Learn to Surf for $100 by teaching yourself how to surf on Bali

Learn to Surf for $100: A Guide for Learning How to Surf on Bali…or anywhere

If you want to learn to surf, there’s no better way than flying to Bali, renting a board, and hitting the waves.  With less than $100, the help of this guide and the linked resources, and a bit of motivation, you can trade the surf camp for teaching yourself how to surf topped with the experience of a lifetime on Bali…and you can use the saved $1000 for a vacation to the Philippines to swim with whale sharks on the way home.  Welcome to the “Bootleg Surf camp”.

How to Surf:  A Guide to Teaching Yourself on Bali

Learn to Surf for $100: A Guide for Learning How to Surf on Bali (or anywhere)

With patience, diligence, a plan for learning, and plenty of hours spent honing a craft, anyone can learn anything, even if there is no teacher “present”. By working through mistakes to retaining what works, discard what doesn’t, and polish the lessons learned, we can learn any craft, just as the first masters of any craft learned.

Surfing is no different. 

Just like the Polynesians pioneered the art using wood planks to cruise along the waves centuries ago, by understanding the waves and how to play on and between them and then experimenting and experiencing through trial and error. That’s how I and plenty of other people learned to surf.  Come join us…

How to Surf: The Bootleg Surf Camp Curriculum

Contents:

  1. Introducing the “Bootleg Surf Camp”
  2. Why Teach Yourself How to Surf
  3. What is Surfing
  4. Surfing Progression: The Beginner Skills to Master
  5. The Stages of Learning to Surf:  Breaking surfing down by techniques
  6. Surf etiquette
  7. Wave Stages
  8. Understanding surf conditions
  9. Common beginner surfing errors
  10. What Next: Determining skill level
  11. Surfing Knowledge Resources

Introducing the “Bootleg Surf Camp”

Though you could fly to Costa Rica, Bali, or Portugal and drop $700 to $1500 on a beginner surf camp, I say go DIY and teach yourself.  With patience and the ability to smile through tiny struggles, you’ll pick up the same skills and knowledge and save $600- $1400. 

In my case, learning to surf cost less than $100 total, I was able to learn on my own terms, meet some great locals, and I’m using the extra $1400 to fly to the Philippines and swim with whale sharks.  Have I sold you on the “bootleg surf camp” yet?

Teaching yourself to surf, according to the checklist/curriculum below works on the idea that more time spent training, regardless of how you feel like you’re failing, is what leads to mastery, just like Malcolm Gladwell stated in his book Outliers.  Ask any good surfer how to   learn to surf and get better and their first response will probably be, “time in the water”.

In this article, I’ll lay out the process of learning how to surf, and link to the best resources I’ve found (from coaches and pros) for teaching yourself each concept necessary to get on a board and ride the waves.  Bookmark this page as its meant to be something you can refer back to as you progress as a surfer and continue teaching yourself.


Why You Should Teach Yourself How to Surf:

A Comparison of Surf Camps and Self-Guided Learning

A quick Google search of surf camps will pull up two common types: beginner surf camps and intermediate surf camps.  Both surf camps run between $700 and $1500 with popular destinations being Costa Rica, Bali and Portugal.  Each camp, on average, promises 5-7 sessions that are two hours in length over the course of a week, for a total of 10-15 hours of surfing.  If you’re curious about the difference between a beginner and intermediate level surfer, jump to the “beginner vs. intermediate skill level surfer” section.  So, at each stage, ~15 hours of surfing for $700.

Now let’s look at teaching yourself how to surf, here on Bali.

On Bali, you can cruise up to any beach with waves ranging from forgiving beginner level waves to world championship competition level waves, and on that beach you can rent a surf board for exactly two hours for just under $3.50 US.  Any board.  Foam boards, long boards, fun boards, fish boards, short boards…you name it, it’s there.  An entire quiver of surfboards suited to every level for two hours, for only $3.50.

