The October 2009 issue of Australian Surfing Life magazine had an article "Who We Are in 2009", containing the results of a large reader survey. One of the questions asked was "the hardest thing you encountered while learning to surf". The answers, in order of popularity, were:
- Paddling out 12.35%
- Changing boards 11.2%
- It's the hardest sport ever 9%
- It was piss easy 9%
- Conditions drove me mad 9%
- Duckdiving 6.7% (A technique for avoiding waves by
pushing your board underwater to dive beneath them)
- Too far to the surf 6.7%
- Trying to turn 5.6%
- Nobody else around (to surf with) 4.5%
- Making the drop 4.5%
- Standing up 4.5%
- Scared of bigger waves 3.37%
- Trimming 3.37% (going across the wave, rather than
straight towards shore)
- Going backhand 3.37%
- Too much fun to be hard 2.2%
- Disoriented by the wave pushing me 1.12%
I am not surprised by no. 1 - it's what I would have answered. I would also note that no. 6
is really just an aspect of no. 1. Reading surf conditions, spotting and using the rips and currents, duckdiving, and wave selection are a huge and non-obvious part of surfing, and take years to master. One of the printed responses was:
The hardest thing in surfing is "seeing" waves. For instance, when you are a beginner everyone seems to catch waves all around you and you are sitting there wondering how the fark they are doing it. It takes so long to figure out which waves to paddle for, where to paddle for 'em, where is the best spot to take off from, followed by which way to go, left or right. Fitness is not so much a factor as technique when paddling, and using rips and sweeps to get around out there is a miracle that only the surfer knows. Standing up was easy, staying up was hard. The hardest thing by far in surfing is not to be, or even look like, a kook.
No. 3, and the low position of no. 15, are discouraging, but also realistic. It's
a very hard sport. I'm a little suspicious of the people who answered no. 4. To
make your first attempt as fun as possible, I would suggest: realistic
expectations, a warm sunny day, several friends to share the experience and
laugh with, and a surf school or experienced friend who can provide equipment suitable for learning as well as the instruction.
Nos. 2, 5, and 12 are all problems for experienced surfers as well. A good
board is invaluable - if you have one, treat it well. As for no. 5, direct application of Murphy's
law shows that if you want to surf, the ocean is flat; but if the surf's up,
you're either too busy, injured, or not in the mood. No. 12 is mental issue, best
remedied by a lot of fitness training to improve your confidence (and lung capacity!).
Nos. 7 and 9 are unfortunately often out of your control. There's only so much
coastline in the world, and you have to be very lucky to live close to it. As
for no. 9, many surfers in crowded metropolitan areas would gladly swap places
with you if it's an issue...
No. 16 is an odd one. Although, one of my dad's friends gets seasick on his
surfboard, no joke. He's the only person I know of to have that problem.
The rest are just common things you'll have to deal with as you progress...but don't take it too hard if you're having problems. I'm a terrible surfer. Just enjoy being in the water, and remember that you don't have to rip like Kelly Slater to have fun!