how hard was it for you?

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Well, how hard was it?

piece of f**ken cake
not as hard as golf
harder than almost any other sport
10 yrs later and I still can't do a turn
Total votes: 37

Nick Carroll
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how hard was it for you?

Post by Nick Carroll » Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:59 pm

hey gang, semi serious request here: I'm writing a piece on learning to surf, is it really any easier these days, and I was wondering -- would you mind sharing your memories of learning, the first six months to a year? When was it? How hard did you find it, or was it piss easy, what helped and what didn't etc.

I should clearly state this is research for an article -- so it's possible I might quote you. If I plan to do so, I'll contact you via pm before doing so.

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Post by channels » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:19 pm

Perservered in Perth surf for a couple of years on a board far too short, narrow and thin for my 80kg frame. I would have moments of magic amongst months of crap efforts.

Finally a kind soul pointed out that with a board better suited to my abilities I would actually progress. Within 3 months of getting on suitable boards, I progressed really quickly.

Like Iggy, I'm never going to bust out airs but I'm happy with my ability to link turns, flow and most importantly have fun!

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Post by moreorless » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:36 pm

If you're young (under 15) and have endless hours to practice, practice, practice it can be fairly easy to learn the basics, if (and it's a big if) you have some innate ability.

If you have none of these things you might as well not even bother to try. :wink:

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Post by Jorgo » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:40 pm

I think most of us would have all "started" surfing before we even got on a board. I remember as a scrawny 7 year old huddling under a towel in winter on the beach watching the big kids surfing planks and collecting them on the beach (no leggies) hoping that one would allow me the privilege of having a go in the shorey at Harbord where my parents took me as a kid. Then flippers to body surf and the pre cursor to body boards.
All this time learning about waves and the ocean movements.

Then one day it all came to light with a surf lesson from Midget Farrelly courtesy of the Sun Newspaper at Manly on a wind blown rainy day when not many turned up to listen to god and get personal tuition. Had a coolite at that time that my brother and I shared. After that day stood up and had years surfing Manly with a pack of fellow coolite and barton board fiends till I was 12. Could trim and pull off etc, but it was only when I got my first glass board, a Wallace 7 foot pintail (1968) that it all came together.
Transition from coolite to "real" board was easy - but it was only years of ocean experience that allowed that ease.
Still sit on the beach under a towel watching the big boys - yeah yeah I know :oops: 8) :?

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Post by boardscape avalon » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:50 pm

started on a surfa plane, but was lost to the sport when i got my farrelly foamie (with blue rubber fin)... i guess late 1969 or 70....f.....ken lost...i only remember cause my mum used to take me down to kiddies corner at d.y. point she would dump BEX powders in the sun with garth dickos mum and i would not let garth have a go on me board.... the gut rash oh the gut rash , thats what lives on in the memory

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Post by rightbrainpositive » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:52 pm

On a stand-up I was a pretty late starter. I was a booger all through High School and had a lot of fun around the 'Nulla and a few of the nearby reefs (closest I got to the Island was the Patch though)...

After Yr 12, I went to Bali with my brother to catch up with a newly married cousin. She married an Indonesian-American fella named Fred who is also one of the resident rippers at Nusa Dua. I remember getting some good waves on my booger out there. But after watching Fred surf with his Curren-influenced style, it made me rethink my choice of equipment.

When I got back to Oz, a friend of mine gave me an old 80's Aloha shaped by Greg Clough. It was about 6 x 19 x 3, had glass splinters sticking out on random parts of the rails and was way to small for my 90kg frame to learn on. Whenever the waves were good, I'd always take out the booger and get barrelled instead of taking advantage of learning in waves with a bit of push.

A few months after the Aloha was given to me I was up on the Central Coast surfing Catho's with a mate who made the 'conversion' a year or so before me. The water was crystal clear, I was in boardies and the waves were a punchy 2ft. It was a perfect day for surfing.

Then 'it' happened...

I paddled into a waist high right, got up early and felt what it was like to trim properly for the first time. I even got a couple of pumps in before the end of that wave.

After I fell off, I shouted some 1995 version of "Yeeewwwwwww" underwater and probably scared a few fish in the lineup. It's an expression I still practice after a good wave to this day.

Once you get 'it', 'it' gets you :D

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Post by Damage » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:57 pm

I grew up in the bush and didn't even touch a surfboard until I was about 21. :cry:

Over 10yrs later and with some persistence and toil I now regard myself as competent without being anything special.

When DY point is working with a decent crowd I can head out there and snag half a dozen waves in an hour or so without too much trouble although I am careful to stay out of the way a bit. Maybe a bit too careful.

