Learning to Surf

As someone who started surfing at 28, there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: If you want to do it, do it.

Surfing is one of those things that can be strangely intimidating to outsiders — it certainly was for me in the beginning. But thanks to a few wonderful people who have wandered into my life and took me under their surfista wings, in tandem with living in a place where it’s too hot to run and the yoga offerings are slim, I gave a big middle finger to my I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this insecurities and went for it anyway.

And I haven’t looked back since, which isn’t hard to do — days when just you and two friends paddle out at sunrise and see the sun coming up over the cliffs while it rains a tiny bit through the morning light will make regretting your decision to start almost impossible.

That said, learning to surf isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, despite them quite literally being included from time to time. Here’s what I’ve taken away from a couple of months on the water:

Everyone’s Got An Opinion

It’s super easy to feel like you simply know absolutely nothing when you start out — because you don’t. But that doesn’t mean you’re an idiot and that you don’t have top notch intuition and sensibilities, despite not knowing every little nuance about surfing that there is (and there’s a lot). Every bro with a surfboard will simply invite themselves to give you unsolicited advice when they find out you’re just learning, but not everyone knows what they’re talking about. Find a couple of people who you admire and who make you feel comfortable and listen to them. Forget everyone else.

Learn Basic Conditions

There is a ton of nuance to understanding what goes into good waves, but figuring out the basics will take you a long way. A lovely friend broke down how to read the essentials of a surf report for me and that helped a ton — before that I was just going whenever and it made for some less-than-awesome sessions that could have been super avoidable if I just knew a bit more about the best, most conducive times to go.

Learn to Love Learning

The sooner you get comfortable with and own the identity of someone who is learning to surf, the better. Being already entirely out of my comfort zone in Nicaragua helped — I spend my days fumbling through Spanish and trying to understand and navigate cultural nuances with very mixed results, so I’m pretty used to being the person that doesn’t know what she’s doing — yet — and that attitude has taken me a long way. It’s way easier to stomach the mistakes and the bad days when you simply tell yourself, “Hey, I’m learning — this is to be expected,” rather than berate yourself for not being a pro yet.

Find a Board You Like

Like most people, I began by renting boards since I wasn’t ready to commit to buying one. Eventually I found a top notch rental board (this I gleaned by the massive amount of compliments I got on the board and its quality every time I took it out), so I struck a deal with the surf shop to rent it for a month at a lower price. I not only saved on money, but I got to ride the same board every day, eliminating all of the variables that have to be sorted every time you ride a new board (like figuring out where your sweet spot is, etc.), allowing you to simply focusing on improving.

Above all else, just enjoy it. One of my biggest takeaways from the learning process so far is that there’s more than one way when it comes to surfing — sure there are certain inescapable things that have to be done a certain way or learned in a certain order, of course, but pay the most attention to what works for you and what doesn’t and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s your experience. If someone tells you that you can’t but you can, prove them wrong. If someone is pushing you too hard too fast, get out of the water if you want to. Own your experience and you do you, girl, and along with time and persistence, you wont go wrong.