The new Point Break movie came out on Christmas day. Although I haven’t seen it yet (it hasn’t been released in México yet), I checked out its unbelievably terrible RottenTomatoes.com review (7% on the tomatometer), and I still wonder how many people out there will catch the surf fever and learn to surf as a New Year’s Resolution.
If Keanu Reeves taught us anything about surfing in the original Point Break, (in which he actually had to learn how to surf) it’s that picking it up won’t be as easy as simply buying a new board that looks like a ’57 Chevy and expecting to actually surf–not just standing up and going straight–in the first few sessions. And of course, there’s always that sketchy brotherhood situation with a gang of adrenaline-junkie bank robbers to avoid.
So, this is why I decided to write up a few pieces of general advice if you’re aiming to start surfing this year. In the words of Kelly Slater:“It’s like the mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no getting out.”
1. Check out the 6 Mistakes New Surfers Make and How to Avoid Them list. It’s paramount in the development of any beginner surfer to screw up as little as possible, for the safety of the people in the lineup and for their own. To find out what NOT to do, take some very visual advice from @Kookoftheday. Why do I say this? Because I’ve given speeches to friends interested in learning to surf, and they’ve accidentally been very unmotivational. Surfing isn’t easy to learn. It’s starts off with a lot of very lame looking (yet exhilarating) softop rides straight to the beach and general kookiness, which is part of the fun. If you’re picturing yourself charging maxing Teahupoo like they do in Point Break… well, picture something else instead.
Want to learn to surf? You won’t learn here.
2. Don’t even consider learning in artificial waves. If anything, surfing in controlled conditions should be a privilege for those who really want to improve their technique. Part of learning to surf is taking real poundings and the lessons that come with them from Mother Ocean. Surfing is much more than standing up on a surfboard–it’s learning the moods of the ocean and figuring out how to play on them.
Do you even El Nino, bro? Image: NOAA
3. While you’ll never learn to surf without actually surfing, there is plenty of helpful information outside the ocean that will help.Read up on forecasting, oceanography and hydrodynamics. A complete surfer knows the value of accurate swell prediction and all of the technicalities within, such as great circles theory and having a minimal understanding of how a swell actually forms and travels to your nearest break. What about how the bathymetry and the way a reef, sandbar or rocky bottom will affect the way a wave stands up and breaks? Furthermore, understanding how different board shapes, volume and materials will affect your performance in the water is of utmost importance in saving money, not looking like a fool, and actually improving. Do a little research and learn some facts.
Want to get a shot like this? First learn how to do it, then get a GoPro. Photo: GoPro
4. No GoPro, bro. Until you feel confident enough not to fuck up, don’t bring a GoPro out. I say this because I did this myself when I was “learning” to surf and was more focused (or should I say distracted) by pressing record than actually feeling the wave. If you’ve ever seen a guy with a GoPro in the lineup it’s either a kook or a proficient/professional surfer. Looking at your footage should have a more useful purpose than sharing screen captures on your Instagram profile: it can be a tool so you can thoroughly analyze your timing, positioning, pop up technique and turns. Nothing makes you a better surfer than watching yourself surf and seeing how bad you look.
5. Forget everything you think you may know about surfing.Forget the surf babes, the names of the pros and their world title statistics, forget the names of every famous break you know about from watching epic drone footage, forget all the stereotypes you’ve learned from culture and movies. Forget everything except the fact that you are nothing but a tiny speck of sand in a massive (and potentially dangerous) environment. Forget how many Instagram followers you gained when you took a selfie on the beach with a surfboard. Each time you humbly and sincerely paddle out you will learn a little more about an amazing way of life, and with that will come a real appreciation for the ocean, the beach, and the wonder of surfing. What the surfing world is lacking is people who truly value their beaches, their equipment and every single wave they catch, (which is actually catching you) no matter how mushy or hollow, how empty or crowded, how warm or cold, or how small or how big.