How to choose a good surf school (part 2, beach and gear)
So you rocked up at the beach and want to have a your first surf lesson. What should you be aware of?
If you don’t know how the ocean works and have never surfed, you probably can’t figure out if the waves are good or not, if the tide is right, if there’s rip currents, etc. A good surf school should provide you with all this information when you book a lesson. Unfortunately, some surf schools focus more on making money, and end up throwing beginners in unsuitable conditions, than actually trying to give them a good experience.
I want to explain what in my opinion are the most suitable conditions for a surf lesson and how to look for them.
First of all, the waves. Beginners are going to learn how to stand up on foamie waves. These are waves that have already broken out into white foam and appear flatter than the green unbroken waves behind them. Beginners want to learn on foamies because they’re easier to catch and easier to read. The longer the space between where the waves break and the beach, the better it is as the longer the time you have to try to catch and stand up on a wave, the better. If the waves are breaking very close to the shore, I would advise you not taking the lesson. Chances are you are not going to enjoy yourself because you won’t have enough time to stand up on your board and you’re likely to hurt yourself by crashing into the shore. Another thing you have to look out for, if the tide is very low, are waves breaking far from the shore but on shallow water over a sandbank. Avoid shallow water near big waves! Big waves breaking over shallow water are not at all suitable for beginners.
The current is another important factor. For reasons that can range from the swell direction to the swell size to the beach structure, you can come across very strong side or rip currents. Your coaches should warn you against these dangers but if the current is too strong (sometimes it feels like a rapid) a beginner shouldn’t venture into the ocean. You risk being dragged out to the back or towards the sides of the beach. Please note that all this information about the ocean and the beach are general considerations. Each beach will have its own characteristics and peculiarities. A good surf school shouldn’t run lessons in a dangerous beach or in unsuitable conditions.
The ocean bottom should be sandy. Don’t learn to surf over rocks or coral reef.
Surf lessons should be done with safe and good gear. Beginners boards are meant to be around 8 feet long (maybe even longer for bigger people) and made of soft foam in order to be harmless in case they hit someone. Wetsuits should be just good enough to keep you warm and fit your size. If you’re not freezing and your wetsuit is not full of water, then it should be fine.
The surf coaching international standard prescribes a group of maximum 8 people per instructor. Refuse to take a lesson with a bigger group. Try also to avoid overly crowded beaches. If you have to dodge swimmers and other surfers you won’t enjoy too much your rides and you’ll be a danger for yourself and the others.
I hope I didn’t scare you too much. Enjoy your surf!
If you missed part one, here is how to choose a good surf school part 1.