I totally agree with the old saying “Looks aren’t everything” but the plain truth is that style has naturally integrated into surfing culture since the times of Gidget. It has done so because, with the help of Hollywood and media stereotypes, the sport has become synonymous with a laid back and cool beach lifestyle. However, I would argue that the surfer style was born from actually living the lifestyle and experiencing how spending countless hours in the Ocean transforms your soul.
So instead of focusing on the coolest brand of clothing, trendy surfboard design, or brand-new accessories, I am sharing with you some common mistakes made by inexperienced surfers, which will help you become a better surfer and truly make you look your best at the beach.
STICKY SIDE UP
There is a misconception, possibly related to skiing and snowboarding, that putting wax on the bottom of a board will make it go faster. But if you are seen waxing the bottom of your surfboard, it is the fastest way to show the world you have taken zero effort to learn the basics of surfing.
Surfboards are coated with polyurethane or epoxy resin and sanded down to be smooth which makes them naturally slick and glide on the surface of the water. Surf wax was invented so when you plant your foot down on the slippery deck of the board, it stays put and you can stand up. So always make sure to put a nice fresh coat of wax on the TOP of your board before you paddle out.
Bonus tip: When at the beach, make sure not to put the top of the board down on the sand. When you pick it up the wax will be coated by a layer of it, much like an ice cream cone covered in sprinkles. Unfortunately, the sand on the wax will not feel good on your belly as you paddle around.
No, I have never seen anyone actually wax their body before going surfing… but I do see people carry their freshly waxed surfboards under their arm with the deck of the board facing toward their body. There are two reasons you always want to carry your board with the deck facing away from your body.
1) It is easier to carry because the flat bottom best fits against the side of your body and the curved deck matches how your arm bends at the elbow. Also, the curvature of the rails of your board fit better into your cupped hand as you carry it.
2) When you wax your surfboard the fresh wax is sticky. If you put that sticky wax against your waist or side, it will rub off onto your wetsuit, bathing suit, or skin leaving waxy evidence that you have yet to learn the proper way to carry a surfboard.
THE ZIP SIDE
One of the best parts of surfing in Costa Rica is the warm water and weather. However, wetsuits are an evil necessity in order to go surfing in other parts of the world without freezing like a popsicle on a stick.
Unfortunately, wetsuits are a bit tricky to get into and sometimes near impossible if you are not used to contorting your body to get yourself wedged into that little piece of rubber. The natural way inexperienced surfers get into a wetsuit is much like a winter jacket, with the zipper in the front. But soon after getting a wetsuit on this way you will notice that the wetsuit will fit somewhat funny. Also, you will probably get some funny looks from other surfers. The reason is that the zipper always goes in the back. Why? Because laying down on a zipper is way more uncomfortable than having to reach behind your back to pull up a zipper.
SWEEPING WITH A BANANA
Using a board that is too small or too advanced for your abilities is like trying to sweep the floor with a banana. You eventually will be able to get the crumbs off the floor but it will be much more difficult and it won’t get as clean as if you would have used a broom. And nothing shows everyone more that you are making a beginner mistake than to try to use a 6-foot performance shortboard for your first time surfing.
When learning to surf it is very important to do a little homework on how to get started. For a quick guide, check out this article I wrote for tips on making your first surf a fun and successful experience. Using the right surfboard for your abilities is key for enjoying the experience of learning to surf. That is why at Witches Rock Surf Camp we are stocked to the gills with all sorts of surfboards for all sorts of abilities.
TURNING YOUR BACK
We have all seen viral videos posted online of people standing at the edge of the Ocean and admiring the beauty of the waves when they suddenly are caught off guard and swept off their feet by a rogue wave. It can be quite funny but in some cases, it can also be quite frightening. In any case, it shows that the person is very inexperienced with the power and character of the Ocean.
Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in or around the Ocean learns fast that she will throw you something unexpected at the moment you put your guard down so it is very easy to spot an inexperienced surfer flirting with disaster. For example, it can take a long time for a wave to come your way so you can end up spending a lot of time just sitting on your board in the lineup. But always have one eye on the horizon because it always seems like the moment you relax your attention on the waves, a sneaker set comes your way and shows you who is the boss.
There is a reason for the old saying, “Never turn your back on the Ocean’.
EMBRACE YOUR PLACE
One very important thing to remember is that you are only surfing for yourself. Mistakes are inevitable and even the best surfers were once beginners so embrace your current experience. In the big picture, doing the right thing to have fun and stay safe is much more important than looking cool. Follow the tips I explained above and you will be able to do both.