Introduction to Surfing
To evolve into an experienced surfer takes a lot of dedication year-round, and a great deal of patience is required but it is a truly fantastic sport, accessible to people of all ages and abilities from the first lesson which is the starting point for a great adventure into a new world. People often get a taste and never turn back, fully immersing themselves in the whole lifestyle. A lesson with a qualified coach is a great idea not just for safety but it also will ensure that you begin with good habits to build on and create a nice early style.
For humans to learn effectively the environment has to be safe so that you associate the activity with a positive experience.
This safety will be governed by the area you are in and also by your decisions, so you must be aware of the surroundings and accountable for your decision making. If this attitude is combined with fun i.e. rewarding, the result will be to learn and progress no matter what you are doing. It’s scientifically proven!
A coach will make it easier for all these things to happen, plus it gives you added security and peace of mind. Usually ninety percent of beginners will be standing in their first lesson with a trained BSA coach.
REMEMBER: SAFETY + FUN = LEARNING
Waves and the Sea
It helps to understand the environment on which this great sport is based, since in no other sport is the playing field changing so dramatically all the time.
During our time in the sea we are at the full mercy of mother nature and there is no way that a few pounds of flesh no matter how fit, or knowledgeable you are, are going to stop waves from pounding onto coastlines that have travelled hundreds of miles from areas of their generation. These walls of pure energy carry thousands of hundreds of tons of pressure per square metre and it is enough to mould the very earth we walk on. This is what makes the sport so attractive since we are on the edge of maintaining control all the time, being influenced by forces of nature. We have to respect this balance and understand very well how our bodies perform in order to ride a wave. The larger the wave the more experience required.
The waves are generated by large low pressure storms out in open oceans. The lower the pressure of the air the greater the winds and energy involved and hence the bigger the waves formed. These high winds blow against the surface of the water, aggravating the water molecules. For prolonged periods of time this will make ripples grow and spread out across the sea from the point of generation into wave trains, which are lines of large waves that space out and travel towards land. The further they travel the more spaced out they become, forming sets. The distance travelled is called Fetch. Waves with a greater fetch will be consistent and more powerful than others.
It is important to remember that water is not travelling many miles to reach the coast it is in fact just pure energy. As a wave travels the water molecules are only moving up and down within the water column and this movement is transferred to its neighbouring molecule. It’s a bit like flicking a rope and watching the hump travel away from you. Only when the wave breaks do the water molecules move forward on the surface a great deal.
A surf board works by slipping down the face of these ‘hills’ of water at the point where gravity dominates over friction, surface tension looses its grip and the steepness of wave and speed of surf board cause it to break free from the grasp of water and literally freefall down the face. Surfing is all about maintaining that position in the wave where you are accelerating over the top of the molecules of water rather than bogged down by them. Really it is hydroplaning, and it feels sooooooo good!
Waves rear up and eventually break when they ‘feel’ the sea bed shallows in coastal areas. This can be caused by sudden depth changes over rock or reef, sand banks and sea bed changes. Basically all the energy in the water is forced upwards and forwards and has no where to go so the wave shears at the top and becomes unstable, water molecules then break away and fall down the face smashing against one another, not settling until all the energy dissipates into the shoreline.
A wave generally breaks in water two point five times its own height, as measured from peak to trough. I.e. a two foot wave will break in five foot of water, and a four foot wave will break in ten foot of water.
You must consider the ocean when you surf since we are not naturally adapted to life in the seas yet! And we still have lungs which do not accept water. So, it is a good idea to be able to swim at least fifty metres in open water and be physically fit. Exercises to help you prepare for surfing might include Yoga, Swimming, Cycling, running and sports that help your flexibility as well as stamina. Previous experience of bathing or sea bound activity will also be advantageous to help you get the feel for the behaviour of waves. When you go surfing try to go with the flow and don’t resist how the wave rolls you, since you won’t be able to and this will save energy.
It’s a good idea to prepare the body for exercise before going for a surf, with a warm up at least. This will help to prepare you physically and especially mentally for your session, enabling peak performance from your body. Take some time to watch the sea as well, and get a feel for the conditions on the day.
