Want to catch more waves, improve your surfing technique and have more fun in the ocean?
Then don’t miss your easy-to-follow guide packed with carefully selected surfing tips to fast-track your progression.
Whether you’re a complete beginner, intermediate or advanced surfer, we’ve got helpful tips and advice to help you master one of the world’s hardest sports.
Surfing tips for beginners
Sure-fire ways to get better at surfing as quickly as possible when you’re just starting out.
Learn how to read a surf report
This could easily be the most important tip on this list.
Knowing how to read and understand a surf report is essential if you want to progress quickly towards becoming an intermediate surfer.
You don’t have to understand a lot of the statistical information and data, just a few simple things you can look for to check if the surf is going to be any good.
Look after your equipment
Both traditional PU surfboards and epoxy surfboards are both going up in cost every year. Buying a new board can set you back $500+ and a decent new wetsuit anywhere north of $300.
With prices going up all the time it’s never been so important to treat the surfing gear you have with respect.
This means rinsing your wetsuit after every surf and making sure you regularly clean your surfboard.
Find some surf buddies
In the early stages of surfing some company in the ocean can be really motivating.
Being able to share your experiences and tackle frustration together is going to make the whole surfing experience much easier.
Don’t ride small surfboards
When you’re learning to surf extra buoyancy is most definitely your friend. The buoyancy or float of a surfboard is measured in litres using a metric called volume.
As a beginner, you’re going to want at the very least 45l+. This added foam will help give you a little extra paddle power making it easier to catch more waves.
Take a surf lesson
There’s nothing wrong with teaching yourself to surf but if you want to get out the back and surf the open face of the wave as soon as possible, you might want to take a surf lesson.
The instructors at a surf school are all qualified to give you expert advice and guidance while you are out in the ocean.
They can quickly highlight where you’re going wrong and correct any bad technique in your paddling and pop-up.
Even if you’ve already mastered the basics taking a single surf lesson is still a good idea to keep you focused and on the right track.
Use the right wax
Surfboard wax is classified based on water temperature. Use cold water wax in warm water and your freshly combed wax job will fall off the deck of your surfboard like butter.
Go to a beginner-friendly surf spot
By a friendly surf spot I mean:
- Sand bottomed
- Surf in the 2-4ft range
The right spot should have friendly waves breaking in safe water with no rips or currents.
The last thing you want as a beginner is an unpleasant experience which can easily happen if you paddle out at a surf spot that’s beyond your skill level.
Learn about surf etiquette
Surfing has a list of unwritten rules that keep the lineup orderly.
The basic premise is waiting your turn and only catching a wave if there are no other surfers on the wave face or closer than you are to the peak, or breaking white water.
You’ll also need to learn how to paddle around the peak to avoid getting run over by other surfers as you duck dive waves.
Surfing tips for intermediate surfers
Take your surfing to the next level and start to perform surf tricks.
Try surfing reefs and point breaks
Beach breaks are awesome but there are other more mechanical waves hiding just around the next headland.
Reef break waves are surf spots that break over rock or coral and unlike sand, they offer a stationary ocean floor leading to predictable waves and defined take-off zones that only change with the tide.
Point breaks can be sand, rock or coral but unlike beach breaks and reef breaks, they break along a coastline making for leg-burning rides and dreamy waves.
Start surfing junkie waves
Surfing perfect waves are great but if you want to surf regularly you’ll need to lower your standards.
Surfing choppy waves are the perfect way to train before a solid clean swell eventually arrives.
You can catch loads of waves and work on better balance and paddling with the constant paddling and short, snappy rides.
Try different types of surfboards
Many surfers reach the intermediate level by surfing only one or two boards.
Variety is the spice of life and trying out different surfboard shapes and models will open up your mind to the myriad of waves you can ride a wave.
Some popular options include:
- Twin fins
- Mini mals
I’m not suggesting you go out and spend all your hard-earned cash on new boards by any means.
