There is a method to do so without looking as kooky as possible and eventually securing a spot among the local surfers. Whatever coast you abide, these are the “don’ts” as you make your junket through mastering the art of surfing.
Do not “Go big or go home”
Try to ride anything over 5 feet and you will learn what it feels like to be thrown in a washing machine. “Big boards and small waves.” This must be your novice mantra whilst mastering surfing. It is impossible to start off with a 6’ 1” performance board. It doesn’t matter if you are Shawn White and chalk up decades of experience snowboarding or skating. Starting on a short board is the equivalent of riding a toothpick. Remember you are not on solid ground and liquid is exponentially more difficult to canter. Do yourself a favor by housing copious amounts of foam under your feet to make this experience a little easier on suitably small waves.
Stop over adorning with flashy overpriced gear
If you want to scream “kook” in your appearance in the lineup, wear some booties, a thousand dollar neon wetsuit, and smear some pink Zinka on your face. Everyone will catch your stink bug stance and glimmering presence out of their peripherals. No one appreciates a wannabe, so don’t look the part without gaining the experience first. We all know you spend countless of hours on YouTube watching the cultured greats in their sponsored gear. It’s good to study up, observe and imitate. But do the observation and imitation of perfect roundhouses and gliding floaters before you think you can start looking like Donavon Frankenreiter.
The lineup is not for you
Isolate yourself to the far reaches of the earth until you are truly worthy of the lineup. These locals are not your buddys, they will not give you a thumbs up when you stand, or speak kind words to you. That’s what the pleasant people at surf school are for, perhaps a better fit for the weak of heart and mind. “Dickweed” and a “Barney” will be your new nicknames if your place yourself in their midst. It is dangerous to yourself and the experienced surfers constantly swerving out of the way of your clumsy endeavors. Remember, you are a naïve intruder in what some believe to be sacred waters. Find an isolated small wave beach before entering the hectic reality of the main spots.
Resist regurgitating surfer lingo
Do not converse like Spicoli. This is not the 80’s, and the average surfer nowadays works a 9 to 5 job. They fit in a morning or afternoon session whenever possible and their language is quaint and cordial in the water; so don’t refer to surfers as brah and broski all the time until you gain that right. Talk to them like normal people do and you may make some friends. Words like gnarly, excellent, primo and rad should be kept to a bare minimum. It’s best to keep your mouth shut until your poor surfing style is remedied and refined through the furnace.
Don’t expect any respect
Respect is earned, never given. In many surf spots the respect of the locals has taken decades to accrue. The amount of respect you gain all comes down to two things. Your surfing prowess, and how well you can coexist with the surfers around you. Don’t start a war and accept you’re a beta. If you idiotically cut anyone off in the lineup make sure an apology is the first thing out of your mouth, then learn from your mistake. Wait patiently, when your turn comes shine brighter than a strobe light. Learn now you are not worthy, but in time and with constant upskilling all things are possible. One day you may yet become an alpha.
Obviously you won’t be launching massive rodeo flips in your first week. Don’t expect to look pretty or gain any type of distinguishing style at first. All humans rolled, crawled, walked before they could sprint. Every session keep one intent or objection on your mind. Master the cutback today, and the off the lip tomorrow. Religiously prime that one move until it comes naturally at the right sections. Go ahead and read step-by-step tips of various pros in your surfing magazine, or bring up some vids online. Soon you will have the intuition and experience to generate perfect combinations.
Don’t talk a big game
The worst thing you can do is over embellish and stretch the reality of your surfing repertoire. So what? You’ve been surfing for a month. If you lay it on thick to every other person about the barrel you were in for two seconds, you’re bound to piss off some real surfers. Just go out there and freak out on some good waves. Until you have a couple of paying sponsor stickers on your stick, be humble and dote on the betterment of your surfing craft.