6 Mistakes Every Beginner Surfer Makes

From not wearing a leash to going too short, too soon. We were all kooks once....

Road kill. Photo:

Surfing is hard.

Being a snowboarder or skater, you naturally assume you’ll take to it. It’s just other boardsports, right?

Oh. Hell. No. This is one of (if not, the) hardest sport you will ever learn. Nothing destroys egos more wonderfully than two hours on a foamie in the cold North Atlantic.

It has been known to bring fully grown men to their knees, cursing the day they ever thought about mastering surfing.

It’s like an abusive relationship. The sea will throw you over the falls, flush your insides out with saltwater, hurl your board in your face. Even after months of practice, you’re only slightly less shit than when you started.

However, when you actually catch a wave, it’s like crack. It’ll keep you coming back for more, time and again.

We were all kooks once. Everyone knows that feeling of awkwardly getting donked on the head by their own board or frustratingly being unable to paddle out back.

So, we’ve put together the six mistakes every beginner surfer makes…

1) How Hard Can It Be?

You’ve just booked on to your first lesson. You envisage yourself tearing up and down waves like Steph Gilmore or Kelly Slater within a couple of days. A week tops.

The reality? You’ll spend the first few times in the water just trying to stay upright on a giant board that looks like a pool toy from Toys R Us, riding waves that aren’t even waves and feeling like a goofy twat.

2) Trying to teach yourself to surf on a shortboard

Everyone knows a bloke that has unwittingly tried to learn to surf on a shortboard. This is a classic error from dudes that think they’re “too good” for a foamie and naturally gravitate towards a 5ft 2′ toothpick they picked up off eBay.

Any instructor will (quite rightly) plonk you on an embarrassingly fat foamie and tell to ride the white water instead. It’s like having a Ferrari dangled in front of you, but you’re forced to drive a bright yellow Honda Jazz.

Listen to them, you’ll be kissing their feet later when they’ve got you actually catching waves, not pitch-poling nose-first into the sand.

3) Getting out back… and not knowing how to get back in

Once you’ve conquered the whitewater, you’ll be hankering to get out back. Hell, you thought popping up was hard. Wait until you’ve got 3 ft wave breaking on your head, trying to yank your board from your fingernails – or (if you’ve timed it badly) skyrocketing it up to the heavens. Classic kook move.

When you finally make it beyond the breaking waves, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered Paradise. It’s blissfully quiet, free from continuously breaking waves, screaming children with incontinency issues and cackhanded bodyboarders.

Then a set will come through. You’re already knackered from paddling your unfit lump of a body out back. Suddenly, the 3ft swell you scoffed at from the shore is coming at you. It’s fucking huge. It looks as terrifying as Teahupoo. You’ve no clue how to catch it…

Oh, fuck.

Cue one mega trip over the falls.

4) Dropping in on the locals

The only thing locals hate more than school holidays is people dropping in on them.

For those of you who aren’t yet educated in the rules of the waves, dropping in is the cardinal sin of surfing. It’s stealing another person’s wave when they’re already on it.

As a beginner, you probably won’t know this. But you’d better learn bloody fast. Otherwise you’ll end up like this poor bugger above.

He’s no rookie, but he dropped in an angry Cornish SUPer. The outcome? “Do it again and I’ll put you in fucking hospital!” Yikes.

N.B. Not all surfers are like this. Just the wankers.

5) Not wearing a leash


As mentioned in the last point, school holidays are the worst time to go surfing. The shoreline is as chockablock as a Peppa Pig concert with swimmers, bobbing children and bodyboarders – all warmed up to icky bathlike temperatures, thanks to children’s urine in the vicinity.

As a relative beginner, you may have managed to paddle off and break free from this revolting rabble. Well done.

But for god’s sake, make sure your leash is securely attached. Otherwise when you wipeout, your surfboard will inevitably act like turbo missile and direct itself straight towards that crowd of blithely innocent children in armbands and elderly woman in floral swimming hats.

6) Not waxing your board

Unless you’ve wisely opted to learn on a foamie (you’re one-step ahead of the rest already), you’ll be riding a hardboard.

These, my friends, need wax.

You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve seen people trying to ride boards without wax on them. The result is not pleasant. You won’t stand a chance of placing one foot on your board. Instead you’ll look like be awkwardly slipping and sliding all over the place, like drunk seal.

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