How Hard Is It To Get Good At Surfing? (Fully Explained)

Some of the most frequently asked questions in my many years working as a surf instructor are: how long have you been surfing, and how hard is it to get good at surfing? I always told them that you’re a good surfer as long as you’re having fun. But, how hard is surfing? I’ll provide you with the answer in this article.

Becoming good at surfing can be quite challenging. This is due to the many aspects you need to master to be a good surfer. On a scale of 1 to 10, surfing would receive a difficulty rating of 7. However, everyone can do it, as long as they keep trying.

Knowing how to master a new sport and how hard this will be will help you to stay motivated and gain the best possible progress. I’ll explain more about what to expect, and how to become good at surfing.

Is it Hard to Get Good at Surfing?

Even though everyone can learn how to surf and become a good surfer, it’s still a challenging sport to get good at. This is due to the many aspects you need to train to become good at surfing eventually.

On the beach, you might see many first-time surfers riding a wave. This is because the first steps of surfing are pretty easy. However, the board, tricks, spots, and waves become more difficult as you progress.

Please don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t go that well the first time. Everyone has their own pace, but as soon as you have the basics covered, the real fun begins and will most likely get you hooked on surfing.

Expect to fail many times because the learning won’t stop, and not one wave is the same! This is what makes surfing so difficult, but also so much fun!

What Does it Take to be a Good Surfer?

The short answer:

A good surfer has above-average knowledge of the ocean and their surfboard. This means that a good surfer can navigate through the waves, currents, and line-up. They know how to behave in the sea, and they have good control of the surfboard they ride.

The extended answer:

You don’t need to compete in surf competitions to be a good surfer. However, there are a few things which you need to have good control of to be called a good surfer.

Physical requirements:

As your surfing progresses, so does your body. A good surfer can paddle through and into the waves with ease. The push-up and riding the surfboard also requires a certain physical condition that you can only gain with lots of practice.

Reading the ocean and waves:

A good surfer can read the ocean, which means the surfer can see the following:

  • Where the riptides (currents onto the ocean) are.
  • Where to be when the waves come.
  • Where the shallow parts are (this determines the way and speed in which the wave breaks).
  • When to start paddling to catch the wave.
  • Where to paddle to get behind the wave.
  • How to navigate in the line-up (the location where the surfers are waiting for the next wave).
  • How to utilize the wave (gaining speed in fast parts, slowing down in slow parts, etc.).

Digital aspects need to be taken into account as well. For example, a good surfer needs to know how to read swell maps, wind maps, and weather maps to determine when and where the best surf will be if there is any.

Good control of the surfboard:

This one is fairly self-explanatory. However, many people think that the size of the surfboard determines how good a surfer is (small is good and big is bad), which is entirely false!

A shortboard surfer performing an ‘areal’ (jumping above the wave) or a longboard surfer doing a ‘hang ten’ (standing on the nose of the surfboard with both feet) both need good control of their surfboard.

Having good control of your surfboard means the following:

  • Being able to steer your board in any direction you want.
  • Being able to gain speed or slow down whenever needed.
  • Knowing how to perform a variety of tricks in a row (creating a combination).
  • Knowing your tricks so well that you can focus on adding style to them.

Knowing and following the surf ethics:

This one is really important! Surfing is an extreme sport, so make sure you keep it as safe as possible for yourself and others. 

Surf ethics are the rules established to keep it safe and fun for everybody in the ocean. A good surfer will know these and follow them.

Warning: not following the proper surf ethics will get you into a lot of trouble with the other surfers!

How Long Does it Take to Get Good at Surfing?

The short answer:

The time it takes to become good at surfing differs for each person and location. However, with regular training and good guidance, most people will be good at surfing in about 2 to 5 years.

The extended answer:

The amount of time it takes to become good at surfing differs per person. Some might be talented, others might live near to lots of consistent surf spots, and some might only go surfing two weeks per year and have no talent at all.

However, no matter how much talent you have or don’t have, becoming good at surfing takes lots of practice!

The quickest way to become good at surfing is by training with a certified instructor or a friend with lots of knowledge and experience.

Make sure to practice regularly. If you can train a few times per week, your muscle memory will develop more quickly than training once per week.

If there are no waves, you can continue training by practicing the maneuvers on a skateboard. (See this article to learn if skateboarding helps with surfing)

If you often train with the guidance of a good surfer, you should be able to get good at surfing in about 2 to 5 years. Training with an experienced surfer or instructor is mainly recommended to learn the basics.

But, how long does it take to become an intermediate surfer?

It takes about six months to a year to become an intermediate surfer. Meaning that you manage to stand on your board and have enough control to make turns on the waves. You will know a few tricks and maneuvers, but they still require a lot of focus and lack style.