My favorite board rental spot on Bali – Surf Brothers in Canggu

Now, the surf pros at How to Rip (gotta love that name, and the 80’s vibe to their How to Rip (aka surf) video…) believe it takes 25 surf sessions, around 2 hours a piece, to become a solid intermediate level surfer.  Now at $3.50 for 25 surf sessions, that’s only $87.50 to teach yourself to surf to an intermediate level…all you need is an internet connection, to bookmark this article, and a good bit of stubbornness (for those rough days).

$3.50 is the cost to rent a surfboard in Bali for 2 hours, but maybe the numbers don’t workout elsewhere?

Costa Rica: ~$8.50 for 2 hours / $212.50 for 25 sessions

Nicaragua: ~$10 per day / $250 for 25 sessions

Portugal: ~$23 per day / $575 for 25 sessions

Morocco: ~$9 per day / $225 for 25 sessions

Things are a bit pricier in Europe (Portugal) and the numbers don’t quite workout, so I advise going somewhere adventurous to learn.  If you’re in Europe, flights to Casablanca, Morocco from Portugal are only $195 round trip, which makes that option much cheaper. 

The Bottom Line: With all of the surf information resources available on the internet (and structured for you in this article), teaching yourself to surf is far cheaper ($600 – $1400 cheaper) and gives you a lot more time in the water

Hot Tips for Learning How to Surf on Bali

  1. Head to Batu Bolong beach, in front of Old Man’s bar to learn how to surf.  Batu Bolong is crowded and the waves are mushy, but it’s a beach break (i.e., sand on the bottom, not rocks or coral) with small, forgiving waves.  Stay away from the rock formation and the reef break to the north at Echo beach.  As you progress, consider moving to Berawa where the waves are larger, less mushy, and less crowded.  If you progress beyond that, talk to locals
  2. Rent a surf board in the parking lot of the beach at the Surf Brothers or on the beach for 50k IRP (~$3.50) for 2 hours.  If you’re too scared (or too lazy to read this) go ahead and purchase a 2 hour instruction session for 200k IRP (~$13.50) for a 2 hour lesson in

The Elephant in the Room:

Flying to Bali with only 10 days vacation

For flights, if you keep an eye on flight prices (I recommend signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights emails), you can find flights from the US to Bali for ~$400-$500 if you book one month or more in advance.  My family is coming out during high season, and their tickets only cost $450.  That’s the same price as some cross country flights in the US, or a flight from NY to Costa Rica.  If you plan in advance, getting to Bali is not an issue.  Also, check this article, How to Get Free Flights for my recipe for free plane tickets with 30 minutes spent a year – it’s how I’ve been traveling the world for over year and never pay for intercontinental flights

If you only have two weeks of vacation a year Bali is perfect.  You can spend a 5 – 7 days bouncing between surf spots each day learning to surf, and renting boards right on the beach.  In the other 3-5 days you can relax and recover from work and jet lag, go hang at eco-resorts in the mountains and on pristine beaches, dive, and do anything else you want…all for super cheap.  You can easily live here for a month with less than $1000 USD.  This 10 day plan also leaves you 4 days to pack and prep to head out, travel, and recover from jetlag on return.

So, now that we know teaching yourself to surf is a great option for many, and that Bali is an excellent travel destination to make your own impromptu surf camp, let’s dive into what surfing is and how to surf.


What is surfing?

Surfing is the process of paddling fast enough to match the speed of a wave that is forming and then using gravity to pull you down the face of the growing wave.  When nearing the bottom of the wave, intermediate and advanced surfers turn allowing their moment to carry them back to the top of the wave, back down again, and repeating the process. 

In the beginning, surfing will consist mostly of riding in whitewater (the foamy white stuff in front of a wave), allowing the power of the whitewater to simply push you forward while you stand and enjoy the ride.

The Steps You’ll Follow when Surfing

  1. Paddling past the surf zone to get behind the place where your waves of choice are breaking
  2. Paddling fast enough to match the speed of a wave
  3. Standing up and maintaining control of the movement of the board beneath you, once the wave is propelling you forward
  4. Using gravity to pull you down the wave as you slide down, picking up momentum, sliding back up, and repeating

The Process to Follow as You Learn to Surf

In order, here is the progression of techniques you’ll want to focus on.  Fight the urge to move forward in the process until you’ve hit the 80% mastery point – meaning, it feels natural but not perfect.

