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Have you ever tried to do something you’ve never done before? If you have, then I’m sure you know the daunting feelings that come with new experiences. Surfing for the first time is no exception. If the possibility of meeting a shark doesn’t scare you, then perhaps it’s the enormous ten-foot waves or the other surfers who might laugh as you fly off your board into the icy waters. Surfing, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, is not for the faint hearted. Despite all these things that could scare almost anybody away from the water, pushing through the fear is worth it. Life is about trying new things and conquering your fears, so why not start with this one?

With South Africa’s beautiful coastline, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of our waves. Before you head into the waters for your first surf, however, there are a few things you need to know.

How do I surf?

If you don’t have a friend who can show you the ropes you can grab a short session from one of the instructors on the many surf shops in front of the South African beaches. They go for about R100 – R150 per hour and you’ll only need 1 session to get yourself properly acquainted! If you don’t want to spend the extra bucks you can run into the water with your board, wait for a big wave and paddle hard just before it reaches you. By the time it hits you, you should already be moving forward towards the beach (this is super important). Once the wave starts crashing behind you, the momentum will hit you and your board and you’ll feel yourself zooming through the water! The first two times I suggest you stay lying down. While you won’t look like you’re in a Billabong commercial just yet, it’s an awesome feeling and a great way to build your confidence in the water. You’ll be hooked in no time! When you feel comfortable, try to get onto your knees as you catch the wave. You might fall into the water a few times when you start doing this – but float back up, get on your board and try again. If it feels too hard, don’t be embarrassed to put your board on the sand and practice jumping up without the extra challenge of balancing and trying not to crash. Once you’ve mastered catching waves and getting on your knees, try standing up. Catch that wave lying down, move on to your knees and stand! And just like that, you’re officially a surfer.

Where do I go?

When picking a place to surf it’s important that you are not the only person in the water. Crowds may be intimidating, but it is safer to be in a group in case anything goes wrong. It’s also more likely that conditions are good if other surfers are out. Beaches which offer surfboard and wetsuit rentals often have great waves for beginners and are more likely to be busy.

What about sharks!?

This is probably the first thing that crosses your mind as you look into the ocean with intent of taking a dip. I can’t promise that you won’t come face to face with a shark, but the truth is that shark attacks are extremely rare on our shores. Especially in the last few years, environmental changes have caused a lot of the Great Whites to be pushed out of Cape Town bays (great for us, but sad for the sharks!). Also, keep in mind is that there are many spots (including the popular Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg) that are constantly monitored by Shark spotters. They make sure to spot the predators long before they can even come close to the shore. If sharks are what is keeping you on the beach, find a spot near your coast where there are shark spotters who are watching out for you and cast your worries aside.

Do I need to be able to swim?

The answer, yes you do, may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people go into the ocean without a good understanding of how to float and swim. With riptides and waves, the sea can be a dangerous place. Make sure you have warmed up your muscles before you get into the water to prevent a cramp and never turn your back on those waves! Check that your surfboard leash (the thing you strap to your foot) is strong so that your link to your floating device is never jeopardized. Never underestimate the power of the ocean.

Surfing is an incredible feeling. It’s like walking on water, filled with an adrenaline rush that will leave you smiling and laughing as you glide through the waves. I hope that you find the bravery in yourself to face your fears head on so that you too can understand the hype that comes with trying something new. Sure, you might have a few bad falls, you might hit an old lady with your big surfboard, and you might mistake a piece of floating plastic with a jelly fish. But doing new things is super important for your mind and your self-esteem, and it’s fun! So if you’re looking to push yourself out of your comfort zone and grow, why not head down to the beach and give it a go. Surf’s up everybody!

Ocean-lover, adventurer, writer. I enjoy reading and drinking coffee. I am passionate about my studies and empowering womxn. In my free time I work as a medic on the road and I teach self-defence to young girls in underprivileged areas through a NPO called FightBackSA.
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