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8 tips for learning how to surf

Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, I am not much of an athlete. Well not a coordinated one. And certainly not one with lashings of prowess. But when given the opportunity to have my first surf lesson on Bondi Beach (no less), it would have been rude to turn it down.

Bondi surf

Gorgeous Bondi. The surfers are at the far end.

Bondi is surfy mecca. Gentle waves at one end of this iconic Sydney beach wash over come-hither yellow sand and surfers of all levels dot the sea like freckles.

I’m not a shopping mall kind of traveller. Being out in the fresh air, trying a new skill, having a laugh and doing something to (literally) write home about is what travel is all about for me.

I headed into the local surf shop and was handed a wetsuit. Agghh! I always thought wetsuits made you look skinny. Wrong. After about ten minutes just trying to pull the damn thing on, I stepped out of the cubicle to find that I looked more like a black pudding than Paige Hareb.

I was then handed a bright blue rashy to pull over the top so our guides could identify us in the water. Then with a board the size of a door under my arm (actually my guide was on the other end), we crossed the road and headed off for our lesson. On the sand.

Bondi beach Sydney

When you’re sick of lessons, lie on the beach and learn by watching!

So, inspired by Sovereign’s #lifetakecharge challenge, I’ve put together these 8 tips for learning how to surf: 

1. Walk your board out to some little waves, or better yet get a friend to stand with you, holding your board while you clamber on.

2. Clamber on.

3. If you have a long board like I did, position yourself so the nose is about 3cm out of the water.

4. Point your board to the beach and wait for a wave (your assistant is extremely helpful about now).

5. If you have your position right, the wave will pick you up as you paddle with it. Practice a few times just riding it to the beach on your tummy with your hands pressed down level with your chest and push your chest up, arching your back (this was my default position).

6. Get ready to stand up. This is harder than it looks! You need uber strong thighs to leap from prone to standing. But now that you’ve perfected the arch from your hands, the next step is to move your feet into position. If you’re “natural” your left foot will feel most comfortable forward. Right foot forward is “goofy”. Don’t worry, it’s not an insult!

7. Practice this on the sand first. Lie on the board, hands level with your chest and push up. When your arms are fully extended bring your knees up to your stomach and pop up onto your feet.

8. Put one foot just above the mid-point and one foot near the tail, and bend your knees to crouch and ride the wave to the beach!

Bondi, Sydney, surf

Easy! Except I never quite mastered the “pop up” and ended up accidentally catching a virtual wall of a wave which sped me onto the beach with such force that I was served up like black pudding on a platter while a group of Japanese tourists crouched and took a photo of me. I’m not even kidding.

Have you tried surfing before?


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Sunday 11th of June 2017

Hi Megan! You need to know your article is really useful for me and for beginner surfers who want to learn to surf self-taught. For those of you who are still not satisfied with how to learn self-taught me there is a recommendation of surf classes located in Bali, we have experienced staff and will guide you to become a world class surf expert

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!