The Progressive Steps of Learning to Surf


When I teach Surf Lessons in Oceanside, I always start with the basics and move people forward as they IMG_7507 (2)cmaster the elementary techniques. They learn what they thought would be easy is not and that they had no idea of all the things you need to learn.

Surfing looks easy and since most of the time you see advanced surfers, it does look easy. It can be like watching championship tennis and thinking you could do it. What you learn is there is so much to know to hit the ball properly.

With surfing, balancing the board while lying on it is more difficult than most people imagine. You have to have your feet in the back of the board so you don’t pearl, (nose first in the water), have your body with equal weight on both sides of imaginary stringer that runs up the middle. You keep your head and nose in the middle and adjust your hips until the board is level in the water.  Any slight angle causes the board to turn over when the wave arrives. When you paddle to catch a wave, you have to keep the nose of the board above the water by holding your head and chest high.

Secondly, the pop up technique has to be correct. I show students how to do it on the beach.  When they get to the water where it is more difficult they invent so many new ways to pop up. The problem is, all their instincts are wrong. They are not even aware when they put a knee on the board. Little kids can climb on the board and assume the right posture, but once you are over 70 lbs, you have to get the pop up right. There is a pop up video on the front page of this site.

Catching waves is a science and an art. You have to paddle in advance of the wave arriving, paddle hard when it is close, paddle hard when it hits the board until the board is in front of the foam. Then you can do a pop up. Everyone’s instincts are to pop up as soon as the wave hits the board, which doesn’t work.

Finally students learn to paddle towards the waves, turn around and then catch them. This introduces a new element of both timing and maneuvering the board. This technique is important to go further out and catch bigger waves. The balance and pop up are the same, but now instead of waiting for the wave, you are intersecting it at the right spot. The best technique is to catch it at an angle so that your board doesn’t pearl and you are already heading for the pocket. If you catch it straight down the face, then you do a bottom turn to get into the pocket.

Once you start riding the pocket then you are driving the wave. You later learn to do cut backs, and pump for speed in the wave. The learning process continues into doing more maneuvers and riding bigger waves.


“I’ve read and watched so many on-line tutorials and I’ve gotta say your book is the coolest, most succinct and comprehensive I’ve seen. So good!” A. Parker, OR.

Surf Instructions 

Beginner to Advanced E Book   $5.95    Add to Cart     

Illustrated 80 page E Book  by Mark Kaplan, Surf Instructor Download Immediately Learning the Physical, Technical and Psychological stepping stones to becoming an Advanced Surfer

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