For beginners, surfing can be an intimidating sport to learn.
Most people learn sports in gym class or in a recreational league where coaches provide instruction related to the proper technique and equipment.
For beginner surfers, learning to surf is different because the basic fundamentals are most often taught by parents, friends and surf schools.
Often I get asked “Are Surfing Lessons Worth it?“
I did some research and wrote this post to answer this common question.
For most people, surfing lessons are absolutely worth it because it is the funnest, safest way to learn the basics quickly! Beginner surfers will learn how to avoid ocean hazards and catch waves in a safe, structured environment while under the supervision of a certified instructor.
For some people, it will only take 2-3 lessons to help kick start their surfing, while other people may find benefit from taking a series of lessons.
Keep reading to review the 11 Important Reasons Why Surfing Lessons Are Worth It!
1. Designed to Meet Your Needs
Surfing lessons cater to different needs, abilities and fitness levels and are offered in many different teaching formats.
The most common type of surfing lessons are group lessons.
Group lessons can range in size from about 5-20 students and most surf schools try and maintain a consistent student-to-instructor ratio regardless of group size. Group lessons are usually the lowest cost option for beginner surfers because the costs are spread out amongst the students.
Other types of surfing lessons include: family lessons, private group lessons, kids group lessons and one-on-one lessons.
Although you may pay more for individualized surf lessons, learning in a smaller group format or hiring an instructor for one-on-one coaching can be beneficial for people looking for instruction that is modified for their individual needs.
2. Learn the Basics Quickly
Learning a new sport on your own is a challenge because of the amount of information to consider when you are first starting out.
By taking lessons, you will learn the basics quickly because an instructor will be helping to increase the speed at which you learn by giving you a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time.
Surfing lessons weren’t common or readily available when I learned to surf in the 1990’s and it took me years to learn certain surfing tips and tricks. My skill development would have happened much sooner if I had received formal instruction from a qualified surf instructor.
Nowadays, you can find surf schools near every surf beach and most instructors can help you catch waves on day one!
3. Safe & Structured Environment
Surfing is an intimidating sport and the initial learning curve is steep.
It can be uncomfortable bobbing around in the ocean and it can be a difficult sport to learn without some guidance and support.
Surfing lessons will focus on giving you a basic understanding of ocean safety, while instructors provide supervision when you are in the ocean.
If you are concerned about safety and the experience level of the surf instructors, ask whether they have certified surf instructors with first aid training.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) sets the standard for surf coaching and instruction for surf schools around the world.
The most common level of training for surf instructors is ISA Level 1 Surf Instructor. To find out more, click on the link to be redirected to ISA’s website.
4. Supportive Group Atmosphere
Surfing is more motivating and fun when you are doing it with other people.
At the beach, I have watched many different group lessons and I am always pleasantly surprised by the smiling faces and positive atmosphere created among the participants.
There is something inspiring and encouraging about sharing a new experience with people that are at a similar skill level. You will be experiencing the sport in a supportive environment that is focused on having fun.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert, one of the best feelings in surfing is hearing shouts of encouragement from other surfers when you are trying to catch a wave.
5. Learning Form & Technique
At first, learning the proper technique will most likely occur on the grass or sand.
Before you even enter the water, surf instructors will teach you the basic skills of surfing. That way, you will be able to learn the fundamentals of paddling, popping up to a standing position and riding waves without any distractions.
It might feel a bit funny to be lying on your surfboard in the middle of the beach but it’s a great way to practice popping up over and over again. Instructors can help give you cues about proper form and correct bad habits before they develop.
Once in the water, you will be learning to catch waves under the watchful eye of an instructor. They will be able to provide feedback so you can make minor adjustments as you are learning. Having an instructor in the water beside you will really kick start your progression!
6. Identifying Ocean Hazards
The ocean is unpredictable and dangerous if you aren’t aware of the hazards.
Identifying ocean hazards and practicing water safety is one of the first things you will learn when taking a surf lesson. This usually occurs on the beach before you go into the water and instructors will highlight things you will need to know.
As well, the instructors will provide supervision and assistance if necessary, including first aid.
Even for experienced surfers, it is important to know about the hazards at the beach prior to going into the water.
According to Surf Life Australia, the top beach hazards are rip currents, sun exposure and wildlife. To read more about how to avoid rip currents click on the link to be redirected to the Surf Life Saving Website.
Check out the video below to learn more about How to Spot a Rip Current.
7. Beginner Friendly Surf Spots
Most surf lessons take place at beginner friendly surf spots because it is easier to learn new skills when the conditions are appropriate for your skill level.
The instructors will explain all the tips, tricks and things to know about a particular spot, this will be help you when you want to come back again.
Near my home in western Canada, the most popular beach for beginner surfers has small waves, non existent rip currents and no sharks!
The photo below is of my daughter and I playing in the shore break at Cox Bay near Tofino.
Often, you will find several lessons taking place at the same beach because it is the safest place to learn.
Another benefit of surfing at a beginner friendly surf spot is you will be surrounded by people at a similar level, this creates a positive environment for beginners.
8. Learning Proper Etiquette
The rough definition of the word etiquette is: the polite behaviour or customary rules of a particular group.
