In order to become a successful surfer, you need to know how to read a wave when surfing. Without this, you won't be able to ride the waves and will just be paddling around most the day. Most professionals will spot a potential wave from far away, and it is often identified as a "lump in the sea". With this In mind, you'll know exactly what to look for.

First of all, you should paddle outwards to position yourself beyond the break zone. Get in a sitting position on your board, facing the sea. Look far, in the area of the horizon. Here, you will be able to see odd bumps which can also be identified as waves which have not yet taken shape but are beginning to the closer they get to shore. These can be known as the sets that you will need catch.

The hardest part of finding a wave to ride is timing it. You can take objects to help you identify your lining point. This means you need to visualize a spot in the ocean where you can catch your wave. This is very crucial when learning how to read a wave when surfing. Use a telephone poll or even smaller cliffs to line up your point with. While the wave is far away, begin paddling outwards.

If it seems that the wave is going to break a bit farther inside from where you are positions, you will need to increase your paddling in order to get on top of it. Otherwise, you may only need a few strokes to reach it.
One of the most difficult tasks of a surfer is to determine the shape of the wave. Usually when you are on a wave, it is almost impossible to get a look at the shape because you are trying to concentrate on balancing. However, as with anything - practice will really help. You can also feel the shape of the wave as well.
Generally, it's better to get a good look at it beforehand. If it is a low, mellow wave - you need to paddle into the wave straight on. In case the wave is much steeper than you estimated, it is better to catch it from an angled approach to help avoid nose diving.

Overall, when you are learning to read a wave, be patient and keep up the practice. Over time, you will become an expert at this and it will only take you a matter of seconds to read a wave and locate where it will begin.