Sunday, October 15, 2017

Getting Better at Surfing - Getting Out There

"How do I get better at surfing?" is a regular question that we get.

To get better at surfing you need to learn how to surf -  then surf, surf, and surf some more.
Cate enjoying a birthday surfari on the Oregon Coast.
Taking a class or lesson in the beginning will accelerate your surfing progression regardless of the craft (surfboard, SUP, surf kayak, whitewater kayak, waveski, or sea kayak).  Shop around and find the right coach to make the most of your time and to accelerate your learning.The best instructors are not necessarily those that "rip" the hardest or surf the biggest waves but are those that thoroughly understand the surf zone, surf culture, the fundamental skills, and are effective at teaching all of the above.
Kayak Instructor Ben Lawry teaming up with Liquid Fusion Kayaking for a surf kayak class on the Mendocino Coast.
After taking a surf class or lesson, ask your instructor for "homework." Or take a few notes on the skills from your lesson and make your own surf homework.  Maybe it is working on pop-up's in your living room or working on ruddering strokes in flat water.  Of course part of the surfing homework is getting out and surfing.
Running down the line looking for the cover-up.
Find an appropriate break for your skill level.  Beginning surfers often do best surfing the same break frequently. Look for small, spilling waves at an uncrowded surf zone that does not have a lot of current.  (Longshore currents, rip currents, and river/estuary mouths can be challenging and dangerous).  Check out this link for diagrams and explanations on longshore drift and rip currents.
Even small estuaries and creeks can cause tricky currents in the surf.
When you first arrive at the beach, watch the surf and other surfers.  When scouting the surf, I watch the surf for at least 5 minutes and often will watch for 15-20 minutes before going out.  Notice the shape, size, and consistency of the waves.  Identify rip currents and potential hazards and safe zones.  Look at where other surfers are lining up, paddling out, and taking off.  Decide where you want to surf and determine reference points.  Mind surf some of the waves and visualize your ride.  If you don't see your ride, reassess.  If the waves are not surfable, come up with a plan of skills to work on or move to another beach.  If it is dangerous, don't go out.
Scouting a friendly surf zone from the beach.
If you are going to be surfing with other surfers and around other beach users, be sure to be courteous and follow good surf etiquette.  For more on surf etiquette, check out Surfline's Bill of Lefts and Rights.
Sharing the waves and the surf stoke with others.
Now, get that lesson and get out there.  If you want to learn or brush up on the basics of kayak surfing, join Jeff and I at Liquid Fusion Kayaking for a surf kayaking class or a private surf lesson.  LFK's next surf kayaking class is October 28-29, 2017.
Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne using a sand diagram to demonstrate surf etiquette.
For more surf kayak skills, check out my blog on Surf Kayak Resources.  Please let me know if you find any good sites for me to add to the list.  Also stay turned for my next blog post on getting better at surfing when you cant' get out and surf.
Learn the basics and then surf, surf, and surf some more!!!


  1. I've paddled with Jeff and my daughter larue. I am confident in a kayak. I'm a fifty one year old diabetic but in good health. I'd like to learn to wave surf, and I'd like to work with cate....

    1. Hi Tamra, Thanks for checking out my blog. Jeff and I are team teaching an intro kayak surfing class October 28-29. Check out for details. If that date doesn't work for you, we will be scheduling another one in the spring or you can contact me about scheduling a private lesson. Cheers, Cate