Is Surfing Dangerous for Beginners? Asking This Question is the First Step.

2 adults learning to surf

One of the most beautiful and exciting sports around is surfing. The beach and waves make an attractive combination that most find undeniable, but there will be growing pains. Taking falls and learning how to handle them is a massive part of hanging ten. So is surfing dangerous for beginners?

Surfing is not dangerous for beginners. Understanding the hazards like the underwater topography(reefs and rocks), crowds of inexperienced surfers, and knowing what size wave you can safely learn to surf on will help prevent injuries.

Taking on any new skill can be overwhelming for some people. Learning how to set aside time and learning to bounce back from setbacks can be draining on a person. Extra hours also mean you could be more tired than usual. Don’t sweat it! Read on and learn everything you need to know about safety for beginning surfers.

Surfing for Beginners

While surfing is safe for beginners, there are still many ways to wake up with aches and pains. The people who start surfing should know how to swim. While there aren’t many barriers to the sport, the person riding the waves must be comfortable swimming in the water around five feet deep. This means when they get dumped, they might not be able to touch the bottom.

Several hurdles can be cleared before you even touch the sand. Safety is paramount, and knowing what you are up against beforehand could save the day. By going online and searching for some surfing tips, you can learn a few things before you upset the locals, and you might want to search the locals too.

A few things to pay attention to when you begin surfing are:

  • Wind
  • Tides
  • Rip Currents
  • Crowds
  • Equipment

Surfing can be daunting for the uninitiated, and those who have an interest can get ahead of the game by doing a bit of homework. By studying those things, you get an idea of where your head should be before you paddle out. Once you are out, the battle to catch your first wave is on!

Understand offshore vs. onshore wind and how the wind will affect your day.

One of the most dangerous things a young surfer can encounter is the wind. The wind is powerful on the ocean, and it can blow you further from shore than you like quickly. Always keep an eye on the shore for a landmark you recognize. Paddle back towards the beach if you notice the wind constantly moving you.

If the wind is coming in powerful gusts, it could be a bad day to surf. Another thing that you learn when surfing is how the weather can impact your plans. The wind is significant because it will tow you out if you lose track of time or the shoreline. The wind will also keep you from coming back ashore. So watch the wind, and you protect yourself and your buddies.

A few ways to gauge the strength of the wind while out on the ocean are:

  • Flags – An excellent way to check the strength of the wind is by looking at flags on the beach. Atop each lifeguard shack is a flagpole that has different colored flags flying. Each of the flag’s colors signifies the strength of the tide. If the flags are held high by the wind, it is stiff enough to drag you out of your surfing area.
  • Sand – The sand is another indicator of how harsh the wind blows. It will move and blow in the wind. If there are large clouds of sand or areas with massive dunes, you can expect to paddle more while surfing.
  • Structures – Another way to gauge the wind is by watching the structures on the beach. The guard shacks and supply huts that line beaches are stationary. Knowing if you are moving away from them when straddling your board will indicate the wind and how strong it is.

The wind is no joke. Beginners should always know which direction the wind is blowing and how hard, especially when they are on their boards. This will give them a sense of direction that doesn’t keep their eyes on the beach while searching for waves.

Surfing during High tide vs. Low Tide

Get used to it now. You are the kind of person who has to keep track of the tides and how well the surf is doing. Checking the waves is essential because it lets you know what type of surf can be expected when you get to the beach. It is also vital because it will save your life if you get caught in a heavy tidal movement.

A few ways to set a reminder about the tides are:

  • Watch – It might sound a bit old-fashioned, but an excellent way to remember when the tides are best for beginner surfing is to set an alarm on your watch. Today fitness watches allow you to put all sorts of warnings and reminders that can keep you on the surf.
  • Phone – Another thing you can do is set a reminder, or a timer, on your phone. While phones are often connected to watches, for those who don’t have a watch using the phone is the next best option. Set alarms for times to leave and when the surf has passed.
  • Group Text – One of the oldest forms of alarm is friends. They can come around or send out a group text that the waves are ripping, and the next thing you know, you are waist-deep in the foamy sea.

The tides are on a six-hour rotation. That means the water will be at different levels at specific points during the day. These tides can bring you closer to and farther away from the shore, depending on which wave it is. So be prepared to fight this changing landscape as you learn your new hobby.

