What to Expect When Surfing Your First Wave


So you went through the beach instruction on how to paddle and catch a wave and stand up, and now you’re heading out to catch your very first wave. For the beginner surfer we always recommend using a board that provides plenty of buoyancy and stability. It will make your first session fun and enjoyable with less struggling to catch waves and standing up.

Surfing is unlike any other sport you’ve ever tried. It is the most exhilarating feeling when the swell picks you up, thrust you forward on a magic carpet ride towards the shore. Once you get the free gliding feeling you will be hooked on the stoke of riding waves.

Surfing checklist

It’s always important to have all the right gear when participating in any sport. It’s the difference in having an OK session to having an awesome surf session. Because surfing is a very physically demanding sport it’s always important to warm up prior to paddling out.


The surfboard is your number one piece of equipment. For the first couple of session we recommend taking a lesson and renting a surfboard to see if you really enjoy the sport.This is a less expensive way to go before spending hundreds of dollars to purchase a board.

As previously mentioned, as a beginner you’re going to want a larger board that is wider, thicker and more buoyant providing more stability. Once you become more skilled you can slowly transition to a charter surfboard. The shorter your board the more sensitive and maneuverable the board is, allowing you to make more turns and maneuvers. To learn more and understand the surfboard, read our blog here.

Additionally, investing in a good wetsuit and/or rashguard and a leash. A good wetsuit will keep you warm in cold water and in tropical warm conditions a rash guard will provide sun protection and chaffing on your check and under your arms. The surfboard leash will keep your board from washing to the shore when you fall off.

Warm up

To avoid injury doing a quick warm up is key. Stretching on the beach is extremely important, especially as a new surfer. You will use muscles that you don’t normally use so being loose and limber will help reduce chances of injury and soreness later.

surfing at sunset
Okay, you’ve got the gear and you’ve done your stretching – time for the fun part! Now you get to experience your first wave.

Paddle out

First things first, you’ve got to paddle out past the break. Sounds easy, but get ready for a good workout! Make sure to paddle out through the channel staying out of the way of other surfers riding waves.

Make sure you always watch where you’re going so you don’t paddle right into another surfer’s space. Don’t paddle in front of people and stay out of the way of other surfers.

Where to sit

When you’ve made it out the back, sit up on your board facing out to sea so you can see the incoming swells. Make sure to also sit well out of the way of others and give them space and room to move. When you see someone on the inside of you closer to the curl of the wave paddling make sure you paddle in the opposite direction towards the shoulder to get out of the way.

Watch the behaviors of others and follow suit. They will teach you proper etiquette in this department.

Reading the ocean swells

One of the most challenging aspects of surfing is learning how to read the incoming swells and knowing where to paddle and position yourself to catch a wave. Knowing when to turn around and paddle at the perfect time so that you’re not too early or too late to catch the wave is a key. This will take time to learn and a good instructor will make this process much quicker and easier to master.


Once you feel the wave pick you up, paddle one or two times to ensure your into the
wave and then quickly stand up.

What to expect

So what exactly should you expect when surfing your first wave? Well, to be honest with you – you’re probably going to fall. A lot. But that’s okay! You’re learning and even the most experienced surfers had to start where you are. Keep at it, you’ll be standing in no time.

You can also expect some sore muscles. Like we said earlier, surfing is a unique sport that requires a lot of strength. Therefore, your muscles are probably going to hurt for awhile as you get used to it. Make sure to drink plenty of fresh water and take it easy for a few days between sessions. You’ll be feeling better in no time!

Additionally, you can expect some rashes or burns. These come from you rubbing against the board and falling off as well. They’re totally normal, but using the rashguards and bodysuits help with this problem.

Lastly, you can expect to have a lot of fun! It’s going to take practice and determination, and you’re going to fall a lot. But that’s all a part of learning. Enjoy each moment, connect with your environment, and take each wave as it comes!

Surf lessons

Are you hoping to take a few more surf lessons before hitting the water on your own? Wise choice! Some people are faster learners than others, but everyone can benefit from professional instruction.

At SurfnSea, your experience is our priority. As one of the best Hawaii surf shops, we don’t just sell surfing merchandise. We also offer group and one-on-one surfing lessons on Oahu to help you prepare for your first wave. Or just brush up on your skills. Whatever you need, we are here to help you!

Give us a call today or book your session online. We look forward to seeing you out on the water!