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Learn how to Surf: Beginner to Advanced Coaching

Updated on November 14, 2014

For those interested in Learning to SURF!

Surfing is AWESOME!

"Only a surfer knows the feeling." The perfect quote in my opinion to sum up the thrills experienced as a surfer. All over the world, thousands of people from all walks of life are flocking to the ocean, whether it is beautiful tropical warm water beaches, or ICE cold Atlantic waters, every sea-goer has his/her own personal relationship with the ocean.

My journey with the ocean started 15 years ago, and has since been what has come to define my life! Spending almost as much time in the water as I did working. As a coach at Learn 2 Surf, I am spending almost as much time in the water as I am sleeping! If you were my friend, you would probably refer to me as "that salty, ghost faced, sunblock plastered dude, running up and down the beach." I LOVE my job, my business attire consists of a vest and pair of 4 way stretch boardshorts, and I work with the MOST awesome team of people, EVER!

As you can probably tell from reading the above, "I live to surf and Surf to Live." The ocean is my passion, and I want to share it with the world. The thought of where I would be if I had not fallen in love with the ocean the way I did, petrifies me. As an overweight, lazy young boy,I was transformed and moulded into a physically fit being who would succeed at any other sport I attempted. Thinking back on all those mornings, I woke up at 4am to have a quick bowl of cereal and coffee, before I ran down the beach for an early morning DAWNIE, I was at the back minutes before the sun even came out in an attempt to get some good waves before the crowd showed up, I realise now how these activities have come to define me.There are thousands of sea-goers alike out there that will testify to the fact, and agree with me when I say< THE SEA NOT ONLY GROOMS YOU PHYSICALLY, BUT EMOTIONALLY AND SPIRITUALLY TOO >

Although Surfing is my BIGGEST passion, it is not my only, on days where there are no waves, I go spear fishing or free-diving, I also occasionally enjoy sitting on the piers until the sun rises fishing with my friends, waiting for the waves. I am truly blessed to have built a life and a career out of what I am so passionate about...


Learn 2 Surf-durban

Two of our BEST aspiring young surfers heading out for another lesson with one of our professional coaches.
Two of our BEST aspiring young surfers heading out for another lesson with one of our professional coaches.

Welcome to Learn to Surf

LEARN 2 SURF, the home of South Africa’s top surf schools and surfing instructors.

Rated No.1 Surf Schools South Africa.

We have schools all over South Africa. Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Jeffreys Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Margate, Durban.

All our surf schools offer group lessons or private coaching for you to learn to surf or improve your surfing skills.

We provide all the necessary equipment and all ages are welcome.


Please SMS us the following info:
1. Your Name
2. The Surf School you want to surf at
3. How many people are you booking for
4. When you want to surf (Day & Time)

Surf Lesson SMS Hotline +27 (0) 83 41 40 567

Start your own Journey, Learn the basics!

The ocean is ever changing.Every time you paddle out, you know that you will NEVER surf the same wave twice. The sandbanks, coral reefs and tides that define a wave are here today, and gone tomorrow. As a surfer you will have to get used to "living the search." This is the beauty of it all, the adventure, The JOURNEY!

In order to embark on your journey, you need to learn, and practise some of the basics of surfing. Here we will learn the BASICS:

  • Paddling
  • Duckdiving
  • Catching Waves
  • Standing Up
  • where should I surf as a beginner?

The BASICS: Paddling

One thing most people overlook when thinking about learning to surf is the paddling. At the very least, 90 percent of your time surfing will consist of... PADDLING. If not paddling, its waiting for waves, or just sitting on your board, pondering the meaning of life. Just by lying an inch too far back on your board can mean the difference between catching 50 waves in an hour to not even one. Positioning and Timing are the most important factors when paddling. Following is a checklist of what to do, and what not to do when paddling.

Always remember, you are not bigger or more powerful than the ocean, it can be a very dangerous place for even the most experienced of sea-goers. Treat it with RESPECT! Always try and go out with a buddy!

