Learning to surf can be an intimidating endeavor. The power of the ocean is not something to be taken lightly. The thought of going out into the deep blue, alone, armed only with what essentially is a piece of foam, then trying to ride said beast can be unsettling. But if you have the cash there are people more than willing to help you out. Your friendly neighborhood surf instructor.
Yes, surf lessons are worth the cost. Having an experienced surfer to help you through the learning process is invaluable. Teaching you the basic fundamentals and safety procedures will boost your learning curve all while keeping you safe. And most importantly you’ll just catch so many more waves.
If you’re curious about surfing and not sure whether or not it is for you a surf lesson is a great place to start. And if you are serious about learning a surf lesson can be the quickest route to success. Yes none of the best surfers in the world have ever taken a surf lesson but they emerged from the womb in a wetsuit already holding a board. So for the rest of us mere mortals a surf lesson is the way to go.
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Are Surf Lessons Worth it?
Even if surfing isn’t going to be a lifelong hobby for you, they are totally worth it. Either as a fun activity on holiday in hawaii or as a way to take your surfing to the next level, surf lessons are worth every penny.
If you are curious about surfing and have absolutely zero experience, trying to surf can quickly become an overwhelming task.
Things like: where to rent a board, what board to rent, should I buy a board, what to wear, where to paddle out, when to stand up, how to stand up… the list is never-ending and quickly the virgin surfer can become buried in a mountain of information. Or worse not have access to useful information.
And then there is the beginner surfer who maybe feels like they’ve plateaued and need some help getting to the next level. But surf lessons can be a big commitment of time and money, and one is left wondering, how worth it are they really? Or am I better off learning on my own like many other shredders out there?
And finally the last type of person, and maybe the most common to consider a surf lesson is the tourist. The surf lesson will be more like an on holiday activity then progressing at a hobby. For this person, surf lessons are so amazing.
Maybe they’re from a landlocked country or state and this might be there one time to ever try surfing.
Getting to go out with an instructor and experience riding a wave and the fun of the ocean can be the highlight of many peoples’ vacation. Not to mention the priceless pics for the gram.
So if you still can’t make up your mind on whether or not to take the plunge on a surf lesson or learn on your own, I’ve made good ol fashion pros and cons for ya.
Surf Lesson pros:
- Easy, you won’t have to deal with caring for any of gear and instructors will be there to help with all that.
- Explanation, experienced instructors will be there to give in-depth explanations on everything, from how to pop up to how to fall.
- Safety, instructors will be there to explain all safety measures and keep you safe in the water.
- Meeting others, you will meet other like-minded individuals with a similar skill set as you.
- More waves! An instructor will help push you into waves ensuring you just catch a gluttonous amount.
- Pictures, more often than not there is someone to take cool pictures of you surfing.
- Fun, surf instructors are super fun and you’ll have a blast.
- Fun activity for the whole family
Surf lessons cons:
- Expensive, can be expensive depending on where you’re learning.
- Time sucks, you’re kind of locked in for at least a half-day event.
- Don’t meet any locals, you’ll meet other beginners most likely and not the local surf community.
- Less independence, yes you’ll get heaps of waves but pretty much all of those will be from an instructor pushing you in. So you’ll get less practice catching waves on your own.
- Beginner beach, almost 100 percent you’ll be learning at a beginner beach. That’s great but there are better waves out there.
Learning on your own pros:
- Free! It’s free and you don’t have to shell out extra dough to learn.
- Builds character, yes it’s harder, but in the long run, can make you a stronger surfer. You’ll catch less waves, but you’ll be forced to learn all the fundamentals on your own, like paddling out and turning around. It will literally make you physically stronger to learn these things by yourself.
- Can go wherever you want, you do not have to surf where the school is located.
- Use whatever board you want, you can take out any board you want and are not limited to the boards the surf school provides.
- Can go wherever you want, you are not limited to the beach the surf school is located at.
Learning on your own cons:
- More frustrating, you won’t have guidance and immediate feedback to help you through problems.
- More dangerous, no instructor to protect you out in the water.
- Catch less waves, you will catch less waves and have less time actually riding.
- Gear, you will need all your own gear and have to deal with getting it to and from the beach on your own.
Are Surf Lessons Expensive?
The price of surf lessons can vary greatly depending on a number of factors.
The average cost for a group lesson is around 40-50 dollars (1.5-2 hours), while a private can run you upward of 100 dollars (1.5-2 hours). There are options that are much cheaper and much more expensive depending on the school and country it is located in.
So let’s talk about group v private lessons.
This is something that will massively affect how much you pay. Your average group lesson costs about 40 dollars a person while a private lesson can run 100 dollars up, even more at fancy schools.
I knew a guy who ran 10 dollar group lesson off Instagram but remember you get what you pay for and of course, his groups were huge.
A group lesson is a great way to get your feet wet and still get time with an instructor. Remember though that in a group you will have limited one on one time with the instructor as he will be dividing his time between 10 or so people.
First, your instructor will talk to you all as a group on the sand and go over the basics of standing up and safety. Once you are in the water he or she will rotate in between each student taking turns helping everyone catch waves. It’s worth the price and a great way to have fun and learn with others of the same skill level.
