Surfing: how good are you in the waves? | Photo: Shutterstock

At which stage of surfing are you right now? How good is your surfing? What do you need to get to the next level?

How would you rate your surfing skills? What should you focus on as a surfer? Your answers to all these questions may be biased, but it's important to ask them so that we can continuously evaluate our experience and know where to go.

In surfing, and like in many other sports, practice makes perfect. Progression in surfing takes time. The more you surf, the faster you'll evolve.

But you don't need months to become a good surfer. All you need to do is to be passionate about wave riding and translate that inner will to wake up in the morning into action.

Age is not and has never been a problem. If you're 40 or 50 and have never surfed before, do know that you may become an advanced wave rider. Many times, the trick is to get the right first surfboard.

With time, your surfing skills and experience levels will increase, and you will become more and more comfortable in a broad range of ocean conditions.

There are fundamentally five levels of experience in surfing, with gray areas in-between. Where are you at?

First-Timer

This is the first stage of surfing. A first-timer knows nothing or very little about the sport of the kings. He or she is about to get in touch with surfing's equipment for the first time, may never have put a wetsuit on.

For him and her, the best waves for surfing are the biggest, and they have no clue on how to attach fins to a surfboard. Also, he or she has never laid on a surfboard and has no idea of what to do to start riding the first waves.

A first-timer has never heard of surf etiquette.

Surfing: first-timers and beginner surfers must learn the sport's basics before hitting the water | Photo: Shutterstock

Beginner Surfer

The beginner surfer is someone who has just had his or her first surf lessons and contact with the world of surfing. He or she may know the very basics of the sport and has already tried to paddle a surfboard.

After a couple of hours, a beginner is able to keep the balance on the surfboard while paddling and catch some whitewater waves on prone position.

Ultimately, an advanced beginner can catch a wave, stand up on the board, and ride the breaking wave toward the beach in a straight line.

Intermediate Surfer

The bottom-turn and the cutback are the key maneuvers of the sport, and what defines an intermediate surfer. He or she is able to angle the board and take off smoothly on a shoulder-high wave.

The bottom-turn is considered the sport's fundamental move because it opens the door to riding the open face of a wave - it's surfing's essential turning technique.

The second most important turn is the cutback. It allows the surfer to get back to the energy source of the wave, without ending up in the slowest area known as "shoulder of the wave."

An average surfer knows how to duck dive, maintain a linear trajectory on the surf line, and how to bail out without hurting himself and others in the process. An intermediate surfer knows how to read a surf report and plan the session ahead.

Surfing: intermediate and advanced surfers know how to read a wave | Photo: Bixby/Creative Commons

Advanced Surfer

An advanced surfer can choose the best waves before paddling for them. Then, he or she will make optimal use of the open face of each wave by generating speed, going up and down the roller, and managing weight transitions from rail to rail.

In this level of surfing, the performer becomes a top-to-bottom surfer, always in-sync with the wave's curl and pocket zones, and wisely balancing speed, power, and flow.

At this stage, he or she can perform floaters, off-the-lips, roundhouse cutbacks, close-out re-entries, and get barreled in medium surf conditions.

An advanced surfer knows his gear very well and knows how to adapt his or her equipment to the ocean conditions.

Surfing: advanced and pro surfers get to the air | Photo: Thisted/Red Bull

Pro Surfer

A professional surfer feels comfortable in all types of waves and is able to pull out the complete bag of tricks the sport has to offer. At this level of surfing, the rider reads a wave like few and executes a couple of aerial maneuvers.

In the barrel, the pro surfer knows how to stall to maximize tube time, and rarely wipes out in perfect waist-high waves.

He and she are always at the right place, at the right time, and anticipate how the wave is going to behave, showing a high amplitude of body movements, and subtle hip and weight shifts.

When you reach the "End of the Road," you're all by yourself. Are you sure you're ready to get barreled at Tahiti's infamous Teahupoo?

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