What TO DO:

  • Position yourself on the board so that it is level with the water. If the nose of your board is submerged under the water, and your tail up in the air between your legs, not only will you paddle 2 metres in 10 minutes, you will look like a "kook" too! Find the right spot on your board, where there is the least amount of resistance when paddling,
  • Cup your hands the same way you would if you were to swim freestyle/crawl, one arm at a time start paddling extending as far as you can to get maximum pull!
  • Keep your CHEST UP, this prevents your board's rails and nose digging in and creating resistance.
  • Start by paddling around in smaller/flat conditions if you are trying without the guidance of a professional surf coach!


  • Do not paddle in the way of another surfer. If a fellow surfer is coming your way, paddle the OPPOSITE direction, even if it means going through the whitewater.
  • Do not attempt to catch a wave on which another surfer has,"priority/right of way."
  • Do not paddle right around the locals and sit in the hot spot, join the line, be humble. If you are a total beginner it would be better to find a spot that is less crowded, that is suitable for your level of experience.

The BASICS: Duckdiving

Duckdiving is the term used for when you push your board under the surface of the water, in an attempt to pass through the wave, something every surfer needs to know, but probably one of the hardest things to learn in surfing.

As a beginner, we recommend you start off with a board at least 7ft or above(Mini Mals, longboards). You probably wont be able to duckdive the board, so there are other techniques for doing so.

How to duckdive: LONGBOARDS

As mentioned earlier, you probably wont be able to duckdive a longboard, so here are some techniques you can use for getting past a wave.

  1. The turtle roll: As you approach the wave, grab both rails of your board, and go belly up! Roll over. This will allow the wave to pass over your board with less resistance. Be careful though, if the wave is big and powerful, you will most likely dragged backwards underwater, doing frontflips, with your board stuck to your chest.
  2. Slice and dice: This technique will take some time to grasp, you should be able to properly duckdive a shortboard, before trying this.As you approach the wave, put both hands on both rails, and go onto one of your knees for leverage, put more pressure on one side, forcing one of your rails underwater. At this point you will need to push the nose of your board under, and then the other rail too, applying as much pressure on your knee possible, in an attempt to thrust you through the wave.
  3. Push over: If the oncoming wave is small enough, all you have to do is a push-up, and your board will pass through the top of the wave, while you go over.
  4. Bail: This should only be done if the wave is too big for you to handle, simply push your board out to the side or behind you, NOT in front of you,duh! Swim down and under the wave. Make sure there is no-one around you that will to be endangered by your stray board.

Look at that smile!
Look at that smile!

The BASICS: Catching a wave

Without the right knowledge, and building a good foundation, catching a wave can be the hardest task to overcome. In order to achieve the best results we recommend following these steps:

  • As a beginner, you should start out just past the shorebreak, catching foamies without getting up. Getting used to the feel of the ocean, and getting comfortable on your board. Once you are confident, you can try standing up with your preferred technique.
  • When you are confident you know how to get up properly, and comfortable in the ocean, try going out for some real waves. Sit at the back and observe the other surfers for an idea of where to sit yourself.
  • Try sitting up on your board, this will take a little practise, but not long.
  • Get used to turning your board quickly, by sitting back with your nose out the water, grabbing the rails, and swirling your feet in circular motions.
  • Once you have spotted a wave you are interested in, that is not already being ridden by someone, quickly turn your board, angle the nose of your board STRAIGHT towards the beach and use the paddling technique you learnt earlier.
  • Once you have gained momentum, and you feel the wave "grip" you, try getting up. Get up as close as possible to the top of the wave, you do not want to be lying down or trying to get up when you start to descend the face of the wave, you will likely hit a NOSEDIVE!
  • Surfing takes years and years of practice to master, even after that, the ocean will still be ever changing and unpredictable. Learn as much as you can about a spot before you surf it, speak to the locals, look online, study the wave, your goal is to read the ocean, and adapt!

The BASICS: Standing Up

Here we will go through the basics of standing up. There are many different techniques used to get up on a surfboard, but I will show you the two most popular, and recommended techniques. These can be practised at home easily by substituting the surfboard for a towel.

