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How to Learn How to Surf [video] (youtu.be)
54 points by brudgers 86 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments



I did about 10 surf road trips last summer in a concerted effort to really "get" it. To provide some context - and at the risk of sounding like a jackass - I typically take to a new physical activity pretty quickly. Surfing? Nope. THE toughest sport I've ever attempted. I felt I wasn't any better at the end of the summer from the beginning.

The thing is, I eventually just accepted enjoying the experience. There's zen out there in the surf, whether you're waiting for a wave or riding one. Cold, salty water on your face, in your hair, down your throat, it recharges the body & soul. It can be very social too. Which, if I had never tried, would've never known.

It's a welcome - even "needed" - break from the keyboard. And maybe just maybe while I'm splashing around out there, I'll eventually "get" it.


I don't surf. I know people who do. I've known them for the 35+ years they have been. I think getting it ultimately means living next to a place to surf. All of those people have arranged some period of their lives around surfing by living where surfing before and after work was an option. Some still do.

Living at the beach seems part of the price of getting good at surfing.


> living where surfing before and after work was an option

Paraphrasing Steve McQueen, more like, where work in between surfing was an option.


So, I worked remote for 4 months in Hawaii. 10 mins from a few smaller breaks. I surfed almost every day, and got coaching from an experienced surfer. I went from nothing to being able to surf a shortboard in 6 ft swell. A low intermediate level. It took another few months of surfing twice a week and I am now at an upper intermediate level. That means handling 7-8 foot surf, being able to handle rights and left, varying conditions, cutbacks and snaps.

My take : surfing is really hard. Most people struggle because of the physical conditioning needed and the proximity to good waves. I thought boxing had a harder and steeper learning curve with more technical variables, especially when up against a human opponent.

Also, This guy took way too long to get good.


That's the great thing about surfing - no matter how much you suck, it's still a blast.


Get a big board. You have more to and. Our feet don’t need to be within 2mm of the correct spot to get up and going. I made the mistake of learning on a board that was much to short (basically the same size as my roommate, who could actually surf)


This. I started on a 10.5’ board.


Strange. Trying to save this video for later viewing but instead get the following error:

> This action is turned off for content made for kids

How is that helpful? YouTube seems to actively try to make their site worse every day.


Agreed. Also because there's an easy workaround:

Like the video, and on the left panel should be your liked videos. Click that, and you'll see your liked videos. Add it to your playlists from there.


I can’t really understand what’s happening here.

Getting good at surfing is hard.

Getting up on small, mostly foam waves is not hard. Typically achievable your first time out, nobody I know that is remotely athletic has struggled to do that in 2-3ft surf. Once you get that first wave you are hooked and then its all nailing the timing. Which takes time.

Practicing the prone to standing explosive move on the beach 10-15 times before hand is helpful.

No idea why these people are so bad.


If you did not feel this way, well and good, but there are lot others who do and never learn to be any little good. Just too much focus on "learning" or thinking it is work....I think the video is about learning and not particularly surfing.

Happened to me learning to Ski, and I have pretty similar experience as they talked in the video. After two years of 'learning', the real improvement came only after I started to just let it go. Enjoy the time on the slopes, comparing small moves, figuring out balance and eventually figuring out to parallel ski.


I agree with you in terms of there are bell curves for innate athletic ability etc etc. but for the vast majority I would say that if it takes you more than a season to stand up on a surfboard or parallel ski then there is probably a fundamental blocker somewhere up the chain. Either a mental block or an area of training deficiency that can be much better remedied with a focused effort in that area.

In these cases I feel trying to do a complex, nuanced, full body sport is akin to doing Calculus without grasping Algebra. You can take that Calc I class 100x and you will still fail.

I am not trying to be critical of those who struggle to learn but suggest that there is often a way to shortcut that frustration. I love seeing people "get" a new sport and despite how inspiring their persistence it is really disheartening to see people fail unnecessarily for years.


I agree, this video is about learning, with surfing as an example. "It can't be taught, it must be learned."

I immediately sent this to a friend who decided to learn guitar and has spent the last two years trying to achieve a long ride over the fretboard.


Pretty much my experience (I took a few days class in Bali). The timing was the hardest part, it helped having the instructor nearby giving instructions in real time.

I think what makes surfing hard is that you spend a lot of time waiting for the right wave. You can spend a long time in the water for just a few attempts. When you learn snowboarding, you will find the right slope (hopefully soft snow), and you will repeat the moves until you get it.


i dont understand how he's surfed for so long and can still be so early in learning the fundamentals. the biggest variable is time in the water. w/ 20+ years he should be... better. the only thing i can think of is they go out very infrequently.


That infrequent thing seems to be the worst. You can't really calculate years, you need to calculate hours. I think I have quite solid background in some sports, and I have tried to learn surfing now maybe 6-7 years. unfortunately there are no waves in my neck of woods, so it s only traveling surfing for me. Which makes it really seldom, and yes, you guessed righ, I absolutely suck at surfing. So bad that I have started thinking about giving up completely until/if I happen to relocate myself some place where I can train more regularly.


He says he’s surfed 1000 hours. I think I surf about that much in two years and I’m still pretty bad. 50 hours a year means maybe only 20 days a year which is not many.

Also, I think they’re doing what most surfers don’t do and showing their worst waves. For those that don’t recognize the band, Tom Sachs is an internationally known artist that makes large installations (such as a larger than scale replica of that Apollo Lunar Module) out of scrap and junk. This video is very much in his style.


yeah, that could be it. i've been surfing for just a few years but surf a few times a week. if anyone is actually curious about mechanically how to surf, youtube took me here, it's a good video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBmijBB57Go

best place place to learn IMHO is waikiki w/ one of the "beach boys," they've probably seen more beginners than any other place, teach you the unwritten rules, and can get you going fast.

after that, just gotta put in time.


According to William Finnegan in Barbarian Days [0], people who start after age 14 or so have close to zero chance of becoming proficient.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Barbarian-Days-Surfing-William-Finneg...


That's wrong. I was surfing teacher, and regardless of age it takes 2-5 years to learn it. Some environments are easier, some are harder, but surfing is still both, the hardest and most dissatisfying, and then the most elegant and satisfying sport.

Many people started learning at 40, and it still needed 5 years.


i started just a few years ago in my mid-30s. i'm proficient: i can paddle and catch my own waves, go up and down "the line", i can stay out of the way (very important :) do turns, etc. i moved to the beach though once i knew i was hooked. i go several times a week, sometimes twice a day. there are guys/gals out there that have been doing it their whole life who i would say... very humbly, that ive surpassed. once i moved to the beach i started progressing super fast. i grew up skateboarding a lot, so i think that has something to do w/ it.

however! i once heard an old surfer describe surfing proficiency vs being good w/ an analogy: "you're fluent in the language, but when you talk, we hear the accent." and, like i said, i skateboarded a lot and that immediately makes sense to me. when i see folks skateboard that learned later in life i can immediately recognize it just by the way they push the board, let alone ride it. i'm ok w/ having an accent.


I love the book but disagree. It's highly unlikely most people will be able to become proficient later in life, but that's due to the need to live near the ocean,commit to sticking at something for a while, etc which most folks just don't do


This was amazing! I did not know Tom Sachs had a youtube channel, or that he still collaborated with Van Neistat. Now I'm making my way through his channel and all the videos I have watched so far have been incredible.


I've heard a stat: Surfers are surfing waves only 1% of the time they are working to surf waves. I think that's the time in the water, not outside of it.


Odd how underviewed this video seems to be.




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