  1. Pick the right board to learn on & understand differences between boards
  2. Learn to pop up (on land and in still water)
  3. Learn to paddle
  4. Learn to get past the break / surf  zone
  5. Catch whitewater + standup + ride in to shore or a logical end to the wave
  6. Catch greenwaves + standup + turn and carve on the wave + ride in to shore or a logical end to the wave

The great part about surfing is that it is extremely straight-forward. 

Within surfing there are a series of skills, and smaller techniques within, that you have to learn and apply in progression.  You only have to worry about mastering one, single skill in any given moment.  If that isn’t Zen magic, I don’t know what is.   

How to Surf: A Checklist

  1. Pick the right board to learn on & understand differences between boards
  2. Learn to pop up (on land and in still water)
  3. Learn to paddle
  4. Learn to get past the break / surf  zone
  5. Learn to turn while seated
  6. Catch whitewater + standup + ride to shore or a logical end to the wave
  7. Catch unbroken waves + standup + turn and carve on the wave + ride to shore or a logical end to the wave

1. Pick the right board to learn on & understand differences between boards

The surfboard is the basis of your surfing and the type that suits you will change as you advance.

Put simply, when you are first learning to surf, go with the biggest/longest board you can find.  Additionally aim for a foam board, aka a “soft top” to make the experience less painful and less dangerous for other surfers when you inevitably lose your board

In surfboards, there are many aspects that determine what a surfboard is most suited to be used.  For the beginner, volume is the most important element because  more volume means the board will be more buoyant and ride higher above the water. Boards that sit higher on the water move more quickly (less drag) and are easy to paddle on and easier to paddle fast.  The buoyancy and ease of paddling also make it extremely easy to catch waves.  Just sit on a foam board with some whitewater coming fast from behind and hang on while the wave rockets you forward.  For this reason, larger boards, such as foam boards, are perfect for beginners.

Board Types

Foam Boards: Beginners Should Always Start with Foam Boards

Foam boards or “soft tops” are boards that are made of a softer foam material than normal surfboards.  These boards are generally cheaper but are also less likely to hurt when you misjudge the wave (a few times) and the board smacks you in the face before dunking you.  Additionally, every once in a while when you’re learning, you’re going to make a mistake and lose your board.  If you’re too close to another surfer when this happens, and it hits them, its safer for them as well.

Long Boards: The Next Step up in Progression from Foam Boards

Once you’re comfortable moving to a harder board, just stick with a nice long board.  The ease of paddling makes it a forgiving experience and you’ll catch waves more frequently with a shorter board.  My board of choice here in Bali for a couple weeks was a 9’6″.  It was a struggle to turn, but it caught every wave I paddled for.

So, remember to choose longer boards with more volume in the beginning.  The surfboards will paddle faster and are easier to catch waves with

Warnings about long boards and foam boards

The two disadvantages of longboards are:

1) They are more difficult to turn, but as a beginner this won’t matter

2) Getting past larger waves will require turtle rolling – you won’t be able to duck dive, but more on that later.

The benefits of longboards and foam boards outweigh their disadvantages, but remember these two points going in as doing so will help you get the most of your board and work around its limitations

Fun Boards / Minimalist boards

Fun Boards and Minimalist Boards are a natural step down from longboards.  Being 7′ to 8′ they’re shorter, have less volume (and buoyancy) than a longboard making them slightly easier to dive and turn than a longboard.

Fish Boards

Fish boards are one more step down from fun boards and minimalist boards, and one step up in skill level required.  Fish boards are shorter but make up their volume with a wider design, making them still doable for beginner and intermediate surfers if the length is long enough

Short Boards

Shorter boards are more appropriate for the intermediate crowd because the lower volume makes these harder to paddle and harder to catch waves with

2. Learn how to get up on a surfboard (on land and in still water)

Before you get in the water, practice how to get up on a surfboard plenty of times to make your life easier.  Standing up on a surfboard is called a “pop-up” or your “take off”. 

