Should you learn to surf on your own , or should you join a surf camp? Its probably a question you’ve asked yourself, maybe on holidays seeing the waves and getting that urge to go out there and try it out for your self. Its a common site to see , a beginner out in the water learning the “hard way” and also to see a group of students being led by a teacher learning to stand up on broken waves. So whats the best approach? Learn on your own or join a surf school? Ive heard two lines of thought on this.
First is the purist attitude that believes surfing should be self taught. The surf school adepts believe learning with a school will ensure you learn to surf in in a safe and effective way. Personally I believe surf schools are great way for anyone to learn how to surf. Either way, here are some points to consider, whether you want to learn with a school or go out there on your own.
Learning when young vs learning when older
We all know that when we are young it is much easier to learn anything, from playing the piano, to skiing, and also surfing. When you are young you are still developing your muscle memory , and when you learn a sport, it is much easier for your body to remember what you have to do. Soon enough what the youngster is learning becomes so ingrained in him that what he is doing seems like second nature. As you get older, learning something new many times means re training your muscles to preform in a certain way, and it may be harder and the learning curve may be longer. However, you can at any age train your body to remember anything, it may sometimes require more time. As a youngster remember to have a someone watching out for you , either at the beach or even better someone giving you tips in the water. If you are older and are learning to surf by yourself, you may see the kid that started at the same level evolve much faster than you !
Where do you live ?
In summer people get the urge to hit the beach , and the surf seems to call out that part of us which lies sleeping in the winter. We want to learn to surf. One summer, at my local beach I saw the average learner go out in the water, learning by himself. he was about in his late 20’s. He had a good board for starting out. In in the water i would see him making some of the mistakes beginners make. Every day I was out at the beach i saw him , and everyday he was making progress, sometimes learning the hard way !! But his dedication was incredible. the summer went , and in the winter there he was again, whether in rain or sunshine. By that winter he was in the outside catching clean waves and having a blast. I was pretty sure he was from the same neighborhood as me , and he must have lived pretty close to the beach to be out there almost every other day. Also i guess, he must have had a lot of free time on his hands! This can make all the difference when learning to surf. If you chose to learn on your own, you will do much better if you go out as often as possible. This means you must have access to a surfing beach and plenty of free time. If you live far from the beach and can only go out on weekends, or only surf when you are on holidays, than learning on your own may not be as productive as you would like, and you may find your self stuck in the same level and not see much evolution in your surfing.
Safety first !
Surfing takes place in the ocean , and the ocean can be a pretty unpredictable place. It is always important to know about ocean safety when you go out in the water. A good surf school will make safety a priority, and will make sure you understand things like currents and what to do when caught in one. I have often seen beginner surfer trying to paddle back to shore against the current until they tire out, and then some one has to go and get them. Every summer and sometimes in winter too, lifeguards or other surfers have to go out and rescue countless of beginner surfers and inexperienced swimmers who get caught in rips and don’t know what to do . There are many other safety issues you should get to know before you go out on the water. Knowing where to paddle out from , where to catch the waves, how not to get in the way of other people, all these are things you should be familiar with before hand. Not having this knowledge may put you in harms way , and others as well. Basically if you are unsure of the conditions of the beach and are not used to being out on the ocean , always seek some guidance and supervision. Being under supervision of a surf school in this instance can save you a lot of trouble and give you a proper education about water safety.
Bad Habits die hard
I have a surfer friend that surfs pretty good, there is one problem though. He has a surfing stance that seems to be rather odd. Both his knees seem to be sticking out when he is on the board. A correct surfing style is nice to watch, and some people are naturally gifted with possessing style. Guys like Gery Lopez and Tom Curren are true style masters when it comes to surfing. However for the rest of us mere mortals, not blessed with the same grace , we may have to work a bit harder to achieve a good and proper surfing style. The friend i mentioned to surf unfortunately had no one to correct him when he was starting out so he developed this this particular habit. Now a days some people mention it to him, but because he has learnt it, it is much harder now to unlearn it. We filmed him in the water recently and he was able to see himslef surfing. This helped him a bit , and now he knows what he has to correct. However , it will take him a lot longer than if he had corrected it when learning. A good surfing style will make your surfing not only look better but also more fluid and effortless. A good surf school will work with you on this. The best way to make sure you are doing things right on the board is to watch yourself surf. Even experienced surfers are surprised when they see themselves in the water. Many surf schools now have a video correction program to go with the practical lessons. This way you can see yourself on the board and know what to correct before it becomes a habit!
Hope this gives you some idea on the different issues involved when learning to surf. No matter what you decide, remember the most important thing is to have fun and stay safe!!
Yasser Saiyad runs a surf and yoga retreat in Portugal. They run various programs focusing on healthy living and wellbeing. You can see his website on www.atlantissurfproject.com
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