There are numerous tricks and tips for those just learning to surf. These are ten of the most important lessons I’ve learned first-hand as a beginner surfer.
1. “Never turn your back to the ocean,” or “Mai Huli`oe I Kokua o Ke Kai,” is a golden rule and a Hawaiian proverb. These words remind one to respect the ocean and its unpredictable nature. Anytime you are in or near the water, always watch for large sets or rogue waves that can easily sweep you off your feet and pull you out to sea. A wave could also slam you onto the ocean floor resulting in serious injury or death. Be sure to keep an eye on the ocean and don’t turn your back, unless you’re running away.2. Always be aware of your surroundings. Wave and weather conditions change at the drop of a hat. Adhere to posted signs advising of dangerous waters. Pay attention to the tide, which is steadily rising or falling. At low tide the water is much shallower and more reef is exposed. Watch out for other surfers, as you don’t want to run anyone over or get whacked by another surfer’s board. Keep in mind that sharks like hanging out in murky water. And last but not least: when in doubt, don’t go out. 3. Enjoy yourself! Don’t get all stressed out if you can’t stand up right away or get tumbled by a wave. Surfing is supposed to be FUN! Try not to take yourself too seriously and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you fall off your board, laugh it off and relish the moment of being in the water. 4. Live in the moment. Surfing is all about the here and now. You observe and react with the changing moments. Be conscious of yourself, but not too critical. Take in the beauty of a passing rainbow and enjoy time spent away from technology; a picture would never do it justice, anyway. 5. Eat before you go so you have energy. Surfing takes a lot out of you, especially if you haven’t built up your endurance yet. Eat after surfing, too: food never tasted so good! And don't forget the H20.
6. You will have good days and bad days. Some days the wave conditions may be junk, or maybe you’re just feeling “off,” but try to make the best of it. Be thankful you had the opportunity to spend time in nature, run into your old friend or talk story with Uncle.7. Use landmarks to help you identify where you are or should be in the water. Since waves are constantly changing and moving it helps to judge your position by pinpointing stationary objects, such as buildings or trees. The wind or current may cause you to unknowingly drift and the landmark(s) will help you know where to paddle back to. 8. Practice and be patient with yourself. Surfing is easier than it looks, especially when you watch someone who’s been doing it all their life. At first, it all seems like a lot of work: finding the time (preferably when the waves are decent), packing up your board, driving to the spot, paddling out, exerting all your energy (and maybe not even catching many waves), paddling back, rinsing everything, putting the board back in the bag and on the car, and finally heading back home. But after a handful of times, doing all of that gets easier. Plus, simply being on the water feels amazing. Eventually you realize putting in time and dedication is totally worth it. And you're improving!
9. Marine life is spectacular! It’s almost surreal if you see a dolphin or when a monk seal pop up close by. Don't be surprised if you find yourself squealing "turrrrrdy!" when a sea turtle swims near. Be respectful and smart when it comes to wildlife as you both could potentially pose a threat to one another.
10. Suck it up. Getting held under the water for a few seconds or a scrape from the reef comes with the territory, so just deal with it. You and your board are both bound to get roughed up a bit. Just hang (ten) in there.