostel where people are not necessarily focused on surfing might spoil your experience. Especially if you want to focus your holiday on learning how to surf.

Serious about learning how to surf?

Check out our  intensive surf coaching retreats in Costa Rica.

10. Don’t stray from your fellow surfers


If your first surf lesson goes successful, you might feel encouraged to cruise alone. But, regardless of how self-reliant you feel after your lesson, don’t move too far away from your fellow surfers. As a novice surfer, you need to stay close to your pack.

Waves conditions can change quickly from one day to another.The quiet smooth little waves session you had the day before can become big waves with consequences at the same surf spot just the next day.

Tip: Assess the surf spot with someone of experience before going on your own. A general rule of thumb is:

Don’t paddle out if you’re not 100% sure you can make it back to the beach withouth your board, swimming by yourself (in case you lose your board out there).

Find information about the spot, the tides and the local crew surfing there.You certainly want to be careful not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and piss off the more skilled surfers. This could ruin both your and their experience.

If you’ve got some free time after the lesson and you want to have fun in the water, ask your surf coach if he feels you’re ready to go by yourself.

And then ask some fellow learners to join you. It’s better than taking the risk of going alone in a place where you don’t know…


Key Takeaway


The key to learn surfing is not to stress out over your surf lesson.

Remember, the whole learning process is supposed to be enjoyable and exciting.

So, join your surf camp with the right attitude, be prepared to learn new things, and practice them as much as you can.

Now that you know what to do to ace your surf lessons, it’s time to practice these cool tips.

Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience with other beginner surfers who are equally passionate about learning surfing and traveling.