Once you’re in the water and have paddled hard enough to be propelled by a wave, you’ll then need to “pop up” to stand up and control the board’s slide down the wave.

The pop-up has 3 distinct steps that blend into what seems like a single movement.  Mastering the pop-up technique is essential because it allows you to standup quickly on the unstable surfboard.  If your balance is off, you’ll roll right off.  The pop-up technique helps you standup while keeping your center of gravity of the centerline or “stringer” of the surfboard.

Practice the pop up technique on land 100+ times, until the movement feels natural and second nature.  When you’re out there on the board and the wave is pushing you forward, you want to be free to think about other things…not remembering how to pop up.  If, while you’re standing up in the water something doesn’t feel right, be sure to continue practicing your popup when you get back to land.

How to get up on a surfboard

How to get up on a surfboard in three steps:

  1. Plant your hands (under your shoulders), toes on the tail of the board, and push up with an arched back
  2. Slide the foot that is your rear foot in your standing stance to the point just below the knee of your extended leg
  3. Bring your front foot forward (between your hands), plant, and stand

Once you’re standing on your surfboard, maintain bent knees and a low stance and look where your board is going and where you want to go

Resource: Longboard/Foam Board Pop up (Beginner)

For shorter boards (7 feet or less in length), your feet may hang off the board slightly making the process of how to get up on a surfboard slightly different.   As you pop, when you bring your rear foot forward you will have to “chicken wing” your leg instead of full planting your foot.  See the Livemore article below for images.

Resource: Short board Pop up (Intermediate/Advanced)

When you’re finally out there on the waves remember to pop up smoothly and quickly as soon as the wave is propelling you forward and you feel stable.  Don’t transition to your knee and then up as this is a pretty bad habit to start.

3. Learn to paddle (in general)

Though the pop up is the first thing you’ve practiced, paddling will be the most used skill on the waves.  You’ll need to know how to paddle hard and efficiently to get past the surf zone and also know how to paddle hard enough to match the speed of and catch the wave.

Learning to paddle is straightforward.  The basic movement mimics the crawl stroke in swimming, and you’ll learn to become more efficient as you tire out and are forced to think through your technique to make getting through the waves more efficient. 

If possible, find a still water area, like a lake or a pool, to learn.  If not, just get out in the water and do it.  Read through the checklist for proper paddling technique (below) and run through the checklist to improve your own paddling technique through awareness.  There will always be room to make your paddling more efficient.

How to Paddle

  1. Position yourself on the board with feet together and body aligned with the center line.
  2. Find the placement for your body, on the front to back of the board, at which the nose of the board can glide just above the water. If the nose is below the water, move back.  If the nose of the surfboard is sitting too high above the water, move forward.
  3. Maintain an arched back, keeping your chest up
  4. One arm at a time, reach forward piercing the water (not splashing into it) digging deep and pulling down similar to a crawl stroke when swimming.
  5. Repeat with the opposite arm maintaining a manageable, steady rhythm (unless burst paddling)

Resource: Proper Paddle Technique

Keys to Proper Paddling Technique

When paddling, keep these technique cues in mind:

  • Body Position on the Board (front vs. back)
  • Maintain an arched back to allow for better position when paddling and to place your center of gravity further back on the board which helps keep the nose up.
  • Keep an eye on the position of the nose of the board in the water – under vs. above
  • Keep the fingers of your paddling hand tight together, just as in swimming, to more efficiently push the water past you

Use Burst Paddling when Catching Waves and Getting Through Waves

On smooth, glassy water, casually paddling to slowly but steadily get to your point of aim is nice, but you’ll rarely catch waves that way.  Whenever you’re paddling to catch a wave, use proper technique, but paddle fast and furiously to get as much speed as possible.