I was pretty handy with most sports as a kid if I may say but I have always thought that ( quote bit for Nic Nac:) there are a few things with surfing that if you haven't learnt by the time you are 16, then you just ain't ever going to get them.

Sort of like old dogs with new tricks.

Yep, learning to surf in your 20s is an absolute bastard!

Best thing I ever did though. :D
Last edited by Damage on Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by AndyTheMan » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:00 pm

I only did a bit of surfing in my teens - was never very good. Mainly stuck with a body board as didn't get to the beach often enough to get any good at proper surfing!

Left it in my early 20's (work etc then around europe for a couple of years, met he missus etc). Always lived near the beach in my 20's so mainly swimming etc - loved being in the water and spent endless hours on the beach - just not surfing! (freaking idiot)

Now tryign to get back into in and learn properly in my very early 30's. and its as freakin hard. Got a cheap 7'9 mini-mal and been going at it for a year (bit of a break over the winter)....

When I was young I cold learn anything - sailing, snow skiing and snowboarding, water skiing, rock-climbing ...they all came easy in my 20's - why the hell did I not dedicate more time to surfing back in the day!?!??????

I'm older, heavier, slower and started last year with the paddle fitness of a yak on a 44 gallon drum (despite swimming strongly wit hthe surf club every weekend?!?!).... but I'm getting there.....SLOWLY.....

Best advice....

Listen to the older dudes that can help you - even on forums people can offer great advice. Sometimes its the little things that mates say that make so much difference (like, move forward 6 inches on the board or take longer strokes with the paddle) - little things otehr people see you doing wrong that you cant see yourself.

Stick to smaller waves where you can really dedicate yourself - no point surfing for 3 hours, to catch 2 waves cause you were scared of getting hammered.

Don't give a fruck about the pricks who have a go at you cause your a kook....people think they are hot shots because they had thechance to learn this shit when they were younger. everyone started somewhere. The best good surfers who get the resepct from e are the gracious ones - the ones that can kick asre on the board, but don't need to go tellnig the world about how good they are!!! Plus, I may not surf well, but I'm married to a model so who's getting the best ride at the end of the day?!?!?!

At the same time, respect those that are experienced (and who can show you some respect) - I don't go out getting in the way of the better guys on a bank just to land on my face 50% of the time - go somewhere away from them so you get lots of waves - but also to leave the better surf for the guys that can make best use of it.

Most important - do it lots - every day if you can. The more time in the water, the more waves you catch, the better your surfing and the more you enjoy it!

For me, its about just being there. I'm not the best surfer, but a get a real buzz from it all the same!

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Post by oldman » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:04 pm

Finally took up surfing at age 31 or so.

I've played many individual and team sports, and surfing ranks on top for sheer ongoing challenge.

Physical demands are significant, especially when you start and are working up your fitness and paddling technique (which I find out 15 years later is defective :oops: ). I remember initially finding that sitting on my board out the back isn't nearly as easy as it looks.

Psychological demands are huge, being tested in conditions that might actually kill you. Facing genuine fear for fun ranks as an amazing thing to do as a pastime, without actually getting into the extreme sports genre.

Risk management skills are actually part of the whole formula.

Technical skills are hard to learn and take a lifetime to master, including a batch of counter intuitive things that just add to the complexity.

Knowledge of the ocean and its moods is an ongoing education.

And no matter how good you are, it seems the ocean has bigger tests in store if you are up for it, as witnessed by the tow-in crew.

And then there are people who tow into heaving Teahupo slabs. I'm not even sure if that is surfing any more. Certainly not comparable with anything I have known.

Hard to top that.

It's a whole-of-being sport if you want it to be. Not many activities, let alone sports, can claim to do that.

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Post by AndyTheMan » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:10 pm

Jorgo wrote:I think most of us would have all "started" surfing before we even got on a board. I remember as a scrawny 7 year old huddling under a towel in winter on the beach watching the big kids surfing planks and collecting them on the beach (no leggies) hoping that one would allow me the privilege of having a go in the shorey at Harbord where my parents took me as a kid. Then flippers to body surf and the pre cursor to body boards.
All this time learning about waves and the ocean movements.
mate, this is so true. my missus is english, and she can swim alright in the pool (does like a thousand laps). But when we moved back to Australia and I took her to the beach, I was amazed at how little she knew about the water, currents (plus sultanas) and waves........and I don't mean serious oceanography stuff, I mean the basics like knowing that you should dive under the whitewater so you don't get smashed!!

I took her to the beach for the first time and I just head into the water saying something like 'race you out the back' - she can swim alright but she had NEVER been to the beach really (or none with decent waves) so she really had no idea how to deal with waves......

It took about 3-4 trips to teach her even the basics like never turning your back on the whitewater and how to dive under appraching waves.....

It made me realise how much we had learned intuitively as kids....