Advice to new Surfers Before entering
Use your head! Check the area and make sure you are not alone if in a remote area or even on a guarded beach. Take a buddy with you, besides its more fun. Look for any restrictions on the beach and adhere to them. If you are a beginner stick to beach breaks with a sandy beach at all states of the tide.
Make sure the top of your board is waxed up or has some form of grip as previously described, and check your leash is in good condition.
Watch the area before you go in to see where a good place to paddle out is and
catch the waves. Watch other people to see how they are getting on.
On a busy lifeguarded beach, look for the black and white chequered flags. These are placed especially for surfers to hang out in between. This will prevent people with boards crashing down on bathers.
Remember your warm up before entering, spend about five minutes raising your heart rate and warming your muscles, however you like to do that.
When you carry your board hold it under arm with the fin on the inside and in clear view. Put your leash on at the waters edge, not in the car park! Try not to trail the leash in the sand behind as you walk to the sea, pick it up.
Make space for others around you and if you feel concerned by their proximity move away. Remember to be aware of yourself and your board which potentially needs an area of up to twenty feet from you if you crash, on land or in the sea.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to more experienced surfers or lifeguards if you are unsure of ANYTHING, before entering the water.
Wow, so you’re up and surfing hey!
As soon as you start catching unbroken waves you will have to get used to turning to avoid the white water, staying ahead of the curl. Turn as described before but look at which way the wave is peeling first. Remember to get a good idea of what the wave tends to do at that spot before you go in and if you are in the right spot on the peak you will know which way to go. The closer you can get to the white water without being taken out, the more radical your surfing is considered to be. The ultimate is actually being under the lip or in a tube!!!!
Leaving the wave
If you run out of wave, ride all the way to shore, or want to slow down for avoidance, you must stall the board by loading the tail with more pressure, then pivot back over the wave by dipping the rails into the water. As the board sinks hold onto it to prevent it from popping back out. In shallows on a white water wave stall the tail until the wave overtakes your board, then dismount appropriately.
Be in control of your stick at all times. If you start letting the board dictate to you things will get dangerous. Keep her on a leash! Surfing with finesse is what makes a good surfer. This finesse comes from great control and smooth muscle movements on execution of manoeuvres. To attain these qualities; practise in stages, building yourself up with achievable goals for your level of riding.
Remember look up, not down at the board, avoid others, be responsible, have fun and the rest is down to you!
The road to enlightenment
Refinements can always be made in surfing and likewise all the techniques can be mastered with the aid of a BSA accredited coach quicker than without one. Get stuck in, read some surfing books and watch videos to help get a nice perspective on this great sport. Good Luck.
The BSA runs courses for individuals and groups of all ages and abilities through the National Surfing Centre in Newquay, Fistral Beach. There are also plenty of BSA approved schools throughout the country and abroad. Affiliated schools all use approved equipment and techniques to facilitate the safe and effective teaching of the sport. Approved schools and details of courses are available from the BSA head office.
It’s a good idea to cover yourself in the seas with Third Party Insurance Cover. Public Liability Insurance is included with membership to the BSA, covering you for claims of up to two million pounds anywhere in the world.
– When paddling out; keep clear of other surfers who are riding waves and other water users.
– If a surfer is coming towards you in a wave as you are paddling out and you are unsure which direction to head for safety, head towards the white water out of his path, even if it means you get tumbled by the wave.
– Never ditch your board on a paddle out in order to swim through a wave.
– Leave loose boards to wash to the shore.
– Always protect your head in any form of wipe-out or collision.
When taking off; stay clear of
other surfers and swimmers.
Ensure that no other surfer is already up and riding towards you on a wave. If you were to try and ‘drop in’ on his wave you are in the wrong. This is the ‘right of way’ rule for waves. First surfer up on the wave has right of way.
Use a leash.
Look after all your equipment and have responsibility for it and yourself in the oceans or on the beach.
If ever in doubt ask advice or assistance from Lifeguards or more experienced surfers.
It’s a good idea to have insurance cover in this day and age.
Become a member of the BSA and help to promote and support the sport you love.