Beyond the basics — continuing with your surfing in the UK
How to improve your surfing style
Surfing in the UK is at an all-time high, according to the British Surfing Association, who estimate that 50,000 newcomers are taking to the waves each year. Want to get involved? Find out how in our guide to continuing with your surfing in the UK.
Many newcomers to surfing in the UK will learn the basics through lessons at a surf school, and then fend for themselves by using a ‘learn by your mistakes’ approach. This is fine, of course, but unless you live within striking distance of one of the country’s few surfing hotspots, it’s easy to stay as an ‘eternal beginner’ in surfing and not make much progress.
So, how can you avoid the ‘eternal beginner’ trap? Well, there are two ways to avoid it: firstly, you can maintain and improve your 'surf fitness' and technique on dry land; and secondly, you can take advanced lessons at a UK surfing school. Read on for our tips on both of these – which will help you to take your surfing in the UK journey beyond the basics.
Improving your fitness and surfing technique on dry land
If you don’t have many opportunities to go surfing, you can still improve and maintain your ‘surfing fitness’ on dry land. Surfing is a very physical sport and is as much about endurance as it is about power and agility. For example, Darren Burrett from North Devon’s Surf South West suggests that: ‘The combination of paddling out, springing to your feet and attempting to stay up not only works practically every muscle in your body (particularly the shoulders, upper back, abs and glutes); it also hones core stability, agility and balance.’
You can improve your fitness and surfing skills on dry land by working on your surfing endurance, strength and technique:
Surfing endurance - You can work on the endurance side of things by doing any cardiovascular (CV) activity, but swimming is the best non-board-based choice. The overarm action of front crawl in swimming most closely mimics the paddling action you’ll need to use when surfing – and you’ll be surprised how much these muscles get used in a single surfing session.
Surfing strength - As far as strength is concerned, the ‘pop-up’ (from lying face down on your board to standing up) is like a combined press-up and squat thrust – requiring power, strength and flexibility. Diehard surfers are said to practise this manoeuvre on the carpet at home endlessly! You’ll also need good muscular endurance in the legs and glutes to maintain your stance on the wave once you are on your feet – so exercises such as squats and lunges are ideal.
Surfing technique - As you’ll find out on the water, surfing isn’t just about fitness – it’s about technique, too. You won’t be able to perfect your technical skills and positioning until you’re out there surfing in the UK – but using a fit ball to work on balance, and even a surfboard-shaped outline on the floor to work on foot and body position will help you to improve your technique.
The second crucial strategy for making genuine progress in your surfing is to go back to school. Many surf schools focus their beginners’ sessions entirely on getting you on your feet – they want you to be able to go home saying ‘I stood up!’ at whatever cost! – and this often means you’ll learn to get to your knees on the board before springing to your feet. That’s fine for when you are playing around in the white water – but if you want to get ‘out the back’ and ride unbroken waves, you’ll need to learn how to get up properly – and you’ll also have to swap that ‘foamie’ board for a less forgiving fibreglass one. The best way to do this is to take some advanced surfing lessons.
It’s highly recommended that you book a number of advanced lessons so that you can improve significantly beyond the basics – and it’s worth having one-to-one lessons rather than group sessions, particularly if you are serious about improving your surfing skills in a shorter amount of time. Alternatively, you could treat yourself to a beach holiday with a surfing tutor, where you’ll get concentrated tuition for a number of days.
In any type of advanced surfing lessons, you will learn how to get to your feet like a pro, how to judge the surfing and weather conditions, how to make it safely out the back (and in) in extreme conditions, how to turn the board on a wave, and how to pick the right wave and position yourself accordingly.
Surfing practise makes perfect
Of course, the main thing you can do to improve your surfing skills is practise as often as possible. But by doing some exercise on land in between those trips to the coast, and getting some expert help in the form of a few advanced lessons, you’ll soon be ‘carving’ like a pro!