It also made me realise how easy it is for tourists who are not used to the water can get themselves in trouble!

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Post by Jorgo » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:12 pm

Second post on topic. The pre and post leg rope days would have had a lot to do with competency in a shorter period of learning.
Pre leggies, you were swimming to the shore a lot - only got a few waves relatively speaking.

With leggies you could fall off/bail out as often as it happened and voila, there is your board back with you ready to go again.

Probably had its pros too in that you were getting fitter swimming to shore and could paddle harder to get waves and you were really intent on not wiping out - ie. improved ability quicker :?

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Post by philw » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:28 pm

nick - in short - bloody hard.

hardest thing i've ever tried to do. skiing and snowboarding don't even come close.

age is the big factor. i grew up in the uk, spent summer and winter school holidays in st.ives mucking around with old surfboards (this is mid-late 80's). surfing was still a novelty in the uk then (not any more) and i didn't have a clue, or anyone to learn from. don't recall progressing beyond standing up in the whitewater.

forgot about surfing for a few years during college.

ended up back in cornwall a few years later. rented a surfboard and was hooked again immediately.

crucial thing - by this time i'm 24 or 25. very fit and a good swimmer etc but learning to surf has little to do with fitness. spent the next few years surfing whenever i could (i was earning enough coin for lots of overseas trips) on mainly longboards 'cos it was easier and definitely easier in the mostly crap waves in the uk.

got to the point where i was spending every weekend searching waves in the uk (i have done things you would not understand just to find a wave - including a dawn session in winter in kent and then back to work - in Soho by 10.30am) and still only basic longboard skills - trimming, wobbly cutbacks and attempts to noseride. can remember my first barrel clear as day - january, north cornwall, perfect 4 ft a frame beach break. water was warm enough to take off the hood and gloves.

mid late 20's i start trying to ride shortboards. big transition. longboards don't have to be driven to keep them going. you can just stand there. shortboards either need insanely perfect waves or you have to be able to pump for speed. i'm f.cking determined but progress is slow.

realisation dawns (i'm slow, ok). i love surfing to distraction and have to move somewhere more ..uh...convenient.

pack my stuff go on another extended surf trip. plan to end up in oz. make microscopic progress with shortboard skills but refuse to go back to the mal. i want to surf conditions where constant duckdiving is needed. mals are no good for that.

cut to today - having lived in oz for nearly 10 years and surfed all over the world - i've gained some very hard fought for basic shortboard skills.

just going down the line and making a few turns. get the odd shack.

things i've learned:

1. ride a board that's big enough. high performance boards will hold you back if you're not high performance.

2. get someone to video you. it's horrible but it helps.

3. look for waves you can surf - you'll learn quicker than sitting on the shoulder of a barreling freight train you can't comprehend and are scared shitless of (from much sad experience).

4. start young and stay at it!

jesus, that almost felt like therapy. thanks for listening.

:lol: :lol:

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Post by dunnc » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:44 pm

I was always around the beach when I was young and had a few foamies over the years.
I was in nippers from the age of 7 and was pretty confident in the water but didn't really stand up on my foamy properly until the age of 9 (25yrs ago) and I can still remember my first corner I negotiated all the way into the shorey and was hooked ever since. After that effort my mum booked me in a surf school program that was run by Warringah Council I think, it was down at collaroy and the coaches were Mark Warren and Pam Burridge! I was stoked. It was through this program that i learnt how about surf etiquette and more importantly board control. Then progressed to finer details of the ride itself.
I loved getting out in the water but didn't get serious about my form until I was about 15 or so (the bugger was I didn't live by the beach and the bus ride was fairly long at that age..)
My only regret with surfing is that I had a period between the age's of 24 and about 30 were I didn't catch a wave, so I kind of had to make the ground back up around then (the feeling was there, the approach was there it was just getting the right board and putting a good season in to get back to the flow of it).
That's probably why I'm still kinda of a grommet in my approach - I always think about surfing, I go past the lineup every morning on the way to work and I'll still go out in 1ft slop (just to keep the rhythm for when it's going to get good!).
I think learning at that age and having an older brother that surfed made it fairly easy, you never realise it was hard because everything is bloody fun at that age. The harder part is the progression from beginner to intermediate - that took a while as I couldn't surf more than once a week.

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Post by philw » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:55 pm

People who start surfing from scratch with zero ocean experience as adults would have to be 1 in 20 to get to a reasonable level. Your body's muscle memory skills are pretty well developed by then.

too right. the stuff i did in my teens (binge drinking, trying to look cool in front of chicks) i can still do very well with little practice.

