What do I wish I had known when I started surfing?

Which is the best surfboard for beginners?

An 8-foot foam surfboard with three fins is the best choice for learning to surf. Or a 9-foot foam surfboard if you're very tall or heavy.

Why? Because:

You can ride it on very small waves, unlike a shortboard.

Longboard versus shortboard

The problem with learning to surf on a shortboard is that it is the Formula 1 of surfing. It's super fast, really unstable and hyper-reactive.

You can't learn the basics of surfing on something as slippery as a bar of soap. Why? Because things happen so fast that you can't understand what's happening. As a beginner, you'll spend most of your time falling as soon as you get on the board. You won't have any fun!

On a longboard, you have time to understand what's happening when you stand up on the deck. You can correct your foot placement if you feel unbalanced. In fact, longboards are forgiving because they're more stable and slower. You will have fun!

It's like learning to ride a bike, you don't learn on a racing bike, you learn on a tricycle: it's slower, more stable and more forgiving.

Later, when you have mastered your longboard and the basics of surfing: pop-ups, bottom turns, top turns, cutbacks... you will be able to try shorter boards. Because you will have built strong foundations, reflexes and balance. Because you will be experimented enough to ride a less balanced, less forgiving and faster board.

Once you have mastered the basics of surfing, you don't necessarily have to ditch your longboard for a shortboard. Some famous surfers have a lot of fun with foam surfboards. Like Jamie O'Brien in Hawaii:

How to do a perfect take off

Many beginners miss all their waves and the fun of surfing because they don't know how to take off on their board. You need to practice on the ground so that once you're in the water, you can do the take-off in an instant. Practice, practice, practice! Trust me, it's not wasted time.

In the video below, at 3:41, the surf coach is talking about the "chicken wing" take-off. It's the technique used by pro surfers John John Florence and the late Andy Irons. In my humble opinion, it's the only serious technique you can use to launch with good balance on your board and avoid turbulence from the start.

The hidden dangers of surf spots

Coming to a new surf spot? Find the answers to these questions before you hit the water:

Where are you going to leave the spot in an hour or two when the tide is high? In the middle of the rocks where the waves are now crashing?

The same goes for low tide. Will you be able to go ashore when the waves are now closing in on the reef?

It's better to think about this before you get trapped in the ocean.

Ask local surfers about the dangers of the spot you're going to: hidden rocks at high tide, sharks in some countries, rip currents, difficult exit at low or high tide.

Last but not least, you need to have enough stamina to be able to swim back to shore if your leash breaks and you lose your board.

How to warm up before surfing

Almost all the surfers I see going into the water haven't warmed up. That's stupid. Firstly, warming up prevents injuries. Secondly, once you're warmed up, you'll be at 100% capacity on the first wave. Why wait 10 waves to surf at your best? Furthermore, when you warm up, you accumulate heat, which allows you to stay in cold water longer. In my experience, paddling like crazy on your board doesn't help at all. You just get exhausted, not warmer. And once you start shivering, it's over, you have to get out of the water. To surf longer, you have to get warm before you surf. I know I'm ready to surf when I'm sweating in my wetsuit and feeling really warm. I have found that doing knee bends helps me generate a lot of heat. That's because they work the biggest muscles in the body: the quadriceps. I think that's why bodyboarders don't really feel the cold: they're constantly using their quadriceps to move in the water. So here is a good warm-up routine:

How to stop waves splitting your surfboard in half

The falling lip of a wave exerts a phenomenal force on long rigid objects. If the wave is too big to duck under with your board, make sure there is nobody behind you, then put your board aside and parallel to the wave and dive in. This will prevent your board from breaking.

How to stay in shape for your next surf session

It's hard to train for surfing when there are no waves. Swimming and skateboarding are good complementary activities to practice paddling and balance out of the water. Yoga is also good for balance and being a relaxed surfer.

Avoid cancer

Use sunscreen. Skin cancer is no joke. And if you're surfing in a very sunny country, don't forget to put sunscreen on your calves.

To hell with the hype

All the focus on highlight reels from surf videos sets a really unrealistic standard for what it means to have a good session. Sometimes a single wave or manoeuvre can make or break a session.

It's not a competition

Everyone occasionally struggles to make a section, gets bounced on a manoeuvre, drops late into a closeout, makes a wave selection mistake or even misses a wave from time to time. Don't be so self-critical when things don't go as planned. Nobody cares what the hell you're doing out there except you.


If you think of surfers as drug addicts looking for their next fix, it is much easier to understand why surfing can make some of them aggressive at times. I've heard a surfing instructor say that sometimes he goes surfing to relieve his anger, but if he doesn't get enough waves, he leaves the water even more angry.

There are other places to surf

Fighting with idiots at the best spot isn't worth it. Hanging out with mellow surfers at a decent spot is much better.

Ancient wisdom

Always remember that the best surfer is the one who has the most fun. Every day we get to walk down the beach and paddle out is a beautiful gift.

See you in the water! 🏄