5 Ways to Make a Newbie’s Foray into Surfing a Brief and Forgettable Experience

Crowded peaks

“Next time you head for the water, give me a call, I’d love to give it a go”. Words that are never met with anything other than a forced smile and a “yeah sure, that’d be great”. There won’t be a call, adding to the fodder in the water isn’t an option. No one wants to be responsible for the enthusiastic novice dangerously yielding a 9-foot sponge board and seeing how much seawater can be swallowed before insanity sets in.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s your responsibility to ensure that those determined to give surfing a go do so only once. 

So follow these sure fire ways to make sure any foray into wave riding is a brief and forgettable experience.


1. Find the shortest, thinnest, and least buoyant board you can.

For learning, bigger is better. Stability is the key, something to cope with the shaky Bambi legs. Surf schools opt for the ginormous foam type affair, not us. We’re going to equip our newbie with the shortest, thinnest and least buoyant board we can lay our hands on. Never mind standing up, just laying on this board is going to be a challenge for our champ’ in the making. If by any miraculous occurrence they manage to maneuver themselves into a wave catching opportunity, chances are they won’t have the paddle power to propel themselves into the wave. Or they’ll pearl the board. Job done.


2. The bigger and more hollow the wave, the better.

No mellow, neatly organized peaks with softly jacking up shoulders to paddle onto here. Something suitably hollow and ferociously closing out is perfect. No long lulls to ensure a nice easy paddle out to the line-up. It should be relentless, let our surfer realize just how fit the rest of us are. Without any effective duck-diving technique getting out the back is going to be tricky. And if they do make it out there’ll be little or no strength left for catching waves. The odd cleanup set is a bonus, meaning the whole process can start over again, chances are they won’t make it out the second time anyway.


3. Big, baggy, ill-fitting neoprene with leaking seams is a plus.

The colder the water the better. Let’s make sure any neoprene items are the most ill fitting, sieve like versions of wetsuits as possible. Leaking seams are a must. And dodgy zips are preferable. Boots, gloves, skull-caps, super stretch neoprene… obviously not. Being cold in the ocean is miserable, let’s harness this misery.


4. The reef is your friend. 

Be careful with this one. I’m not suggesting sending somebody out at low tide Uluwatu, simultaneously introducing him or her to wave riding and the local hospital. However, what’s a few reef cuts between friends? The perfect scenario here is a nice deep reef, enough water to ensure that there isn’t going to be any permanent damage, but enough of the local geology to make walking out uncomfortable. Soft sand is for lying on, you can explain…


5. Remind them dying is a real-life possibility.

Now if only, somewhere, we had documentation of a surfer going about his everyday business and suddenly through no fault of his own coming under attack from a ferocious teeth-baring sea-creature? Well now is the time to add some more hits to that now infamous heat in world surfing…

Sell the footage as essential safety advice, emphasize the fact that it really could happen to anyone at anytime. Maybe throw in a few monster Teahupoo wipe outs, run through staying calm in a hold down, practice holding your breath… play this one effectively and your protégé may not even get as far as the water.


So, there you have it, 5 simple ways to ensure the status-quo of the surfing population. Any others I’ve missed…?

Tom Keyes

Recently returned to the UK after several years chasing waves in Asia, Tom takes inspiration from living on the doorstep of Cornwall's finest beaches to write articles and features on all thing surf related. Regularly featured on Surfing Sections and The Inertia his work has been viewed and shared by... Read more

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