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Post by daryl » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:59 pm

3 months self taught on an 8'6 at age 44. Had a lesson and learnt as much in 30min as in 3mos. Jumped to shorties too soon I guess and improved for about 3 yrs. went hard until I could ride the face for a distance on a solid wave, then fell out of *practise* for say 3-4 years (serious ill middle of that, don't go there :oops: ), and have been back at it for going on 3 yrs. Only good on a choice wave. :roll:

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Post by sorry_charlie » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:12 pm

I remember one xmas a surfboard under the tree that Santa had delivered. Dad took my out the next day. Was well over my head, dad just jumps on his board starts to paddle out and yells back 'just make sure you jump to your feet in one movement....quick as can'

So for the next 20 minutes or so i struggle to get out the back with dad and he says 'howzit goin, get a few' i say 'are you crazy it's huge' he just laughs and says 'you'll get it'

I was about 12 then and i hated it as i couldn't seem to do anything but stack and then spend 20mins getting back out. But sure enough one day it just happened and I'm not sure what i'd do without surfing.

My only advise would be to start on a board you actually want to ride, i see kooks learning on mals and shit and just watch them struggle to get out the back let alone do a bottom turn.

It really is like riding a bike- i remember that was pretty hard to learn but i rode a pushie the other day after about 10yrs and it's a cliche' but i sure as hell didn't forget how to do it.

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Post by Dingus » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:31 pm

I started in my mid 20's, having never lived close to the ocean before that time.

I started by just going for a bash in the ocean as a bit of fun but it turned into something deeper in the first few weeks. I remember each evening in the water, standing up to my neck in water waiting for the waves to come in and bodysurf them. I still remember those evenings with the smooth green water rolling in the twilight at eye level clearly, and this is what hooked me at the time.

I went in with a deliberate decision to bodysurf for 6 weeks or so before goign for a bodyboard and staying on that for 6 months or so before moving up. I saw this as a progression in ocean and wave awareness more than anything else and stuck to it. Despite this, my first few months on a surfboard was a terrifying affair, as what before was a highly fun 1 -3ft wave became an impossible task with much sticking-out of bums and awkward paddling.

I broke speed limits every evening to get back into the water though and became halfway competent eventually. I still maintain this half-compentence, but have the inbuilt fear of big waves that seems common in late starters. It's funny that I have been willing to try to put myself in positions that could kill me but wouldn't dream of it in the ocean - it's too terrifying a force for me, but one I am fascinated with and couldn't face leaving for good at any stage.

However, constant periods of 4-6 months out of the water conspire to keep my surfing time down, and I have to accept that I spend a lot of time readjusting each time I jump back on a board. I am accepting this, but it's a blow to the ego at times.

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Post by Thibb » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:39 pm

I started surfing at 33, but I have been involved in sports all my life. These included basketball (17 years), tennis (7 years), soccer (3 years), swimming (3 years) and horse riding (3 years). Add to those more casual experiences with volleyball, bike riding, sailing, field hockey, table tennis, distance running and various summertime stuff. I guess it is safe to say that I was fit and had a bit of knowledge about how a ball bounces when I started to surf.

But surfing is such a different thing... During my first attempt I got screamed at by another surfer, mauled by a wave and sliced open by my fins. After 15 minutes I was back on the beach, blood running down my shins and wondering what the hell had just happened.

Over the next weeks I slowly got used to paddling but a month in I still considered it a victory if I managed to get to my feet for 5 seconds. I met some people in similar situations and we started surfing together and -more importantly- talking about it.

One of them looked at me and asked: "how do you think you are supposed to turn on a board?". I remember telling him: "I am still trying to understand the physics of waves and nowhere near to thinking about turning". I had not even considered turning, the possibility had not yet crossed my mind.

Having grown up far away from the beach, I was starting from below zero. I remember how during my second session I slowly drifted away from the beach, possibly to the point where I was 50 metres away from the beach. No waves breaking anywhere in sight, but I just waited for a random wave to break. A lifeguard paddled by and asked if I was ok. Sure I was, I answered cheerfully and kept waiting...

But persistence paid off and I slowly started to understand what a sandbank was, how a rip worked and why some waves dumped and others didn't. The concept of timing became familiar: too early and you get left behind, too late and you pearl. The coming weeks and months were unforgettable: first green wave, first big wave, first long wave.

Eventually I even learned to turn.

Today I find myself staring at people who pump down the line and end up launching their boards and bodies into the air at the end of it. How the hell do they do it? I just do not understand, cannot grasp what it is that happens to them and why I cannot make it happen to me.

Playing basketball I never managed to pull off a 360 slam dunk, but I always knew why. It was just lack of vertical leap, a physical ability. But when it comes to surfing it is beyond that: I have trouble understanding the physics. I suppose that people who started really young intuitively feel how it all works. To me, surfing has to be a science before it gets to be a sport.

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