Also, when getting through the surf, going into a an oncoming wave with as much moment as possible, whether punching through or duck diving, will mean less likelihood of getting pushed back to shore and more likelihood of coming out of the backside with speed

 

4. Learn to Get Past the Break (where the waves are breaking)

Once you’re in the water paddling, you’re on your way to your goal.  First, you’ll have to get beyond where the waves are breaking.  You’ll do that by going over or through smaller waves and whitewash and going under larger waves using the Turtle Roll or the Duck Dive.  You should learn the Turtle Roll first, as you can do it with any board regardless of how buoyant it is, and then move on to the Duck Dive when you move on to smaller boards.

Pick a Line to Paddle Out, and time when to start padding

Before paddling out, take a moment to watch the waves and decide which line to follow paddling out will be the easiest.

Next, wait for a lull between “sets”.  Waves come in sets, stacked, and hitting hard, then stopping or softening for a short period. Aim to paddle out in that short period when the water is calmer and easier.  In that moment, paddle as fast as you can to get out.  But don’t count on not hitting waves.  Know how to get through them.,

To get through the waves you’ll use one of three techniques depending on the size of the wave and size/volume/buoyancy of your board.

Methods for Getting Through Waves

  1. Punch Through
  2. Turtle Roll
  3. Duck Dive

How to Punch through Waves

When you’re surfing on a larger board with a bit of weight, like a longboard, if you’re paddling out whitewash and smaller waves you can simply “punch through”.  Punching through is using the weight of the board to paddle quickly and pierce through whitewash and small waves.

To Punch Through:

  1. Burst paddle to get your speed up going into the wave
  2. Just as you enter the wave, grab the rails (sides of the board) with both hands, just below your shoulders
  3. Push up and arch your lower back so that the wave passes between you and the board
  4. Get back in position and continue paddling

Reference: Article on how to punch through waves

 

How to Turtle Roll under Waves

With larger waves, you will have to go under the waves using either the Turtle Roll or the Duck Dive.

The Turtle roll method (also called the “Eskimo Roll” for getting past larger waves is done by rolling over just before the wave hits, pulling your board on top of you and allowing the wave to roll over your board (with you underneath it).  When using a foam board, long board, or any other board with a lot of buoyancy, you will have to use the Turtle Roll to get past larger waves.  When the wave has passed, roll upright and continue. 

To do the Turtle Roll:

  1. Grab the surfboard’s rails tightly
  2. Lean to one side to flip yourself and the board over, keeping your body parallel to and close to the board
  3. Allow the wave to pass overvideo the board
  4. When the wave has passed, flip the board upright and continue paddling

How to Duck Dive under Waves

The Duck Dive is the second, more advanced way to get through waves by going underneath the wave and coming out of the backside of the wave in position and with momentum.  You want to time the Duck Dive in such a way that you avoid the whitewash and the impact zone. 

Keep in mind, you’ll only be able to duck dive with shorter boards and boards with low volume/buoyancy because larger boards, like longboards, are to buoyant to submerge deep enough for the duck dive to be effective.

To Do The Duck Dive:

  1. Burst paddle to get your speed up going into the wave
  2. Grab the board’s rails firmly
  3. Push up and lean forward, pushing the surfboard below the surface of the wave and deep enough to avoid any whitewash
  4. After the wave has passed, use your back knee, foot, or shin to push the surfboard’s tail down and point the nose up and out of the water.

The arc and the momentum of the board coming up and out of the water should help you pick up speed and maintain momentum coming out of the backside of the wave.

One More Resource: Video of How To Duck Dive When Learning Surfing


Now that you understand how to pop up, how to paddle out and get in position, and the types of waves you’re trying to catch, it’s time to get moving on the surfboard and try to actually catch some waves.

To start, try catching the whitewater that comes after the wave breaks.  Whitewater will be easier to catch and give you the opportunity to focus on paddling, standing up, and balancing/controlling the surfboard.

Once you’re consistently catching whitewater waves with ease and riding them until their end, move on to catching unbroken waves or “green waves”

How to catch whitewater waves

How to catch unbroken waves or “green waves”

5. How to turn while seated

6. How to catch whitewater, standup, and ride to shore

Catching whitewater is a rewarding experience and a great way to hone the skills that will be pivotal to surfing later (e.g., paddling, popping up) and riding any kind of surf is motivating enough to keep you in the game.

