Is it your dream to learn to surf? Australia’s surf beaches are one of the most magnetic features of our natural attractions. Our long stretches of clean, sandy shoreline and world class waves are impossible to resist, particularly for those who come from countries with no coastline or where the beaches are not such pleasant places.
It stands to reason that the crashing waves with the beautiful white caps and the glistening ocean beyond them will beckon international visitors to get out there and experience everything, just like surf-loving Aussies.
It's important to realise that even the most picturesque beaches can be full of hazards that are not obvious to the untrained eye. That’s why the Australian surf lifesaving movement is so vital to the welfare of beach-goers all around the country. In this article, we’ll take you through what you need to know if you’re going to learn to surf.
Surfing makes people fit but you have to have some level of fitness before you attempt it. You should have fairly good core strength because you need a great deal of balance if you’re going to get up on the surfboard.
From your neck muscles down to your pelvic floor and hips, you have to be able to switch on the right set of muscles to stay on and move around.
Your arms should also be strong because you’ll have to paddle out past crashing waves and this is often exhausting! Flexibility is also important so you need a decent range of movement in your body. Of course, if you are simply looking to take a learn to surf class for the fun of it, you needn’t worry about these factors too much.
If you are a reasonably comfortable swimmer, not afraid of being ‘dunked’ in the surf and you have a bit of stamina, then you should be fine.
To be perfectly frank, surfing is a hazardous activity. There are the obvious risks of personal injury due to being pushed under water by waves or being knocked on the head by a rogue surfboard. Worse, the sharp fins of a board can slice through flesh with ease. You could bump into another swimmer or surfer, be kicked by accident or suffer a severe case of sunburn. Again, all of these risks are low if you are taking a beginner’s surf lesson with experienced guides but it’s wise to be vigilant.
The underground landscape is always changing. At surf beaches, rip currents are extremely unpredictable and people have drowned after becoming exhausted trying to swim back to shore. A rip is what happens when waves crash on the shore then the water recedes back to the ocean, creating channels in the bed of sand. As the channels grow deeper, the way the current flows changes and swimmers and surfers can be swept out to sea. Your surf lesson instructor will explain all of this to you.
In Australia, there is plenty of dangerous marine life as well. Sharks are a fact of life in Australian waters and whilst rare, deaths from shark attacks do occur. But there are also stingrays and jellyfish to contend with. If you visit a beach for a swim, always swim between the yellow and red flags because these are supervised areas where, if any hazards are noticed by the lifesavers, swimmers will be alerted and told to leave the water.
Depending on where you are, as long as there is surf, you should be able to find someone to give you surf lessons! Most operators will offer group surfing lessons that run for around two hours and instruct a number of people at once.
You can also find private surfing lessons where it’s just you and the instructor, one-on-one. These are more expensive but you may find it easier to learn more quickly which could actually save you money. In cooler months, you can usually use a wetsuit so that you don’t get too cold out in the water.
To really experience surfing life, you should look up surf camps which include accommodation, either overnight or for two or more days, and surfing lessons to get you up on the board. There are usually other activities too such as beach volleyball, skydiving, beach barbecues, campfires and parties.
Learn to surf operators provide everything you need including the surfboard, wetsuits and of course, the surf! They put you with fully qualified instructors who are experienced in helping people who have never surfed before.
First, they provide talks on the beach about the weather conditions, the surf conditions and important safety and ocean awareness. Before you even go into the water, you will practice kneeling and standing on a surfboard, right there on the beach. Your instructor will explain the right positions and body movements and how to balance as you stand up.
When you do reach the water’s edge, your instructor will be right there too, coaching and encouraging and reminding you of what you just learned.
Be prepared to be thoroughly exhausted after your learn to surf lesson; it’s tiring!! The great news is that most surf schools boast a success rate of more than 95 per cent that their students will be able to stand up in the first lesson. Even if you don’t, you are guaranteed to have an extremely fun experience.
Aside from money to pay for your surf lessons, you should take the following:
Don’t miss an opportunity to do something you’ve always dreamt of doing. Surfing is one of the world’s most popular water activities and despite the hazards, the vast majority never experience anything more than the occasional exciting story they can tell their friends.
Learning to surf is a good way to learn about the force of nature while also improving your persistence and patience. It’s a healthy pursuit that will bring you surprising rewards.