The private lesson. This will cost you the big bucks, at least 100 of them but you’ll be getting the full attention of a seasoned pro.
Every problem or question you have will be answered quickly and youll be catching every wave with the assistance of an instructor. Instead of waiting your turn in the rotation for another guide assisted wave, every wave you are pushed into by the golden hand of your teacher. If you’ve got the cash it’s a really good option.
Location will affect the price of your surf lesson as well. Lessons in Australia or the States will be more expensive than lessons in Mexico or Costa Rica for example. Third worldish countries with great waves are awesome places to get cheap surf lessons or package deals. Bali and the Philippines being prime examples.
Here’s a price breakdown by country according to surfholidays.com
How Many Lessons does it take to Learn to Surf?
Exactly 7. Once you take 7 surf lessons you’ll know everything and become great at surfing. Nope sorry I lied. If only it was that easy.
Surfing has a very steep learning curve and in most cases takes years to learn. It’s one of those things you’ll have to couple with lots of practice on your own alongside lessons and still be garbage for ages.
If you only take one surf lesson a year, let’s say on holiday or something even if you do that for 10 years you’ll never really learn.
There’s not really one answer here. Some people can take zero lessons and be shredders. Actually come to think of it, that’s the answer I’ll go with. Zero. because you don’t even have to take surf lessons to learn. And let’s be honest, anyone who’s actually good has never taken one.
But let’s say you’re learning to surf later in life. You’re a young professional who’s a little flush and has the cash to spend on lessons. How many lessons can you expect to take before you get it down? I would say around 24.
A really determined person, someone who really wants to learn, should be surfing at least 4-5 times a week or more for the first year. Then combine that with 2 lessons a month for a total of 24 in a year, and I’d say by the end of that year that person would have it down pretty good.
If you’re on vacation and taking a surf lesson as a one-time activity can you expect to learn how to surf in one go?
So you will most likely learn how to stand up and ride waves if you aren’t completely incompetent.
If you get a good instructor you’ll be riding heaps of waves. So in a super broad sense, yes, you’ll learn how to stand up and ride whitewater waves which is technical surfing.
But it’s hard to say that riding white water waves means you know how to surf. There is just so much more to surfing then that. So much to learn and absorb it takes practically a lifetime. But once you have made a soul bond with the ocean there is no turning back unless written in blood.
What to Expect from your First Surf Lesson?
Nothing less than an orgasmic life-changing experience that takes you through different dimensions of time and space. In layman’s terms, you can expect to have a really fun time.
You may be a little nervous but remember the whole point of surfing is to have fun.
It is a creation that serves no other purpose then recreation. So go into it with a good attitude and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do amazing and be a mega ripper after your fist go.
The best surfer is always the guy out there having the most fun and the same goes for lessons too.
What will actually go down in a surf lesson? How does it work?
There will be two main parts:
- The on sand lesson
- In the water practice
You can think of it like classroom theory followed by a lab. I’ll walk you through every aspect of your standard surf lesson, from arriving at the van to taking them gram pics at the end.
This is the first step in your surfing journey. It seems like something you wouldn’t think about much but it’s a very important step. If you don’t arrive you can’t surf!
A receptionist will confirm your lesson date, time and location. It’s very important you pay attention to these details. Especially the time of the lesson and the location.
Before your lesson, it is smart to map out the route and give yourself extra time for traffic and parking if you’re driving.
Remember you’re most likely taking a group lesson so if you’re late you’ll either hold up the whole group or be left behind. And if you’re late to a private lesson, and the instructor has another lesson right after, your lesson will have to be cut short.
So being punctual and knowing the proper location is very important.
You’ve arrived on time and found either the surf shop or more commonly the van in a beach parking lot.
So what happens next? Well, the van girl aka beach receptionist will greet you and have you sign the safety waiver.
Next depending on where you’re surfing she’ll fit you with a wetsuit and tell you the proper way to put it on.
Once everyone has arrived you’ll be introduced to your instructor, who has probably been standing around the van chewing fat with their last lesson or other instructors.
Your instructor will greet you and introduce themself, then start handing out boards.
They’ll strategically give the big people big boards, the 9 footers and so on, and the smaller 8 footers to the little guys.
You’ll be shown how to hold your board. Either under your arm, or for the bigger boards the nose under the armpit while dragging the tail in the sand.
You’ll walk down the beach and stop where you’ll begin on the sand.
The instructor will arrange everyone in a semicircle, with their boards on the sand next to then, noses pointing towards the instructor in the middle.
On Sand Lesson:
Now the lesson begins. The instructor will start by asking everyone’s names and do your usual introduction type of stuff. Then they’ll dive into the meat of the lesson.
They’ll start by pointing out the different parts of the board and their functions.
The nose, tail, leash, stringer etc.
Then they’ll move onto showing everyone where to stand on the board, how far apart to put their feet and help with any confusion about goofy or regular.
Goofy is right foot forward and Regular is left foot forward.