First YOU MUST know these vital tips!

  • Never should your knees ever touch the board when getting up in any of the two mentioned techniques, doing so will only result in taking longer to get up, which means more wobbling and instability, leading inevitably to more bails and less surfing. NO KNEES!
  • Keep focused on the beach ahead of you, "WHERE YOUR HEAD GOES, YOUR BODY FOLLOWS." Don't look at your feet, as a beginner this leads to more bails , but if you just try not to think too much, and keep your eyes forward, you will find learning a whole lot easier!
  • Keep your back straight, and your knees bent! This will increase you balance and stability 100 percent! You will also avoid being labelled "Pooh Man" for surfing with your bum in the air!

NB*Please refer to corresponding Pictures above for an illustration.

Technique #1: The Bottoms UP technique

This is the standard technique taught at Learn to Surf and is used on longboards big enough to carry you without your feet hanging off the tail of the board.

  1. The first thing you will need to ensure when practising this technique, is that your toes are at the back of the board, but not hanging off the tail. Also your hands must be placed directly next your chest. NOT ON THE RAILS!
  2. While looking forward, slightly elevate your upper body and chest using your arms.
  3. Use your toes at the back of the board to elevate your bottom as HIGH as you can, creating room for your front leg to move up.
  4. Slide your front foot from the back of the board forward, and place between your hands(or as close to that as possible,) without moving your back foot.
  5. Lift your hands, and stand up, turning your feet to the left if you are goofy, or the right if you are regular.(If you're not sure what stance you are,stand up with whichever foot feels more comfortable at the front. if it is your right foot, you are GOOFY, left foot means you are a REGULAR)
  6. Always remember to keep your knees bent, back straight and head forward to maximize stability on your surfboard.

Technique #2: The chicken Leg technique

This technique is designed for shorter boards, as your feet tend to hang off the tail. However I find this technique the best for both long and short boards. Illustration will be done for shortboard purposes.

  1. Like with the first technique, your hands need to be placed next to your chest, and not on the rails. It does not matter if your feet hang off the tail here.Bend your back leg(Regular=R/Goofy=L) so that your foot is brought up and placed on the board, with your knee facing off the board like a chicken leg. ;)
  2. While looking forward, slightly elevate your upper body and chest using your arms.
  3. Use your foot to push your bottom up as high as you can, creating room for your front leg to move up.
  4. Bring your front foot forward from the back of the board and place between hands without moving previously placed back foot.
  5. Lift Your hands from the board and stand up, rotating your feet either left or right depending on your stance.

Another day in paradise.
Another day in paradise.

BASICS: Where should I surf as a beginner?

When it comes to choosing a spot to surf, as a beginner, there are multiple factors that come into play. Choosing the wrong place to learn can not only result in injury or worse, but prolong your learning cycle significantly. What follows is a list if where TO GO and where NOT TO GO.

Where TO GO:

  • Surf at a Beach Break (waves breaking over Sand)
  • Spots where others go to learn.
  • Go for smaller waves(1-3ft range)
  • Surf less crowded spots with more space to learn, but NOT secluded!
  • Go for softer, slower breaking waves for the best results.

Where NOT TO GO:

  • Reef breaks(waves breaking over rocks,coral, etc)
  • Places unsafe to swim. If there is no swimming area and lifeguards on duty.
  • Spots that are crowded and pose a safety risk.
  • Breaks with waves that are steep and hollow.

*REMEMBER: Always go out with a friend. If not go where you will be spotted easily by rescue personnel if the need arises. Find out as much as you can about the spot you are intending to surf beforehand, tides, currents, rips, etc....

So... you can SURF?

  • Check out DSScommunity in the next video.

INTRODUCING: Durban Surf and Skate (DSS)

Durban Surf and Skate Community

DSS is a lifestyle community. We offer an organised community in which one may easily be exposed to alternate sporting activities. A friendly environment that encourages progress, health, fitness and fun.

Okay, This is awesome! FULL DETAILS COMING SOON!

The Ezekiel Clinton Hattingh Story

© 2014 Ryan de Robillard


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