Let me preface this post for Fit Bottomed Vacay Week by saying I am not a surfing expert. I took two classes while in Hawaii — one in some pretty rough water with little success, and a second right on Waikiki Beach on the day we were heading home.
However! I think this actually makes for an interesting angle to this post — I’m able to tell you what to expect because the things that caught me off-guard are still quite fresh in my mind.
That being said, those of you with lots of surfing experience should feel free to shout out what you’d add in the comments. Remember, this is the Internet, and I can always add tips!
What to Expect at Your First Surfing Lesson
1. You’ll want a rash guard with long sleeves. The boards used for newbies have a softer top, which is great for grip, but not great for the skin that’s rubbing against it as you’re paddling out over and over. Even with a rash guard, other areas might get a little raw by the end — I ended up with some definite wounds on the fronts of my thighs and knees from my lesson, so if you have board shorts or something, that’s not a bad idea.
2. Speaking of attire, you’re going to need bottoms that fit. Like, really well. The last thing you want to be worried about as you’re getting up on your board (or falling off of it) is whether your booty is hanging out. And if you’re not wearing snug bottoms? It’s gonna be hanging out. Let’s not talk about how I know.
3. You won’t start out in the water. Your instructor will go over the basic motions with you on the sand to make sure you understand the mechanics of paddling out and popping up. My lesson was really short, but I’ve spoken to some folks who spent half an hour or more on land. If you’re worried about it one way or the other, it would be wise to ask about their policy ahead of time. If you’re doing a private lesson, there might be wiggle room, but if you’re taking a class with a group, that might be difficult.
4. Getting out there is hard work. If you haven’t spent much time swimming in open water, swimming out into the waves might be challenging, or even intimidating. Be honest with your instructor about your level of comfort. In fact, be honest with yourself — you have to be able to swim. Period. Not only would it be dangerous to take a lesson without strong swimming skills, but it would not be fun. Take it from me — even strong and experienced swimmers can find the idea of standing on top of the water, falling off the board and getting pounded by incoming waves daunting.
All of that being said, there are ways your instructor might make things easier on you, either by going to a more sheltered location, giving you long breaks between going after a wave, or even by towing you around.
5. Weird things will be sore. Both Jared and I had majorly tender rib cages afterward, probably from banging up and down on our boards a bit. And my toes! That was the part of me that gave out before anything else — I used them a lot to pop up on the board. Talk about unexpected!
6. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever done, and it’s more than a little addictive. Granted, I didn’t exactly catch a monster wave and ride it all the way in, but I was able to get up and stay up long enough to understand why so many people are so devoted to the sport. Even as I was hobbling through the airport (wearing $40 sweatpants from the Honolulu airport gift shop that said “HAWAII” down the leg because it hurt too much to put my jeans on — true story), I couldn’t help but think about when I might get another chance to get out on a board.
Have you ever surfed? What advice would you give to a first-timer? —Kristen