How to Get Really Good at Surfing?

The short answer:

The trick to getting really good at surfing is practicing many times, staying motivated, taking lessons, using the right board, and having fun. If you like what you do, you’ll keep doing it and eventually get good at it.

The extended answer:

There are a lot of factors that can make you a better surfer. Below I will list the 13 most important ones on how to get good at surfing.

1. Take lessons

A certified surf instructor will teach you the proper techniques. This is especially important when you start surfing. It will cost you a lot of time and frustration when you teach yourself the basics incorrectly.

(Click here to find out if surfing lessons are worth it)

2. Motivate yourself and have fun

Surfing is supposed to be fun. That’s it, that’s all. Don’t get stuck on that maneuver or trick that doesn’t work out. There are many other tricks you can practice and reasons to paddle out. As long as you like what you’re doing, you’ll keep doing it and eventually get good at it!

3. Choose the right board (quiver)

A soft-top surfboard is excellent for learning the basics like a push-up. After that, you’ll start surfing hardtops. However, your length, weight, and skill need to be taken into consideration before deciding which board you want.

Riding the wrong board can make surfing way too challenging or not exciting enough. This can be very demotivating.

4. Choose the right waves

Everyone likes to ride through a barrel (the idyllic tunnel created by the wave). However, this takes practice! So make sure to ride waves suited to your skill level. This will make it more enjoyable and safer for you and all the other surfers around you.

5. Take it step by step

Standing on a surfboard doesn’t mean that you can now start learning whatever trick or maneuver you feel like. Start with the easy stuff and slowly make your way to the more advanced maneuvers.

6. Find a competitor

A healthy competition will motivate you to try harder, so find a competitor. This can be a friend, someone who surfs the same spot, or whoever you like. Having a competitor will push you not to fall behind but take the lead.

7. Spend time watching the waves

Understanding the behavior of the wave will make it easier for you to surf them. Every spot is different, meaning that you’ll always have to keep observing, no matter your experience.

8. Practice with a skateboard

The more you practice, the better you get! Skateboarding allows you to spend time on a board whenever you can’t go surfing. In addition, board time will help you with balance and muscle memory. This will all benefit your surfing skills in the end.

9. Watch professionals

Watching professional surfers is a great way to get motivated. They’ll show you possibilities and how to do the maneuvers correctly. This will only increase your need to become good at surfing.

10. Watch yourself

The best way to find out what you do wrong, or could improve, is by looking at footage of you surfing. Compare it with the pros and remember your mistakes the next time you paddle out.

11. Ask for advice

There is no shame in asking for advice. If you see someone successfully doing a trick that fails with you every time, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. The surfing community is very friendly, and everyone is willing to help each other.

12. Surf at different locations

Surfing at different locations will keep you motivated, allows you to see beautiful places, meet more amazing surfers, and most of all, you’ll gain a wider variety of experiences.

Don’t stay in one place, but try a different spot; this will make you a better surfer.

13. Be creative

Like I’ve said before, surfing is supposed to be fun! There are no rules besides surf ethics. Imagine something and start practicing. The only limit there is, is the limit you impose on yourself.

The more often you surf, the quicker you’ll become good at it. This is because your muscle memory will develop more quickly when you surf around three times per week. However, even if you can only surf once in a while, you can eventually still become a good surfer.

​​Can You Get Good at Surfing Later in Life?

The short answer:

Getting good at surfing is a matter of determination and practice. Although your body might be less flexible at an older age, you can still become good at surfing! Listen to your body, stick to your own pace, and don’t get discouraged because it takes time.

The extended answer:

Although there are some physical requirements, there is no age limit to surfing or learning how to. If you spend enough time learning to surf, you’ll most definitely get good at it!

Like most things in life, learning to surf is easier at a younger age. Your body is more flexible, you’re probably more fearless, and you just generally learn new stuff with more ease.

However, you can learn how to surf at any age with the right precautions. First, make sure that you do a proper warm-up to protect yourself against injuries.

Then, take lessons, and stick to your own pace. You don’t have to compete with the youth. You’re out there for your own pleasure. And, of course, a good workout is recommended for all ages.

Conclusion

Even though surfing is a difficult and versatile sport, anyone can get good at it. How hard this will be is different for each person. However, by training regularly and with the help of an experienced surfer, getting good will be a lot easier.

Marcus Campbell

Surfing is the biggest passion in my life. Transferring my knowledge about surfing to others is what I love doing most! I do this through my own surf school and through my articles on this website. This is how I hope to get everyone excited about this amazing sport!
Published: 
December 7, 2021
Published: December 7, 2021