How Long Does It Take To Learn To Surf?(A Simple Guide)

learning to surf on a small wave

If you’re relatively fit and have a good instructor, you can learn to surf in as little as one two-hour surf lesson.

There are lots of variables that can affect how long your surfing journey will be; let’s find out how you can fast-track yours.

how many lessons does it take to learn to surf

How many surf lessons do you need?

Here’s a rough guide on how many lessons you’ll need to learn to surf, starting with standing up and moving on to riding along the unbroken face of a wave.

Fitness LevelStanding on your surfboardRiding the open wave face
Unfit3-4 Lessons6-8 Lessons
Average2 Lessons3-4 Lessons
Fit1 Lesson2-3 Lessons
Very Fit1 Lesson2 Lessons
*Based on 2-hour lessons with a small group (3-5) of students

It’s important to note here that not all surf schools and camps are equal. While the majority do great work, there are a few things I’d recommend you check before booking:

  • Instructor qualifications – Ensure you learn from the pros if you’re paying.
  • Group size – You progress quicker with fewer people and more attention and coaching.
  • Equipment – I’d always go with a surf school or camp that provides a wetsuit and board so you can try them before you buy.

Now we’ve got a rough idea of how long it will take, let’s look at some ways you can speed up or slow down your progress.

Our tips for speeding up the time it takes you to learn to surf

Now we’ve given you a rough guide, we wanted to share our sure-fire tips to make sure you learn to surf as fast as possible.

Picking the right surfboard

Learning to surf on a longer surfboard will be much easier for you than the traditional high-performance shortboards you see lots of people riding.

A larger surface area and more stability make it easier to catch waves, while smaller shortboards make it harder to pop up and stand on your board and balance.

Aim to learn to surf on a board longer than your height, ideally by a few feet and at least 20′ thick.

Learning to surf in smaller waves

While copying what you see in surf movies is always tempting, you’re much better off starting out in small surf.

Any surf in the knee-to-shoulder range is ideal. You can easily catch lots of waves, and the paddle back out is faster in small surf.

You’ve also got a much lower chance of injury (from the waves; surfers are another story).

Large waves require much more paddling and energy, and you’ll spend less time surfing.

Sticking to smallish waves for at least your first few months of surfing will significantly reduce the time it takes to learn how to surf along the face of the wave.

Mastering the basics with online coaching

Enrolling in an online coaching course is one of the best ways to get a head start on your surfing progression.

They offer lessons in video form alongside commentary and tips from world-renowned surf coaches and instructors.

It’s important to get a course that caters to your level, and when you’re just starting, you can’t look past either of these:

The skill level of the instructor

The teacher’s skill level can greatly impact how fast you learn.

You’ll quickly progress with clear, actionable advice when an experienced surf instructor is good at their job.

If you want to learn by taking as few surf lessons as possible, it’s essential to find an instructor with excellent communication skills that you can build a rapport with.

You can teach yourself to surf without surf lessons, but a skilled instructor will be able to give you tips and advice that you may not uncover surfing alone.

How often do you join a surfing lesson?

Keeping gaps between lessons relatively small is going to help train that crucial muscle memory.

The act of catching and riding waves is fairly taxing on the body, and the movements are natural when you’re staring out.

By bunching up lessons, you can maximise your progression and considerably reduce the number of lessons you need to learn to surf.

To learn to surf, you need the commitment and time to master it. The more often you practice, even if it’s just an hour or two a week, the more progress you can make, as long as you can balance it with other activities in life.

Your natural ability, confidence and dedication

Great surfers spend hours a day in the water but also improve their craft by watching videos and studying books.

If you want to become a better surfer and progress faster, you’re going to need to muster up some serious dedication.

The more time you take to learn surfing’s many techniques and practice them, the better.

But as hard as you work, your natural ability will still play a massive part in how quickly you progress through surfing’s learning curve.

This unavoidable fact is true in all sports, and some of us are blessed enough to be able to pick up new activities in no time.

Your fitness level

Learning to surf is an incredible experience that will take you on the journey of a lifetime, but it will test your body physically.

Catching and surfing waves may be hard at first, but it all gets easier with practice.

Someone who is overweight or out of shape may take slightly longer to pick up the basics of surfing.

You’ll need good physical fitness and some coordination to learn to surf quickly, and some swimming skill level will be really helpful.

But don’t forget that practice makes perfect!

If you put time and effort into learning to surf, you can improve your fitness and skills simultaneously.

The weather and the surf conditions

When you’re learning to surf, the weather can affect your comfort in the water.

For example, big waves and/or cold temperatures make it difficult for people who’ve just started surfing.

Aim to learn to surf in small clean conditions with little to no wind and comfortable temperatures (depending on where you are, you may need a wetsuit to stay warm).

You can surf in onshore waves, but we strongly recommend having your first lessons when the wind is offshore (blowing against the waves) and the waves are uniform and groomed by the wind.

How many people are in your class

The number of people in your surfing lesson is important. The average group is eight students, and classes usually last 2 hours, but you can also take individual classes that can last an hour or more if needed.

Fewer people in your lesson are always preferable, you’ll be able to ask the instructor for more advice, and they’ll spend more time watching your technique (or lack of it) and giving advice.

Try to aim for a 1:5 ratio of instructor to trainees to ensure you get the attention you need to resolve any issues with your paddling, pop up or anything in between.

Wrapping up

So, how long does it take to learn to surf?

Well, it depends. Natural ability, fitness level, and weather conditions are going to lay a part in how long it takes to learn to surf.

As a relatively fit individual, you need approximately 10 hours with an experienced surf instructor in good waves before you can surf independently.

Now you’re all set to start on your surfing journey; what are you waiting for? Book your first lesson today!