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Everything you need to know to start surfing


Knowing the safety rules in surfing is fundamental to guarantee not only the surfer's fun, but also their evolution.

Surfing is a complex sport, and ethics in the water is essential for a good atmosphere among the crowd. Within the surfing community, rules have been created that promote respect, education and especially the safety of all practitioners of wave sports.

Learning the "laws" of surfing is not easy. It is not something that is explained when you buy your first surfboard, or taught when you go surfing for the first time. With time, surfers begin to understand the rules, some through the sharing of knowledge between friends, others, learn by mistake. Learning on the spot is not the best solution, so we list some of the fundamental rules, which every surfer needs to know before they start surfing.

Understanding sea conditions

The most important factor before any step in surfing is to know yourself and know how to identify your level. Whether it is before buying a surfboard, a surf trip, or choosing the peak where we are going to surf.


Identifying our surfing level may not be easy. It is a process of introspection where we have to be humble. We must assess our experience, surfing level and physical ability. Asking an experienced friend is ideal.

We will use as an example a surfer from the Lisbon region. Let's imagine a day with a 2m swell, from the west, no wind, and with a high period, the waves will be incredible. But only for those with a high level of surfing. On these days, a beginner should look for more sheltered spots, beaches like Fonte da Telha, Praia da Torre, or even Caxias, would be the best option. However, if you have an advanced level, Ericeira, Praia Grande, or even Carcavelos are the most logical options.

Still, the swell is not the only important factor. Currents, swells and the type of wave/bottom are paramount. Ribeira d'Ilhas for example seems to be a great wave for a beginner or intermediate surfer. The wave is perfect, and has a channel, however, when we enter the sea the current is very strong, and it is common to see beginner surfers being dragged onto the rocks.

The recommendation that remains is, you should analyse and ask. There should be no shame in asking what a particular peak is like, because the best way to get to know a wave is by talking and listening to what a local, more experienced surfer has to say about the peak.

Shaun Tomson, former world champion, South African, wrote a book in which he listed 12 teachings that any surfer should follow. In his book "Surfers Code" he mentions the 6th rule "I will always look out for other surfers", the sharing of knowledge and mutual help between surfers is essential. Responsibility towards others is central to our sport.

How to get into the sea

Once you understand how a particular beach works, it's time to get into the sea.

To quote Shaun Tomson once again, "I will always paddle around the impact zone". To avoid getting in the way of someone's wave, the surfer should always enter off-peak. If there is no channel, you should enter away from the crowd.

After finishing a wave it is normal that at some point you are in the wrong place, and get in front of someone coming on the wave from behind. In this case, what you should do is paddle towards the foam, avoiding interfering with the other person's wave.

How do the priority rules work?

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On the outside, that's when we implement the main priority rules of surfing. The most important rule is to respect. It is important to remember that all the surfers wore their wetsuits, all went to the beach, everything, to have fun and catch a wave. And therefore, everyone has the right to catch good waves.

There is a basic rule in surfing. Whoever is closest to the drop zone, near the first break of the wave, has priority.
This surfer is usually the one waiting the longest to catch a wave. And so, when you get to the peak, you shouldn't "go around" the other surfer, but rather, stand off to the side, waiting your turn. This is not to say that you cannot catch waves while the other has priority. However, the waiting surfer can choose which wave they want to go on.

The essential point is to communicate. Saying you're going on the wave, whether you're going left or right, is key to avoiding drop-offs.

In closing, when you're paddling into the wave, and you say you're going to catch it, go. "Total commitment when it comes to dropoff: Courage, focus and determination." That's Shaun Tomson's third commandment.

In short, analyse, wait your turn, communicate and commit.

Choosing the right equipment

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Choosing the right equipment is another fundamental factor for your fun and evolution in the water. Having a board that is suitable for your level gives you extra comfort and confidence when it comes time to dive.

For beginners, for example, it is recommended to use foam boards. The fact that they generally have more volume will give you more control and stability. The risk of getting hurt is also greatly reduced, not to mention that these types of boards are pure fun.

To understand what type of surfboard you should use, we have an article in which we explain "how to choose your first surfboard".

On a final note, no matter what material you use, you should never let go of your board when you are paddling out. This is because a loose board is a danger to the surfers around you.

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This knowledge sharing should be extended, especially given the significant growth that surfing has experienced in recent years.

The occasional surfers, those who rent equipment to surf from time to time, and who unfortunately, through no fault of their own, go out to sea without knowing the rules, are the ones this article is aimed at.

If you are more experienced, it is very likely that you have been in unwanted situations, to avoid this happening again, the request remains that you share this knowledge with friends who are learning to surf.


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