How To Choose The Right Surf Spot For Your Skill Level

how to choose a perfect surf spot

Just starting with surfing or trying to get your head around how to find the best waves?

We’ve covered you with our simple guide to finding the perfect waves for your skill level.

We’ll talk you through exactly how to pick the right break to make the most of your next surf.

Let’s dive straight in with checking the wind and swell.

Check Your Local Surf Report

Surf reports like Surfline offer up-to-date swell and wind data for thousands of surf spots worldwide.

You can see the predicted wave size, and their handy traffic light system gives you a fairly good idea of quality.

Make sure to check the current tide and surf accordingly.

You can use webcams for some spots to get a live visual of the surf conditions.

When you’re just learning to surf, you want to avoid heading out in very large or windy waves. 

It makes for lots of paddling, and until you’ve mastered your duck dive, it will be tough work for little reward.

As you progress, you can start to ride larger waves, opening yourself up to surfing a much wider range of conditions.

Pick The Right Surf Spot For Your Ability

Now that you’ve checked the surf, you must find the right spot.

Extra learningCheck out OMBE Surf’s guide on finding your beach for a detailed video on finding the best spot for your skill level.

There are three different kinds of breaks that we’ll cover quickly.

*Pro tip – Don’t forget to check where the best spots are with your local surf shop. Just be honest about your skill level.

Beach breaks

Sand-bottomed beaches with the possibility of some rocky outcrops.

This is ideal when you learn how to surf; it removes any unnecessary risks or hazards so you can focus on catching waves and riding them to the shore.

But beach breaks aren’t all equal; you might want to avoid powerful wedges and shore dumps that generally have the steepest waves with more closeouts.

Reef breaks

Waves breaking over rock and coral are strictly for experienced surfers. Check out our full guide on surfing reef breaks for a deep dive.

They aren’t always all-out barrels like Pipeline in Hawaii but never the less they pose a danger when you surf.

Rock can lead to nasty cuts and bruises, but coral cuts can be infectious, leading to serious medical issues if left untreated.

Then you have got the joys of sea urchins, small living balls of spikes which can be agonising if you stand on them.

Just because you see good waves doesn’t mean accessing them will be easy.

Point breaks

Waves that break along a coastline with either a sand, rock or coral bottom. Please find out more in our guide to surfing point breaks.

Waves that peel down the shore for hundreds of metres look amazing but come with their own challenges.

You’ll deal with rocks, rip currents, crowd factors, and a long paddle back.

None of which are great for beginner surfers.

Analyze the lineup before you paddle out, and consider surfing a quieter part of the wave further down the point.

Observe The Other Surfers In The Water

If you’re watching the best surfers battle it out at a world-class surf spot, chances are you won’t get many waves.

And as a beginner, this should be a clear sign it isn’t the right break for you.

Look for other beginner-intermediate surfers in the lineup and see how they get on as a good indicator.

Avoid really good surfers where possible; they tend to be very good at finding and catching waves leaving you to fight for the scraps.

Should You Surf At A Lifeguarded Beach?

Lifeguards aren’t always on duty, but they keep a close eye on swimmers and surfers alike when they are.

A lifeguarded beach is always a good idea if you haven’t spent much time in the ocean or have a weak swimming stroke.

At a surf spot for beginners, they’ll often set out flags specifically for surfers, so you don’t need to worry about running down swimmers as you ride waves.

Avoid Crowds When You Can

Looking for waves that aren’t too crowded is a good idea for any surfer.

Fewer surfers in the water mean more waves to go around, and who doesn’t want to catch more waves?

Surfing early and late is one of my favourite ways to avoid crowd pressure.

It’s a bit chillier but normally less windy, and you can’t beat those glassy mornings.

Next, you can try walking down the beach to a different sandbank.

We, as surfers, are notoriously lazy, and you’ll be surprised how many quiet waves are waiting for you just a short walk away.

*Pro tipIf youre paddling out in busy surf make sure to familiarise yourself with surf etiquette and the basic rules of surfing.

Find Shelter When It’s Windy Or The Waves Are Too Big

Surfing when it blows a gale is a nightmare. It destroys the waves and blows water in your eyes as you try and take off.

But if you can find shelter in the form of large cliffs, groins or even a pier, you can cancel out a lot of chatter on the wave.

When the waves are big, you can look for sheltered coves and kinks in the coastline, making for smaller, cleaner conditions.

Wrapping Up

Now equipped with all our handy tips, you’re ready to start planning your next epic surf trip.

Try to head out when it’s offshore, and you’ll be surfing perfect waves before you know it!

Don’t miss our other great reads below, packed with more insights into the world of surfing.