Rip Currents are Dangerous, and Surfers Should be Able to Identify Them

A rip current is one of the most notorious things a beginner can encounter. These unnaturally strong currents can drag a surfer under or out to sea with little or no warning. If tiny waves are running against the current on the surface, there could be a rip current pulling below.

The ways to identify a rip current are:

  • Dead Water – If you are watching the ocean and see a sizeable dead mass of water that resembles a sand bar, it could be an area where a rip current is pulling. The current is formed by a break in the sandbars further out. This pressure creates a single lane that supercharges the current and shoots it back out to sea.
  • Spinning Circles – The next thing to look for is a set of circles that rotate on the sides of the dead water. This rotation is a great signal that water is moving beneath the surface at an increased rate.

Rip currents are one of the main reasons never to surf alone. If you are inexperienced with surfing and get caught in a rip, it could drag you to the bottom and hold you there. Having a partner gives you a lifeline to search and call for help if needed.

Surfing in Crowds is Not a Good Idea for Beginners

Some beaches will be packed with people. The more popular the surfing spot, the more friendly and otherwise people you could encounter. Crowds are not suitable for young surfers because they could be intimidated or bullied to leave the water. Some locals are incredibly protective of their surf and could be hostile towards beginners.

A few things to practice if you surf in a crowd are:

  • Sitting on the Board – One of the best things to do in a crowd is a hangout. By straddling the board and climbing on top, you can sit and chill with your buddies between sets of waves or set up your gameplan with your partner or instructor.
  • Minding Traffic – When you are in a big crowd on a surfboard, you must constantly be on alert. There will be other surfers moving and trying to catch waves. Their progress should be looked at just like driving a car. Yield to those already in motion and always be courteous.
  • No Tangles – Leashes can get tangled with fins from other boards and keep you from moving to catch a wave. Fight against tangles by spooling some extra leash around your ankle or kicking them from under the board.

Surfers are notoriously overprotective of their territory. If you are a beginner, you could also run afoul of professional or veteran surfers who need every minute of every wave to get better for competition. Staying away from crowds also takes the pressure off. You are going to crash out hundreds and hundreds of times. Be prepared.

Look Out for Equipment in the Water

Another huge thing to look out for is equipment in the water. If there are other surfers around, there will be boards, leashes, and camera equipment in the water. In addition, beginners can often use a different type of board, nicknamed a foamie, that is more akin to a coffee table than a surfboard.

A few things to be looking for when surfing are:

  • Camera Equipment – Chances are, if you are surfing with other people, one of them will have a camera or GoPro to record your progress. These are often small and dark-colored, which makes them hard to see. Avoid them if possible, and be super apologetic if your manage to mangle one.
  • Boards – Boards are always going to be a problem in the water. As a beginner, you could have a board that is more foam than fiberglass, which could impede the other surfers around you.
  • Leashes – The leash that most surfers have attached to their ankles can sometimes break off. These leashes are just large enough to tangle in your feet and will make it hard to stay up.
  • Flotsam – Let’s face it, there are all kinds of debris and detritus in the ocean. A good rule of thumb is to paddle around a bit and look for any large pieces of wood or garbage. Pick them up and return them to shore to ensure they are out of your way.

People take all kinds of weird stuff into the water with them. Be prepared to bail over small things, like leashes, up to full broken pieces of a surfboard. There’s always a bit of lost gear floating about if you surf on a heavily populated beach.

The Importance of Swimming

Being able to swim isn’t necessary when learning to surf. The water is never very deep, and the first few lessons could even be on the beach. However, swimming is vital to becoming a confident surfer. The confidence they build by getting up on the board can be dashed when they learn they can’t charge at big waves.

Knowing how to swim means that even when you are dumped in three feet of water and held down by a rogue wave, being trapped for a few seconds doesn’t cause you to panic. When you panic underwater, you can make mistakes that lead to drowning. Be sure you are a confident swimmer if you intend on making surfing a hobby.


Surfing for beginners is not dangerous. The waves are small, and the strong currents are easily spotted if you know what to look for. Even though the water could only be waist-deep, you should have a decent background in swimming, or you could panic when a wave takes you down. Panic is never good in the water. Be prepared.

By following some simple guidelines, you can combat your inexperience in the surf and protect yourself against any rip currents or rogue debris. Surfing is a physical activity and having aches and pains is normal. Falling is a big part of surfing, and you should be prepared for these falls.

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