To catch and ride the whitewater that comes after a wave breaks:

  1. Paddle out and position yourself just after the waves are breaking but well outside of the impact zone
  2. Keep an eye out for an oncoming wave.  Keep an eye on it to ensure the wave is fully broken as it comes near you and you won’t be caught in the impact zone.
  3. Approximately 10-15 meters out, paddle like hell.  Listen as the wave approaches and just before the whitewater contacts your board, grab the rails to maintain stability.
  4. Once you feel the force of the whitewater wave propelling you forward, and you feel balanced, pop up.  Don’t feel bad if you end up cruising in on your belly as you learn how the surfboard moves with the water.
  5. Hop off, paddle back out, and repeat

7. How to Catch unbroken waves, standup, ride the wave laterally, and ride in to shore

After you feel comfortable paddling, turtle rolling, and standing up, head past where the waves are breaking to start riding unbroken waves.

Video: How to Catch an Unbroken Wave | Barefoot Surf Travel 

To catch and ride an unbroken wave:

  1. Paddle, punching through the small waves and Turtle Rolling / Duck Diving under larger waves
  2. Position yourself on your board approximately 4-5 meters behind where the waves are breaking
  3. When you see a lump (Stage A wave) forming that you are positioned for as it becomes a green wave, begin paddling.  Time your paddling so that you are perfectly positioning to ride the green wave, and not so far ahead of the wave the you end up in the impact zone
  4. Give at least a 8 strong, fast paddles, and continue paddling until you feel the push of the wave
  5. Once you feel the push of the wave, pop up as soon as possible.
  6. As soon as possible in your progression, transition to turning, right or left depending on how the wave is breaking, to take advantage of the longest possible ride and respecting surfer’s etiquette

Side Note: Understanding Wave Stages

As waves cruise in from the open ocean as tiny lumps caused by swells, understanding how those lumps transform into waves will better help you position yourself and time your paddling to better catch unbroken waves for longer, more fulfilling rides.

Stage A Wave: Lump

In stage A, the wave is a noticeable bump but is not catchable. 

Stage B: Green Waves / Unbroken Waves (These are the ones you want to catch)

In Stage B, the wave is a large lump that hasn’t curled or broken but has enough power to propel your surfboard if you can match its speed. This where we want to catch the wave, by positioning ourselves just before this point and paddling in its direction of travel

You should notice where the stage A and Stage B waves are occurring and position yourself between these two places

Stage C: Breaking Waves

At Stage C, the wave has formed a lip and begun to curl.  At this point, the wave is too steep and to catch.  Avoid the “impact zone” which is where the lip of the wave is crashing into the water and has a lot of power…and hurts.

Stage D: Broken Wave (Whitewater Wave)

In Stage D, the wave has fully broken and become a whitewater wave.  Beginners can position themselves in the path of the wave and the starts of the whitewater waves (beyond the impact zone) and enjoy the extra push this wave gives, allowing time to focus on popping up and controlling the board before moving on to unbroken waves.

Resource: A great video on How to Catch an unbroken Wave

Resource: An article explaining the wave stages: “How to Catch Unbroken Waves

Common Errors to Avoid When Surfing

As you’re out there floating in the ocean, the School of Hard Knocks for Surfing, you’re going to get tired, you’re going to get tossed by waves a few times, and your arms are going to become noodles.  Around that point, your technique will start faltering and all of a sudden, something will feel “off”.  You won’t feel like you’re going anywhere when you’re paddling.  You’ll feel like every wave is pulling you back as you paddle out.  Your pop will feel clumsy with you ultimately falling off the board.  Everything will feel wrong. 

When you hit this point, come back to this list of common errors, read through and mentally check what you’re doing and what you’re not…and then get back out there.

