10 most common mistakes surf beginners make & how to avoid them

We've seen them all & many more

Not many things are certain these days, but one thing we can promise you, hand on heart: Learning to surf is something you won’t regret. We have several hundred, before COVID it was thousands, of surf holiday guests come through our surf camps in France and Spain every summer. Most of them are surf newbies and have never surfed before. Guess how many of them come out of the water after a surf lesson with a frown on their face? Yep, none. Literally zero. Why? We think it’s a combination of sunshine, fresh sea water and air, our great surf instructors and that adrenaline rush and the buzz you get from catching a wave. You can’t help but smile and be happy.

Falling in love with surfing is easy. Keeping at it is more difficult because it’s so easy to get it wrong. Here are the 10 most common mistakes beginner surfers make and how to avoid them. Avoid these surf newbie mistakes and you’ll avoid falling out of love with surfing at the first hurdle. 

1. It’s harder than it looks. 

Don’t underestimate surfing, it’s a full body workout and a lot more tiring than it looks. When you watch a good surfer, he or she often makes paddling out back or into a wave look super easy and smooth. When you’re trying it yourself for the first time, you’ll notice that paddling your surfboard against the waves and currents can be a real struggle. That’s why good fitness is key. The healthier and fitter you are, the easier you’ll find surfing.

We have written extensively about surf fitness in the past. Check out our 👉 Quick and easy fitness guide for a comprehensive surf fitness overview. 

And if you want to really work on your fitness from home, here’s our much more elaborate 👉 beginner surfer fitness guide complete with workout tipps and circuits to do from home.

2. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. 

Surfing burns a huge amount of calories, so make sure you keep refuelling your body before and after a surf session. Here are some great ideas for a healthy surfer’s breakfast. Hydration is key of course. Packing lots of water and plenty of healthy and high energy snacks for the beach is a great way to avoid one of the most common mistakes surf beginners make. To spruce up your water, add some cucumber, lemon or ginger to it, it makes a world of a difference! 🍋

3. After the surf is before the surf. 

Avoid achy muscles. Your surf session doesn’t finish with you coming out of the sea. Some post surf stretching will really help your muscles recover quickly and set you up right for your next surf session. Yoga is a great way to loosen your shoulder muscles used for paddling and to strengthen your core for balancing. We’ve put together a great 👉  yoga workout for surfers that you can practise from the comfort of your living room for free. 

4. Buying the wrong gear. 

Having the right gear when learning to surf is really important. Believe us, we see people struggling with the wrong surf gear all the time. What is the wrong gear? Well, most often a surfboard that is too small for you. I mean, we totally get it: you want to be on a small surfboard that is light and easy to carry down to the beach and that makes you look cool, much more so than a chunky beginner surfboard. However, when learning to surf there is nothing worse than trying to improve on a surfboard that is too small for you. You won’t catch waves and lose your surfing stoke rather than keep frothing. 

So what is the right gear when learning to surf? The bigger the surfboard, the easier it is to stand up on it as it floats more easily. It’s also much easier to balance on a wider surfboard than it is on a shortboard. 

In our surf camps, we use soft surfboards called ‘foamies’. Their soft foam construction means they are incredibly buoyant, enabling beginner surfers to catch waves easily. Their dimensions ensure that they are very stable in the water, making it much easier for surf newbies to stand up.

5. Taking the wrong advice.

Knowing where to ask for advice about surfing is key. It’s not always smart to rely on your mates, especially if they’ve only surfed a handful more times than you have. They’re more likely to confuse a 8 ft big wave board with a 8 ft beginner surfboard. We’ve been there.

Unfortunately it’s also not always easy to get the right advice from within the surf industry. Some surf shops will happily sell you the wrong size and/or shape surfboard if it means a profit in their books.

We know the guys from 👉 Mango Surfing personally and cannot recommend them highly enough. They’ve given us great advice in the past. Even if you’re thinking about buying a second hand surfboard off the web, give them a call or send them the link to the listing on 👉  their social media before purchasing. They will know if it’s a good buy and the right one for you and your surf level. 

6. Surfing alone is a no-go.

Always surf with a friend and never go surfing alone, especially when you’re surfing in a foreign country. Should you get into trouble, snap your board or leash, there is someone who can call for help. Surfers should always stick together. If you’re joining us on one of our surf holidays as a solo traveler, it’s easy to surf buddy up. All our surf holiday guests and surf camp staff are very friendly and someone will always be keen to go surfing with you – guaranteed!

7. Know your Surfing Limits.

If you think the surf is too big for your ability, it’s better to stay on the safe side than to risk getting into a difficult situation. The sea and weather conditions can sometimes be unpredictable if you are inexperienced and it’s very easy to get caught out.

8. Learn to read the surf forecast 

There are whole websites out there dedicated to wind and swell forecasting. Learn to read these forecasts and you’ll be the one giving advice next. The surf and weather forecast is always available in our surf camps, and our surf instructors will advise you if they think the conditions are not suitable for surfing.

9. Choose the right destination at the right time of year

A surfing holiday to Morocco can sound super exciting: Especially when starting out as a surfer, Morocco offers a great variety of surf spots and waves. During a one week surf holiday you can surf a different spot and break each day, just as a surf trip ought to be! However, if you don’t know that Morocco is a winter surf holiday destination, and you book a surf holiday for the summer months, instead of being hit with consistent swells and amazing waves you’ll be hit with disappointment. Our team can recommend a surf holiday destination suitable to the time of year you want to travel and your staff level.

10. Don’t Drink & Surf!

… Because we don’t want you to drink & drown! This is so important for all of our surf holiday guests and staff. It is never a good idea to go surfing or even in the sea after drinking alcohol and this is when the beach can become very dangerous. We want all of our guests to have a good time and enjoy their surf holiday but drinking alcohol and surfing don’t mix. So keep the partying away from the sea. 

That’s it from us and the 10 most common mistakes surf beginners make. More useful tipps when learning to surf can be found on our 👉 ultimate guide for surf beginners.


Stay safe & keep surfing, everyone!

Liz & the Star Surf Camps team