They say it's dangerous to learn to surf, but not because of the big waves, the wipeouts, or the wildlife. Your first surf lesson is dangerous because the minute you catch your first wave, buddy, you're a goner. Hooked. You belong to the sea now, and everything else, well, kind of falls away.
Whatever your reason for your first paddle out, one thing's for certain: you won't forget the feeling. And it's not just about memorizing a few moves - surfing is a totally absorbing, full-body endeavor.
It will be easier in some ways than you expected. You'll be learning in the white water, on boards specially designed to float just about anyone. Your confidence will get a boost the first time you pop up (after practicing several times on the beach, of course) and cruise shakily back to shore.
But harder in some ways, too. Precision and accuracy when placing your feet when you pop up, timing your paddling and final push, and building muscle memory and strength all take time and practice.
As with any physical skill, you'll be improving all the time, but the more you do it, the more you realize that the difference between an inch - or a second - here or there, will make the difference between a good ride and a great one.
Your arms are going to hate you. You rarely stop paddling. Paddling is king.
Your entire body will hurt tomorrow. Surfing engages more muscles than you realize. You're going to be sore, but you'll also experience:
Euphoria. And it is addictive. Research has shown that surfers experience elevated levels of adrenaline in response to charged ions in the atmosphere where waves are breaking and water is frothy.
This hyperstimulation then triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, making you feel elated, happy, and calm for up to 24 hours after the session. It's what many refer to as "surf stoke", and is very habit-forming.
You'll regret it if you don't bring a rashguard. They're not about making you look cool; rashguards protect soft, sensitive belly skin from the sticky, abrasive wax needed to keep your footing on the board.
It takes time to build up resistance to contact with wax, so while you're learning, minimize the distraction of a stinging, rashy belly by covering up.
And while you're at it, bring sunblock formulated for watersports. As the only non-reflective thing out in the great expanse of the water, you're like a super-amplified UV magnet. Don't be afraid to look a little funny. A white nose and shoulders beats the blistered look any day.
Your beginner board is a clumsy thing, specially designed to be big and slow enough to float just about anyone on small waves or whitewater.
So don't expect to be able to pull any fast, flashy tricks just yet. Right now it's about perfecting your pop-ups, finding your center, and building your confidence on the board.
Take a look at a few basic tips for beginner surfers. Never lose touch with your inner grom.