How long does it take to learn to surf?

This is a very common question that we get asked

How long does it take to learn to surf?

A very common question we get asked from people –  is how long does it take to learn to surf?

While it is a super common question, it is a question that has no exact answer and there are so many variables and how long it takes depends on many factors.

We are going to look at a number of these factors and variables here. We will also look at a number of these factors in more detail in upcoming blogs as each of them can be a full topic in itself

  1. Get formal, professional surf lessons

The best way to start anything is to get taught correctly in the very beginning. By having lessons with a professional, reputable surf school you should be confident that you are going to be taught correctly from the very beginning.

Getting taught the fundamental basics from the very beginning will ensure that you are building a strong technical base to then have a solid foundation to continue to develop and progress your skills.

Then as you continue to progress and develop, it is still a great benefit to keep going back to professional instructors and coaches occasionally, or regularly if you can, to help break plateaus and maximise your development. Of course, the more time you spend with a professional high quality instructor and coach, the faster you should improve and so the answer to the question of how long does it take to learn to surf should become a faster quicker time frame but this is not always possible financially or having access to these coaches for example

  1. Use a suitable board

When learning the more stable your board, the more stable your foundation underneath you when surfing, the easier it is to practice correct technique, gain confidence and increase your consistency and number of waves ridden. Therefore, the faster you are going to improve and progress.

The best board is a nice big high volume softboard. Not only are these safer for you but they give you the best platform to maximise your success, build your muscle memory and maximise wave count. Too often people move to a board that is too small for them too early.

  1. Practice the technique on the land

As much as you can, especially in the very beginning, practice the jump up movement on the land. You can practice this anywhere anytime. The more practice you get, the more the movement becomes more automatic, the greater the muscle memory and the better and faster your success and progression in the surf. Remember though, quality practice and quality correct repetition are critical.

Perfect practice makes perfect!

It is not just practice makes perfect, you need to make sure that you are practicing perfect technique and striving for perfection each and every time.

  1. Practice in the ocean as much as possible

As often as you can, get out and surf, get out and practice. The more you do it, the more you will learn, the more you will gain confidence and the more you will improve. Your progress will be much faster when you are surfing multiple times per week than only once every week or two.

When you are doing it regularly, it is easier to keep taking forward steps. The longer you leave it between surfs, the more your skills, your confidence and muscle memory will begin to revert. This means that the longer the period, the more you have to play catch up during a surf before you then start making progress again. If you cannot get to the beach to surf more often, then make sure you are practicing the techniques on land; visualising yourself surfing, catching waves and performing excellent technique; and trying to learn and understand as much as you can about the ocean. Simply watching the live cams of beaches can be really good also as a way to start to learn about how waves and the ocean moves. Nothing beats actually being there and physically being in the ocean but if you cannot do it, you need to find alternatives that are better than doing nothing

  1. Try to learn and understand the ocean so you can better read the waves and ocean

Surfing is so much more than just being able to do the correct techniques. We need to be able to understand, read and go with the ocean. It is something we cannot control but the more we understand and the better we can see what is going to happen before it happens the better we can surf and the faster you will improve. This includes, for example, knowing what waves and which areas are suitable for you at your level of surfing; if you are surfing out the back, being able to know where the peak is; knowing where the take off point is; understanding the best paddle line to get to the peak/take off point; being able to know what a good wave is and what a poor wave is; understanding what waves are going to do and read them to know when they are going to stand up and break so you know where you need to sit to catch them, when you need to start paddling to catch them

  1. Find a surf buddy

If you have surf buddies, you are more likely to surf more often. When you commit to going for a surf with a friend or surf partner, it is much harder to pull out of than if you were going alone and it can be very easy to put it off and say I will just go tomorrow

  1. Surf in all conditions

As a beginner and intermediate surfer, there is great benefit in surfing in all conditions. Sadly we do not always get the perfect conditions and during some periods and in some locations, perfect conditions might be very rare so just get out there. An extra surf, getting out there and paddling, practicing paddling out and practicing paddling onto waves, practicing the jump up and just being in the ocean is always a learning experience and there should always be things you learn and pick up each and every surf – especially in the early stages of surfing

  1. Find a quieter less crowded location

For your peace of mind, to help you build confidence, to not be intimidated by a lot of other surfers in the water, to get as many waves as possible, find somewhere that is less crowded. This way you can get more waves, you can surf and practice without being worried and concerned about being in the way of other people, you do not have to worry about having people in your way when maybe your control is not strong and it is a much better environment for your practice and improvement

  1. Stay relaxed and don’t put too much pressure on yourself

There is a happy medium between striving and motivation to improve and progress as quickly as possible and putting undue pressure on yourself. While you are in the ocean, yes you need to be focused on improving and practicing but you also need to take in the beauty and many other benefits of being in the ocean. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more tense you often become and more often than not the worse your performance. Remember to breath, focus but stay calm and relaxed. I always like to tell people right before a wave to take a big deep breath in, relax their body and slowly let their breathe out allowing their body to soften as their breathe is expelled.

  1. Focus on what you can control. Don’t compare yourself to others progression rate

Everyone learns and improves differently. Everyone will have a different progression rate than the next new surfer. If you are surfing with friends and others you will find that you all move forward at different paces. You might find that someone improves really quickly in some stages but then you catch up and overtake them in other stages. Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on what you can control and work on this. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted and hinder your performance and improvement by thinking of and worrying about any factors that you cannot control. Rather focus on aspects of your surfing and your development that you have control over.

  1. Have fun and enjoy the beauty of being lucky enough to be in the ocean

We all surf for the enjoyment, for the adrenalin and the serenity of being in the ocean and catching waves. Remember this always.

No matter how many waves you get, how well you do, focus on what you have done well, of course analyse and think about how you could have done things differently to have performed better but, like the above point, don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you forget to enjoy the moment, you miss the chance to recentre, reenergise and reinvigorate yourself and your soul by being in the ocean.

But always remember to have fun, enjoy yourself and allow your time in the ocean to be an escape and a chance to find some serenity and enjoy the beauty and wonder of our amazing aquatic playground.


Hopefully this helps with some thoughts and ideas on allowing yourself to maximise your progress and helps give you a little clarity on the question of how long does it take to learn to surf.

In future blog posts, we will also delve more into a number of the above factors on the question of how long does it take to learn to surf with the aim of helping you maximise your speed and development of becoming a surfer!


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