The instructor teaches the students how to stand on the board before teaching them how to pop up to their feet so that once they pop up they have a goal to shoot for. A stance that they can strive for after the pop-up.
The pop up. The pop up is how surfers get to their feet from lying prone on their board after paddling and catching a wave.
The instructor will show the students how to paddle and tell them that once they feel the momentum of the wave carrying them that’s when they want to pop up.
Also that you’ll hear him yelling “pop up!” so that’s a pretty good sign too.
Your instructor will teach you three different pop-ups in hopes one will work for all different athletic levels.
Fast Pop-Up: The first one is the one all surfers use who are fairly experienced. This is the pop up you’d see if you’ve ever watched anyone surf on tv or anything. Its where you just jump up to your feet. Effective quick, but physically the hardest one.
Slower-Pop-Up: The next two are slower and involve your knees. There’s a one knee method and a two knee method. Your instructor will teach you all of these and you can decide which you feel more comfortable with. And then if you get out in the water and it’s not working it’s always good to know another one as a backup.
Once you’ve chosen the pop up you feel most comfortable with you’re just gonna practice it heaps of times. If you can’t get it down on land you won’t be able to do it in the water. You’ll practice it a lot and hope to get a little muscle memory going so it’s just one less thing you’ve got to think about.
Now that you’ve practiced your pop up heaps and you’re all hot and sweaty and dying to get in the water, there’s just one more thing to go over. Safety.
Your instructor will go over all the things to keep you safe in the water. Things like:
- Giving other students space to prevent collisions
- Shuffling your feet to prevent stepping on stingrays
- Riptide safety
- How to hold your board when walking out so it doesn’t hit you
- How to fall
- How to put on your leash
Once you are extra safe you’re ready to get in the water.
In The Water
In water lesson: Now the fun begins. It’s time to get in the ocean and catch some waves.
With a large group depending on the waves that day your instructor will take you in one at a time giving each person a wave until everyone is in the water together.
Your instructor will help you get through the waves, then at a certain point turn your board around and tell you to hop on. It’s go time.
You’re going to catch your first wave. You’ll be riding the whitewash, the white part of the wave after it breaks. You’ll lay on your board with the white water wave approaching from behind.
Your instructor will hold the back of your board and tell you to paddle.
The white water will hit the back of your board and your instructor will give you a small push. The wave will begin to carry you towards shore and your instructor will tell you to pop up. It’s your time to shine.
If everything goes as planned you will pop up to your feet and ride the wave! High fives and cheers will follow.
Your instructor will rotate between clients helping everyone catch waves, while they are helping others you will be encouraged to catch waves on your own.
After the in water part, which will be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half your first lesson is over!
You’ve done it, you had your first surfing experience. Now you will high five, lots of high fives in surfing, and time to take pictures with your board and instructor if you want.
You’ll be shown where the showers are and take off and rinse your wetsuit. Now you’re free to go, after you’ve given your instructor a sweet tip of course.
Are Surf Camps Worth the Cash?
Surf camps are so much fun. Living at the beach surfing everyday is a great way to get better fast.
If you are really passionate about surfing and love travel they are sooo worth it. There are surf camps all around the world in awesome locations.
Lots of surf camps include accommodation and food on top of 2 or 3 surf sessions a day. You will be living at the beach for one to two weeks and meeting other people who share the same passion as you.
Generally, you will wake up early and have a light breakfast and coffee then go for your first surf of the day with instructors guiding you.
After that, you will have more food then free time. Next will be your lunch/ afternoon surf again with instructors. The evening surf is normally a free surf not guided by instructors.
There will be classroom sessions as well, you will learn all sorts of things about:
- Different surfboards
- General surfing knowledge
The camps offer a great way to make lifelong friends, and one of the best parts is the social aspect. They all have cool bars and awesome evening time activities.
Some popular surfcamps around the world:
The fact that surf camps include boards, lessons, food and accommodation along with fun times makes them really worth the high cost. If you’re interested in a surf vacation but are new to surfing I think they are really the way to go.
And if the camp is in a country you want to travel to anyway you can hit two birds with one stone. Learn to surf and experience a new culture and country all at once. Places like Bali and Costa Rica are hot spots for surf tourism and camps.
What to Wear First Time Surfing?
In my opinion, the most overlooked and most important thing to wear to your first time surfing is sunscreen.
Getting sunburned sucks and it’s so important to stay safe and protect your skin. And if you’re not in pain for a terrible burn you’re much more likely to surf again the next day.
Next up is a wetsuit. Water can be cold. Really cold. And if your first time is somewhere like California even in the summer it’s far from tropical. So to stay warm you should consider wearing a wetsuit depending on the water temperature.
A rashguard is highly recommended if it’s warm water and you’re not wearing a wetsuit. The wax on your board or even the foam tops can cause nasty belly rashes. A rash guard protects you from the board and does just as its name suggests, guards you from rashes.
Other than that just wear what you would to any other beach day.
- Flip Flops
- Don’t forget a towel!
If you’re a girl remember to wear a secure swimsuit as you will be thrashing around in the waves and don’t want any bits and bobs popping out.