Costa Rica Surf Lessons: Mastering the Basics
Posted by Jack Albritton on December 24, 2013
It is not hard to find Costa Rica surf lessons in any of the various surf towns on either coast of the country. Finding good surf lessons can be a different story. When looking at a surf camp or surf school you want to make sure that they offer more than just providing you with a board and sending you into the water. Having a qualified instructor is important. If you learn how to surf correctly in the beginning you will progress a lot quicker, have more fun and avoid a lot of frustration. Let’s take a look at some of the basics that should be covered when learning to surf.
Pop Ups on the Beach
When evaluating surf instructors I always pay close attention to how much time they spend on the beach before taking a student into the water. A basic explanation of waves while sitting on the beach can save a lot of confusion when you do enter the water. The beach is the spot for your instructor to explain how you want to stand up on your board correctly. Doing pop ups either on an imaginary board drawn in the sand, or on a surfboard with no fins gives you a chance to practice the proper form while on a stationary surface. A good instructor will show you the way to pop up and the proper stance and will then have you practice it until you become comfortable with the motion.
The proper way to paddle the board is with the crawl stroke, which is what most kids learn when they begin to swim. Paddling with one arm and then the other alternatively will give you the most power. You will want to make sure your hands are cupped to increase the pull. Paddling is something you will get better at over time as you get the feel and your strength builds up. You are going to want to work on making your paddling as efficient as possible. It is going to help big time when making your way out into the lineup.
Getting out into the Waves
Making it out to the lineup, the spot where you will be catching waves can be tricky at time. As you will find out, timing is everything for easily working your way out past the breaking waves. Save your energy and walk your board out until you are in waist deep water. Try to wait for a lull between the sets, which are groups of waves that come one after the other. The number can vary. When you find that lull you want to paddle as quickly and efficiently for the horizon and try to beat the next set coming in. This won’t always be the case and as you progress your instructor will either teach you how to duck dive or turtle roll the waves. These are techniques to help you get under waves and prevent you from getting washed back in after battling your way out.
Catching a Wave
Now if you were paying attention on the beach during the pop ups, you should be ready. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t get up on the very first try. As you will see, it is a big difference popping up on a stable beach as opposed to a wobbly board. Don’t let that deter you. Just stick to the form that you practiced on the beach and you will slowly start to feel more balance. When you are popping up on the board you want to remember to keep low. If you pop straight up into an erect stance you will fall. You want to try to stand about shoulder width apart. These are things that a surf instructor will correct you on as he helps you with your progress in the water. Since beginners are often not so strong with their paddling, a good instructor knows when to give that little extra push on the back of the board to propel it into the wave.
Safety and Etiquette
In my opinion this is more important than the mechanics of learning to surf. You won’t be very welcome in the lineup if you are dangerous or ignore the rules of etiquette in the water. Never let the board get between you and the waves. This is a good way to get smacked quite hard by the board. Give yourself plenty of room between yourself and other surfers. It’s best to surf with a buddy but if surfing on your own you should at least make sure you are surfing close enough to others so they will be aware if you are in danger. When you fall off your board you should cover the back of your head with your hands. Pay attention when you are surfacing so that you don’t charge head first into your board.
The first rule of etiquette is not to drop in on other surfers. To clarify, the surfer closest to the peak of has the right-Of-way. Don’t ditch your surfboard. This is dangerous to both you and other surfers. A leash can break leaving you stranded out in the ocean without a flotation device and stray board can do harm to surfers behind you when it is out of control. This is why you are going to want to learn to duck dive or turtle roll as soon as possible. Don’t snake waves or be overly competitive. Now if you are a beginner you probably won’t even know how to snake a wave for a while but learn to practice courtesy to other surfers from the very beginning. There are plenty of waves out there for everyone. When you are nice, you might even find new friends in the lineup giving you a wave from time to time.
You can rent or buy a surfboard, head out into the water and figure out this surfing thing on your own. But you are going to progress so much quicker and will enjoy your time in the water more with some surf instruction and a good solid base. Costa Rica surf lessons are a good way to start what may just turn into a lifetime addiction.