Monday, August 3, 2009

5 Questions About Surfing

I decided to dedicate today's five questions to one of my favorite sports to participate in - surfing. The sport is more accessible than ever and gaining dedicated followers all the time. Growing up in Southern California there were many beaches that you just didn't go on unless you were a local. Today, a much less prevalent attitude prevails (with distinct exceptions) and you'll see everyone from kindergartners to great-grandparents in the water. If you're interested in taking up surfing here are just a few hints for you.

1. Should I get lessons or can I just go out in the water and give it a try?

That all depends - first of all you must honestly answer how comfortable you are in the water. Every beach is not created equal. The Pacific Ocean behaves differently off the coast of Hawaii than it does off Santa Cruz or Malibu. You must first know how to swim. The better you are at swimming and the more confident you are in the water, the better. Don't assume your board is your life support.

Next answer honestly about your abilities - are you athletic and pick things up right away? Do you have good balance and endurance? You may be able to give it a go on your own. I've had friends that took lessons and swear by them. Most everyone stands up on the first day of lessons.

At the very least, ask an experienced surfer about the basics. There are instructional videos all over YouTube like the one above so you can at least get an idea of the etiquette and other important facts.

2. How big of a board should I get?

Beginners should start out on longer boards. For example, I am 5'10" and the board I learned on was 7'8". It was rather heavy but it was easy to paddle, stable, and fun to ride. I have a much lighter 6'8" now and I feel like I am learning all over again. I've heard somewhere that your first board should be at least 36" longer than you are. That means I should have started on a board that was almost 9'? I'm not so sure. If you're taller you should go for closer to 8' and if you're closer to 5' then a 7' should do you fine. Ask your local shop to be certain. I would say not to invest too much in your first board and get something that you can learn on before getting your ideal setup.

3. What about those soft surfboards?

If you are a teenager, in small waves, and not serious about the sport then get one. Those $100 numbers from Costco seem like a good deal but I can't speak to their durability. I would much rather spend another $100-$150 on a decent used board. They do exist.

4. Where should I surf?

If you are a beginner, please stay out of the big waves. Even though most everyone in the water is quite friendly these days they'll turn on you very quickly if you act like a bonehead. I know if you just Google "beginner surf spots" you'll find what is in your area. This is quite an important thing to check out. For example, off the coast of California there are areas where beginners thrive and others that even the most experienced surfers have a tough time in. Know where you are going beforehand.

When you are starting out it is probably a good idea to surf where there is a lifeguard on duty. Taking a friend or two along also helps make things safer and gives you someone to talk to if there is a long period of time between good sets.

5. Where can I find more resources on surfing?

One of the best resources in surfing is word of mouth. Check out your local shop and talk to the people there. If they are pretentious and affected leave as quickly as possible. If they are selling boards that look like a piece of foam wrapped in clear nail polish for $400 and $500 plus you should also leave quickly.

Ask around and do your research online and you should be able to find a good shop in your area. A good one will answer all of your questions (no matter how silly they may seem) and help you get the right setup for your ability. After you visit them a few times and get out in the water you will meet more people and find out where the good deals and surf spots are.

Before you go out you should check the forecast so you know what you are dealing with. I never leave without checking surfline first.

Have fun and be safe!


Lindsay said...

I would definitely like to take a surfing lesson!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Come on out! They're pretty cheap.

Becky Leetch said...

Another thing to note is to learn surf etiquette. There's nothing worse than going for a wave, then having someone (kook) who has no idea what they're doing either paddling across where you need to drop in, or cutting you off and not realizing that you had the right of way. Another thing to remember, waves are for everyone. So there is no need to be a wave "hog" and take every wave of every set. Be a good surfer-mate and save some for others.

Beginners should stay to the shoulder or catch the white-water closer to shore. And, if you don't know what you're doing, stay out of the heavy surf.

Apryl DeLancey said...

You are so right - waves ARE for everyone and there are usually more than one! I was letting my buddy catch the good ones yesterday since she hadn't been out in a while. There will be more for me!

Lindsay said...

We can fly to LA for $100 from here, so I'll let you know if we ever decide to come!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Wow, that is cheap - you have no excuse not to visit!