Lucy Campbell in a dryrobe holding a wetsuit

Blog - 10 Tips for Beginner Surfers – Lucy Campbell

10 Tips for Beginner Surfers – Lucy Campbell

7 minute read

Want to get into surfing but not sure where to start? dryrobe® ambassador and 7 X National Women’s Surf Champion Lucy Campbell shares her advice for anyone looking to get out in the water for the first time.

Having grown up with the beach on her doorstep, Devon-based Lucy has been surfing since she was 10 and is now a pro surfer on the WSL Women’s Qualifying Series, a multiple English and British Women’s surf champion and has represented her country in competitions around the globe.

Female surfer Lucy Campbell on the beach putting her wetsuit on while wearing a navy dryrobe

Surfing provides the perfect balance between being active and having fun - many love getting in the water for the addictive adrenaline rush from catching and riding waves.

Depending on your location and providing you’ve got the right gear, you can reap the rewards all year round, not to mention that it’s an incredible incentive to see the most beautiful coastal locations on the planet!

It can seem daunting to try a new water sport if you have little experience with the sea, but Lucy answers all the burning questions for beginners with her top 10 tips.

Prepare to get in the sea ASAP with Lucy’s encouraging words of wisdom!

Lucy Campbell surfing on a wave

What equipment do you need to get started?

It depends on the water temp where you’re learning! You’ll probably need a wetsuit and a big foam board. These make it really easy to get lots of waves under your belt so that you can get lots of practice nailing your pop up.

Best surfboards for beginners?

Start on a bigger board for your first few surfs. This will be more stable and help you to perfect getting to your feet faster. Adults usually start on about an 8ft+ foam board and for children around 7 foot.

How long does it take to learn to surf?

It depends on what level you are aiming for! You’ll be learning different things about the ocean such as; reading the waves to figure out the best places to go out for your level, reading surf forecast charts, about your equipment, and getting yourself in the best place to catch waves for your whole life!

However, to get good at surfing and at a stage where you can catch a wave and ride along the green (unbroken) part of the wave, probably 2 - 3 weeks of surfing daily in consistent waves, with guidance. Or 3 months without.

I would recommend going with an instructor at least once, to learn a good paddling and pop up technique - as well as how to keep safe in the water. 

How many lessons do you need?

I’d recommend getting a minimum of 3, to ensure that your pop up is smooth and then to begin to learn to read the ocean, i.e. spotting dangers and positioning yourself to catch waves.

Lucy Campbell surfing with a ship in the background

How do you stand up on your surfboard?

At a beginner level;

  1.  Catch a wave so that you are heading back towards the beach.
  2. When you feel the wave pushing you along, put your hands flat on the sides of the board below your chest.
  3. Push up to a plank-like position and jump your knees up in line with your hands.
  4. Keep your fingertips on the board to allow more space when bringing your front foot through between your hands.
  5. With your fingertips still on the deck of the board, rotate your back foot and knee out to the side.
  6. Gently lift up your fingertips and push through your feet to stand. Try to make sure that your head, hips and feet are all stacked on top of each other in a straight line. Your head is the heaviest part of your body, so make you’re not bending at the hips, and that you’re looking where you want to go!

That’s it your up and riding. Your back foot will be at a 90* angle to the board, and your front foot 45*.

Make sure that both feet are right on the stringer- the middle line of the board.

Your back foot should be over the fins to help with controlling the board and the front foot around where your chest was.

As you progress you’ll need to ‘pop up’;

  1. Start lying down, catching a wave.
  2. Push up with your arms and pull your feet straight through beneath you, lift your arms from the board so that you are standing. It may help to start by pushing off from your toes on the tail of the board to help you to get the momentum.

You can practice these movements at home if you lie on the edge of a rug or down a line of wooden flooring.

You want to have a T shape line, where you have one part down the middle of your body (to practice getting your feet right to the middle of the board) and one line across where your chest is when lying down.

You also want to get your front foot as high up as your chest line as this will put your weight over the correct part of the board so that you don’t fall off the back of the wave once standing (or if it’s too far forward - nose dive!)

Lucy Campbell riding a wave with hands in the air

How do you keep balance on your board?

Keeping a nice bend in your knees will help you to navigate any bumps and wobbles. Also making sure your feet are in the centre (stringer line) of the board will make sure that the board is not turning without you wanting to.

What exercises should beginner surfers do?

  • Press ups - to get arms strong for paddling and quick pop ups.
  • Plank shoulder taps - surfing needs so much core strength for stability while paddling and standing up, these are a great way to build that up.
  • Squats - when you are up and riding, you need to keep your centre of gravity low for good balance, squats are a great way to build leg strength.

What advice would you offer anyone to stay safe in the water?

  • Surf at lifeguarded beaches. Learn how to spot currents in the water and what to do if you get caught in one.
  • Don’t turn your back on the ocean (until you’re paddling for a wave).
  • And learn the correct etiquette in the water.
Lucy Campbell holding surfboard by the shore in a dryrobe

What are the rules or etiquette in surfing?

The 2 main ones are;

  1. When someone is riding a wave towards you, the general rule is to paddle towards the white water to make sure you are out of their way. You’ll have to be the judge as to whether that is the best option or if you can get further away by paddling to the shoulder of the wave.
  2. When paddling for an unbroken wave, it is the person who is first to their feet/ is closest to the white water who has priority over other surfers.
Lucy Campbell wearing a dryrobe and holding a surfboard walking over the sand dunes to the sea

How do you deal with wipeouts?

Curl into a little ball underwater, this means you get thrown around a little less. Don’t thrash and fight the wave while you get washed around, stay relaxed and calm, and wait until the energy of it has passed before you fight to surface.

ALWAYS cover your head with your arms (I can’t tell you the number of times this has stopped my head from hitting the bottom or my board.

Be ready to get a nose full of water… it's all part of the fun!

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Twitter: @Lucy_Campbell22