Paddling Errors

  • Strokes too long, taking power out of the stroke
  • Back not arched
  • Legs not together on the board with the body perfectly over the “stringer”

Problems Paddling Out Getting through the Wave

  • Not paddling hard enough into the wave and not entering with enough speed and getting pulled back after

Problems Catching the Wave

  • Not looking back at the wave – timing the paddle in incorrectly
  • Not paddling straight on toward the beach (perpendicular to beach) when attempting to catch the wave
  • Not paddling long enough – when in doubt, keep paddling

Problems Getting Up on Your Surfboard

  • Not doing the pop up movements in a smooth enough or quick enough sequence
  • Popping up to a knee first and then a full pop up – kick this habit to make for longer rides and more success on unforgiving waves

Understanding surf conditions and reading surf reports

As you surf more and in different places, you’ll want to understand surf conditions – how the movement of the water (speed and direction), the wind, and the tide all feed together.  By knowing what comprise good conditions, you can plan where to go and when well ahead of time – and avoid wasting your time forcing yourself into crappy conditions  Two great resources for learning about and understanding surf conditions are.

Surfline

Magic Seaweed 

Both Surfline and Magic Seaweed also offer surf reports worldwide with short blurbs on each popular surf break to let you know what the surf is like, what skill level it is suitable for, and what the forecasted conditions are.  I highly recommend downloading both apps as they are free.

In order to read these surf reports, you’ll want to learn how to read the elements of a surf report in addition to the terms below and how they affect surfing conditions.  Each term on its own is a pretty hefty topic, so feel free to click them to get to a definition and explanation page (from experts and pros)

This page provides a great overview of how to read a surf report

 

The Essentials of Surf etiquette

Now that you’re able to get out of the whitewater and onto the waves, the next you need to learn is how to play well with other surfers. Considering how amazing the experience of surfing is, at any good break, there are going to be loads of surfers.  To maintain order, peace, and respect for the locals, general surf etiquette applies. 

I highly recommend reading this article on surf etiquette or watching this video on surf etiquette  as surf etiquette is best learned from experience surfers, but if you don’t have the time for those then definitely abide by the following rules:

Quick Surf Etiquette Tips:

  1. Get in the lineup before surfing and wait your turn – don’t “snake” or steal waves from surfer’s who have been waiting their turn
  2. Respect local rules and hierarchy (set by locals) – and always try to find out the local’s rules for surfing
  3. Stay away from others’ boards when in the water
  4. Give way to riders with a longer ride.  If you already on a wave and they are too then fall back
  5. Don’t ditch your board, ever, as a loose board can hit and injure you or another surfer.

Resource: Check out this full list of common surf etiquette guidelines:

Resource: A great Video on Surf Etiquette

Understanding Skill Levels in Surfing

As you progress in surfing and surf different areas, you may sometimes hear breaks spoken of as being for “beginners” or “intermediate” level surfers.  Additionally, when you’re renting gear, being able to accurately say whether you’re a beginner or intermediate and describing your skill will be useful in avoiding getting gear above your skill level.  Below is a great description of surfing skill levels from Surfline:

“A BEGINNER is a surfer who is yet to successfully paddle out alone and catch and ride a wave cleanly to its logical finish. 

An INTERMEDIATE rider is a surfer who can successfully paddle out alone at a familiar location and catch and ride waves to a logical finish frontside or backside, confidently using the three basic surfing turns – bottom turn, top turn and cutback. 

An ADVANCED rider is a surfer who can paddle out alone to a surf spot he/she has never ridden, assess the lineup, and catch and ride waves to his/her choice of finish, confidently using a full range of turns in a distinctive, effective style. “

Source: Surfline

Other Great Resources for Learning How to Surf

This is a living list of great resources for understanding essential surfing concepts.  If you have an article, video, or resource that helped you learn to surf, drop it in the comments so we can add it to the list.

Videos

Articles

Sites and Other Resources

Learn to Surf for $100 on Bali - A complete guide to teaching yourself to surf in a dream destination
Learn How to Surf for $100 on Bali - A complete guide to teaching yourself to surf in a dream destination

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