• Beach Shack Surf School

key points for learning to surf

So you have had your first surf lesson with us a Beach Shack Surf School and obviously you absolutely loved it and now you are ready to hire a board and venture out to practice what you have learned!

Trying to remember all the different things to do is proving a bit challenging (as there are quite a few), so what can you do? You are always welcome to come and ask us, but we thought this blog would help remind you of the key points and it covers the key skills which are often the main things people struggle to remember.

Before we start, don’t try to focus on all the water aspects at once as you may be a little overwhelmed, choose 1 or 2 and once you have nailed them choose another and build up each component until you are a PRO SURFER!!

Learning to Surf at Beach Shack Surf School Hayle Cornwall
Learning to Surf at Beach Shack Surf School Hayle Cornwall

Firstly the important health and safety key points which you need to remember:

Warm up- Just like any sport or physical activity warming up is vital. It prepares your body and mind for your surf. Surfing is very physical so make sure you get your heart rate up with some jogging/skipping etc, then mobilise your neck, shoulders, hips and knees. Do some stretches as well, especially for your legs (you use them more than you think). Warming up will hopefully mean you will ache less later on and you will be physically and mentally ready for your surf.

A good tip is to face the sea while you warm up and assess the waves and think about the pointers you are going to focus on in the water. Imagine yourself surfing the wave, the correct position, where you’re looking and how it feels.

Warming up before your surf lesson Surf at Beach Shack Surf School Hayle Cornwall
Warming up before your surf lesson Surf at Beach Shack Surf School Hayle Cornwall

Surf at a Lifeguarded beach, and between the black and white flags- Always surf at a lifeguarded beach and in the surf zone.

Surf between the black and white flags

This is for your safety as the lifeguards will be keeping a close eye on you and it is the safest place on the beach. If you are unsure about anything, speak to the lifeguards they are always happy to help. There are usually signs by their huts which will give you information including the surf conditions, tide times and the weather.

Cover your head EVERYTIME you fall off, just in case!- Get into the habit of this, you may be using a foam board but you will have much more fun if you are not getting banged around by your board and it still can hurt. Plus when you progress onto a hard board covering your head could prevent a nasty head injury!

Look after your head

Right you are in the water, keep the board facing the beach or out to sea whilst walking out and waiting for a wave, if you are standing next to it and don’t go too far out, know your limits. Small waves can be as good (often better) than the big ones. Keep space between you and other water users and don’t go for a wave if someone is on the wave already or there is someone in front of you.

Fall flat- You are going to fall off, a lot and it’s hard to choose how you fall off your board, but try to just fall flat, belly flop style! If you know you are about to fall off, definitely don’t dive head first into the water. Look after your head whenever possible!

Fall flat

Paddling out- When paddling to get out back keep your legs together and use strong deep strokes. Try not to rock around to much as you will slow yourself down by causing drag and it will use unnecessary energy, focus on where you want to go.

Stay streamline, legs and feet together

Sitting and turning your board

Sit on your board- If you are sitting out back waiting for waves, practice turning your board. This will prepare you for when a wave comes. Sit towards the back of your board, lean back and sweep your hands in the water, one forward stroke and one backwards stroke at the same time. You should pivot round on the spot. Practicing sitting on your board will also help with getting you familiar with your board, improve your balance and you will be able to assess the waves more easily than lying down as you can see over the waves.


PADDLE AND PADDLE HARD!! Speed is your friend, the more speed you have the easier it will be to catch the wave. Keep your feet and legs tight together and stream line to prevent drag and slowing you down. Remember deep strong strokes.....don’t “tickle the water”. Don't stop paddling until you feel the wave taking you, often people try to pop up too soon and lose the wave.

Paddle hard and strong

Hands off last- When you are learning to pop up it is really important that your hands come off the board last. This will ensure your weight stays forward on the board, keeping your speed and will also help you to have more balance. As your pop up gets quicker and quicker it will be hard to see that your hands come off last, but for now make sure they do.

Hands off last and head up

Feet in the middle of the board- Try to get your feet in the centre of the board straight away to stop it from tipping to the side and you falling off. Have a good gap between your front and back foot, roughly 2/3ft but this depends on your height. You might have to check your feet position, but as soon as you can get your head up.

Feet in the centre

Look where you are going- If you are looking down, you will go down! Look where you want to go, this is really important especially when you start going across the wave and turning. Your eyes and head are the start of all advance manoeuvres.

Head up

Look where you want to go

Stay low, bend knees, not your back- Staying low is important for balance and keeping your speed when you are starting out on your surfing adventure. Stay low by bending at the knees, not bending at the hips and doing the ‘Poo stance’ or leaning over as that will shift your centre of gravity off the board....and you will be in!! Keeping your weight over the board and getting low can only be achieved by bending at the knees. If the front of your board is sticking up try and get your front foot further forward.

Bend your knees to stay low

Keep your arms out over the sides of your board- This will help will balance and in the future you will use your arms to help with direction and turning. If they are down by your sides they are no use to you.

Keep your arms out

So these are the main points to work on, but there are loads more as you progress and if you need any help come and ask us at Beach Shack Surf School as we are happy to help, we love seeing you progress. Learning bad habits early on will be hard to get out of later down the line, so get the fundamentals nailed!

Main thing.....HAVE FUN!!

We hope you have found this blog post helpful and at the end of the day DON'T get stressed out if things don’t go well and you completely forget everything, the main thing is STAY SAFE, ENJOY YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN!!

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