Beginner Guide To Surfing – How To Catch The First Wave

There is an indescribable feeling that rushes through surfers' bodies when they catch a wave. They stand on the board majestically while riding the wave-like sea.

If you have ever witnessed people catch a wave, you will understand it is poetry in motion. For beginner surfers, this is what they always aspire to.

Beginners often marvel at how experts glide effortlessly on waves. It is like their board and the water have decided on the best ways to make the surfer look good.

However, it takes years of practice to get to a level where experts can anticipate the waves and know what direction they will go or which wave is short or long. Also, using a beginner friendly surfboard is a must.

Catching the first wave is always a big deal for them; it is like getting your first paycheck or hitting a million dollars.

The bottom line is catching your first wave as a beginner is a moment that you would cherish and not forget in a hurry.

Before we delve into what you should do when catching your first wave, let's clear out the wrong things people do to miss their first wave.

Using Only The Hands

Many beginners miss their first wave because they use only their hands to paddle. This makes them paddle at a fast pace but won't get anywhere. When you swim, you use your hands to move, but your arms also play an important role.

Your arms are the instruments you need to get the desired results. It will help you get to the wave quickly and move according to its pace.

If you use only your hands, you won't paddle hard enough. Subsequently, you would have stayed in the water for hours without catching a single wave.

Waiting For An Incoming Wave

This is what you should never do. Beginners feel they can catch a wave by waiting for an incoming one.

It is difficult to get this, and if not timed properly, the force of the wave will blast you back to shore. What beginners should do is swim to catch up with the wave. You are not waiting but swimming toward the wave to catch it.

You swim to the wave, catch it, and ride the sea like a god.

These are two basic mistakes that beginners make when they are trying to catch a wave. Now, here is a guide on how to catch your first wave.

Wait For Low-Tides

This should not be confused with waiting for the actual wave, but you check to see if the first wave's conditions are right. One way you can deduce this is by checking for low or mid tides. This is when the waves are not breaking.


Here, you are like a predator searching for prey, but instead of being in the jungle, you are in the water. You need to sit or lie on the surfboard outside where the waves are breaking. Now, observe for a few moments the direction of the wave and pick a wave.

Look For A Center Of Gravity On The Board

At this point, you have seen the wave to catch. You are stalking it intently, waiting for the signal. By waiting, you are lying down trying to find a suitable center to stand on the board that will hold your weight and not throw you off when the wave comes.

Here is a caveat, try not to lean too forward on your board, or else the predator might become the prey. The same thing applies if you are leaving way too much to the back. With this type of position, you will not catch a wave.

Monitor The Speed

Imagine yourself driving and trying to come out of where you parked on a busy road. You have to look over your shoulder to see if other cars are coming on your side.

In the same vein, you need to look over your shoulder to monitor the wave's traveling speed. This is necessary to let you know how fast you will move.

Start Paddling

Remember, you are not using your hands alone, but you are going full-on "Michael Phelps" to catch the wave. Paddle according to the traveling speed which you monitored. Let each paddle be long strides that are smooth and precise.

You want to swim to where the action is; other people on the beach may have picked the same wave you are targeting. So, it is the battle of the quickest at this point; match your paddling with the wave and let your focus be on the water, not the competition.


Your eyes are fixed on the water right now; nothing can distract your focus with the wave about to break. This is where you need to be proactive; immediately, the wave begins to break behind you, lift yourself on your board like someone with a purpose.

Start Low

Once you pop up quickly, lay low on your board with your knees slightly bent but your body facing the beach m Gradually enjoy the feel and ride the wave back to the beach.

How Do You Know Which Wave To Pick?

It can be frustrating trying to pick the right outfit and when you are about to feel good about yourself. You look in the mirror; the dress does not go. There are days like that that nothing goes. So, what do you do?

It's for the sake of beginners; they try so hard to check what wave to pick and end up falling short. So, what is the solution?


As ironic as that sounds, that is the answer. No textbook gives you a formula for reading the waves or knowing when they will start to break. It is based on probability which many experts have been lucky because of their constant practice.

Hence, the best way to know which wave to pick is to continue picking. The more you are out there trying to catch the wave, the better you get at identifying the best wave.

You need to understand that your focus is on the unbroken part of the wave when you surf. Now there is some literature you can digest to get the hang of surfing. But, being where the action happens is where you turn theory into reality.


As much fun as surfing can be, it takes diligence and discipline to catch the first wave. It takes some time to get hold of how the waves work. Don't give up because surfing is more difficult than other water sports such as paddle boarding.

But with time, you too can become one with the water. By the time you are standing tall and looking at the horizon, you will realize that the process was all worth it.

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