Surfing Lessons will provide you with a basic understanding of the proper surf etiquette. Although it will take a while to learn all the rules, surfing lessons provide a friendly environment for beginners to practice.
Following proper etiquette helps to support an organized, safe and polite environment amongst surfers in the water. At surf spots with challenging conditions, knowing the customary rules is important for beginners so you don’t get in the way of more experienced surfers.
The most important thing to remember is to try and avoid getting in the way when another surfer is riding a wave. This can be easier said than done when you are a beginner because you are just learning how to paddle and control your surfboard.
If you do end up getting in the way of another surfer it is always a good idea to smile and apologize. Let them know that you are still learning. But remember that being a beginner isn’t an excuse for not following the rules!
Check out the Video below for a review of the Top 9 Rules You Need to Know about Surf Etiquette.
9. Surfboard & Wetsuit Selection
Knowing what surfboard and wetsuit to select is challenging when you are a beginner. But often you won’t have to think about it because the cost of lessons typically includes a surfboard and wetsuit rental.
Before leaving for the beach, the surf shop will set you up with a wetsuit and surfboard.
This is one of the main benefits of surf lessons because you will have knowledgeable people helping you select the best wetsuit and surfboard for your size and ability.
Although some beginners want to ride a small, flashy looking surfboard it is probably best to go with what is recommended, which is most likely going to be a large, foam surfboard.
If you are looking for more tips about wetsuit and surfboard selection, click on the link to be redirected to my post titled, 25 Useful Things to Know When Renting Surfboards and Wetsuits.
10. Surfing the White Wash
The white wash or white water is a term used to describe a wave that has already broken.
Surfing the white wash is the easiest way to learn and stand up on a wave for the first time. Surf instructors will show you how to get in the right position and catch waves that have already broken.
This is important because waves are less powerful after they have broken and the white water is rolling into the beach. As well, the area where waves have already broken is usually shallower and more mellow so it’s a great place for beginners.
Check out the video below to review How to Catch Broken Waves.
11. Getting Rid of Bad Habits
One of the best things about taking a lesson is that you will have experienced instructors watching you and providing tips and tricks so you don’t develop bad habits.
As well, participating in a group lesson will allow you to watch other surfers and learn from what they are doing well and what they are doing wrong.
Sometimes an instructor will jump on a surfboard and catch a wave so you can see the proper technique to paddle, pop up and ride waves.
Watching experienced surfers is one of the best waves to learn how to surf. I am always surprised how effortless advanced surfers make it look. I have learned so much from just sitting on the beach and watching people surf.
What is the Cost of Surf Lessons?
When talking about the costs of surfing lessons, most people quote the price of a group lesson, which includes a wetsuit and surfboard rental. Group lessons are the most inexpensive option because the costs are spread out among the participants.
In most areas of North America, the average cost of a group surfing lesson that lasts 1-3 hours is about $50-$90.
You will pay more for one-on-one coaching, private group lessons and family lessons but the most inexpensive option is always the standard group lesson where you will be surfing alongside other beginners.
How Many Surf Lessons Should I Take?
In my opinion, most beginner surfers should take at least 1 lesson. This may not seem like a lot but you would be surprised how much you can learn in a couple of hours.
If you can afford several lessons then take as many as you can! Some surf schools will offer an intensive 2-3 day package which is great for kick starting your learning.
For kids, surf camps are a great way to get exposed to the sport, meet some friends and spend time outside in the summer.
Are Surf Lessons Necessary?
If you really want to learn to surf, taking a lesson is the best way to learn the basics quickly.
If you are not a surfer and you want to get your kid into the sport, I would recommend surfing lessons for sure. You can attend a group lesson together, sign up your child for a kids camp or even take a family lesson to get some personalized instruction for you and your loved ones.
Surfing lessons provide a positive encouraging environment for beginners, which is important because surfing can be an intimidating sport to learn.
How Strong a Swimmer Do you Need to Be to Take a Surf Lesson?
Most surf schools will ask about your swimming ability and comfort level in the ocean. It is important to be honest about your swimming ability so they can make accommodation if necessary.
Remember that they are trying to keep you safe and create a positive experience.
If you can’t swim, you should take swimming lessons before going surfing for the first time.
As well, feel free to click on the link to check out my post titled, 11 Must Knows if You Want to Learn to Surf but Can’t Swim.
Can I Wear a Life Vest or PFD at a Surf Lesson?
If you would be more comfortable wearing a life vest or PFD when taking a surf lesson just ask the surf shop or surf school about their policy.
I have seen lots of surf schools that recommend life vest or PFDs to participants that are uncomfortable in the ocean.
At some surf schools and surf shops, life vests are a requirement for adults that are weak swimmers and kids under a certain age. There is no shame in wearing a life vest, know your limits.
If you are interested in learning more, click on the link to be redirected to my post about Wearing a Life Jacket or PFD When Surfing: 9 Things to Know.
Surfing lessons provide a great introduction to surfing. Looking back, I wish they were more common when I first started surfing. It would have saved me a lot of extra effort.
As well, surfing lessons provide a fun, safe environment to kick start your development. Don’t forget that having fun is the most important part of surfing.
Go Surfing, have fun, repeat!