Ask your friends and fellow surfers for a quick shred, you’ll be surprised how many surfers are absolutely stoked to share in the joy of their favourite board (just don’t go getting any dings).
Work on your bottom turn
The bottom turn is the core of all great surfing, period.
Whether it’s high-performance surfing or longboarding, a great bottom turn is going to set up every single manoeuvre you perform on the wave.
Surf with someone better than you
This surfing tip is a real game changer. Surfing with other surfers who are better than you is an amazing way to push you to your limits.
You can analyse their technique in the water, watch how they paddle out and navigate the lineup and ask for honest feedback on your own technique, paddling and equipment size.
Travel to surf
Travelling to surf is the perfect way to surf new waves and challenge your own surfing skills.
Whether it’s heading an hour or two up the coast or taking a flight to warmer waters, new surf spots can surprise you with their power and quality, especially if you live in an area that lacks quality swell.
Just remember to check you’ve got the right board size for travelling, you might need some extra inches on your surfboard if you plan on surfing overhead waves.
Practice surfing at home
If you want to maximise your surfing progression in the water then you’re going to need to put in some work out of the water.
Starting to practice surfing at home will have untold benefits when the next swell eventually arrives.
You can use balance boards, try skateboarding or just develop a simple bodyweight exercise routine to keep you surf fit.
Learn how to read waves
An understanding of the ocean and how waves form and break can only be achieved by doing one thing, watching and surfing waves.
Whether you’re catching waves in the lineup or spectating from the cliffs you should always be trying to understand how waves are breaking.
The fate of your ride depends on your ability to predict what waves are going to do ten or even twenty feet down the line.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your local beach break or a new surf break you’ve never visited before, always take time to assess how the waves are breaking to help inform your positioning in the lineup and your paddle out route.
We all know the best way to get better at surfing is by catching more waves, but taking a step back you can quickly see that your wave count all hinges on your paddling.
Hitting the pool with a focus on your arms using techniques like freestyle is one of the most fun ways to get your paddle strength up when the waves are flat.
A strong paddle technique is going to help you reach the lineup quicker in between waves and your hard work will really pay off when you can catch into waves that other surfers can’t quite catch.
Surfing tips for advanced surfers
Knowledge bombs for the most experienced surfers.
Watch footage of yourself surfing
Asking someone to film you while you’re surfing is one of the best ways to improve as an already skilled surfer.
Raw footage highlights errors in timing and technique that you just can’t pick up with photos.
You can watch yourself in slow motion to see how your body is moving through different surf tricks and manoeuvres and even analyse your takeoff.
Try different surfboard fins
If you’re guilty of changing up your boards once a year but sticking with the same set of chipped old fins then this could be a game-changer.
Switching out your fin sets in different conditions can have a better performance boost than you might think.
Large surfboard fins in small surf can add the extra drive you need to race down sections and throw more spray in otherwise gutless waves.
On the other side, taking your fins down a size in larger surf can help your manoeuvrability, helping you to surf tighter in the pocket of the wave.
Search out secret spots
As an advanced surfer, you have a much wider choice of surf spots. Whether it’s fast-barreling slabs or offshore reefs your skills allow you to take on much more dangerous and inaccessible waves.
More popular spots always mean extra people in the water and fewer waves to go around.
Getting off the beaten track and hunting down new surf spots on satellite maps is one of the most rewarding experiences in all of surfing.
Use wave pools to perfect your technique
Wave pools are a relatively recent addition to the sport of surfing.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to one nearby then they offer the perfect training ground for repeating turns on predictable sections that are close to identical on every wave.
You can carefully plan and execute your bottom turns and manoeuvres allowing for the reps you need to start throwing buckets of spray.
For someone just starting to practice aerials, this can be an ideal spot to find your ramp and repeat until you nail your first air.
Now you’re all set to hit the waves with our definitive list of surfing tips for surfers of all abilities.
Check out the rest of our guides below for other great ways to improve your surfing and learn about the sport we all love.