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10 Common mistakes beginner surfers make and how to fix them

Learning to surf is no easy task. The path to becoming a surfer is riddled with wipeouts, frustration, and small failures. As soon as you catch your first wave, however, it all falls away. Every surfer, no matter their level, was once a beginner and had to endure the same wipeouts and embarrassments as the rest of us. There is no better feeling than paddling into, catching, and riding down the line on your first wave. It’s something every surfer remembers for the rest of their life, despite the thousands of waves that most likely follow. At our El Salvador surf resort, our talented and certified surf instructors guide guests through the unforgettable experience of catching their first wave. We strive to teach every guest the ins and outs of surfing and surf culture so that when they leave, they are truly part of the surf community. To help with that transition, we’ve compiled a list of 10 common mistakes that beginner surfers often make and how to fix them.

1-Poor paddling positioning While there is no better feeling than hopping to your feet and cruising down the line on a wave, most of surfing is spent on our stomachs paddling. Proper paddle technique and position are vital to catching waves. Many beginner surfers often lay too far forwards or too far back on their boards while paddling. If you’re lying too far towards the back of your board, waves will roll under you when you try to paddle into them. If you’re too far forward on the board, you’ll nosedive. The simple solution is to find the spot on the board where you are perfectly balanced, and the board is lying flat on the water without rising or sinking in the nose and tail. At our El Salvador surf resort, our surf instructors work with each guest out of the water, so that they understand proper technique and positioning before they even paddle out.

2- Ineffective paddle strokes Many beginner surfers also fail to paddle effectively, which causes them to struggle in the water and catch fewer waves. Proper paddle technique is as follows: reach forward and dig a cupped hand into the water, pull back until your arm is directly under your shoulder( perpendicular to your body), and repeat on the other side. It is important to note that you should stop the paddle stroke when the arm is perpendicular to your body, not past your shoulder. This will keep your momentum moving forward rather than downward into the water. At a long point break like Las Flores, near our El Salvador surf resort, improper paddle technique will leave you exhausted.

3- Sitting too far inside in the lineup Beginner surfers often start off surfing white water, far on the inside of any lineup. But once surfers move on from riding whitewater and advance to riding green waves, positioning in the lineup becomes vital. If you sit too far outside, the waves won’t wall up and you’ll be stuck trying to paddle into rolling swells. If you sit too far inside, the waves will break behind or even on you. In the lineup, sit just behind where the waves are breaking. You should paddle into a wave as it begins to wall up, not before or after.

4- Dropping to a knee while popping up Many surfers struggle to find their feet while sliding down the face of a wave, which is understandable. Often, surfers use their knees to stabilize themselves as they climb to their feet. While this may work on beginner boards, it is a bad habit to carry with you as you progress. Instead of dropping to a knee, work on keeping a low center of gravity as you hop to your feet. Our instructors teach in beginner-friendly conditions near our El Salvador resort, so guests will have the opportunity to practice in mellow waves.

5- Grabbing the rails while popping up Another bad habit many beginner surfers turn to in their search for balance and stability is to grab the rails during the pop-up. Unfortunately, grabbing the rails (the sides of the board) while popping up causes the board to flip over. The solution is to plant your hands under your chest like you’re doing a pushup. At our El Salvador surf resort, our certified instructors Mauricio and Cesar will guide you through proper pop-up technique on the beach, before you enter the water.

6- Poor surfing posture AKA “the poo stance” In surfing, posture translates to style, and style is everything. Beginner surfers often bend at the waist in an attempt to keep their center of gravity low. This, unfortunately, limits the surfer’s control and makes them look ridiculous. This stance is often called the poo stance because of the wide stance, bent-over posture. To remedy this, stand on the board with your feet just wider than shoulder-width and bend at the knees.

7-Riding too far forward or backward on the board Beginner surfers often pop up in poor positions on their board, riding too far forward or backward on the board. If you stand too far to the back of your board, the wave will eventually roll under you and continue without you on it. Too far forward, and you’re sure to bury the nose and fall. The solution is to pop up near the center of the board and adjust your positioning as you move down the line.

8- Not looking down the line while riding Once you’re up in riding, the next step in the progression is to ride cleanly down the line, or across the open face of a wave. Many first-time surfers struggle to turn their board down the line and end up riding straight towards the beach. An effective turning mechanic is to simply face the direction you wish to go. If your shoulders are turned and pointed to the left or right, your body and your board will follow.

9- Downsizing boards too quickly For a select few, surfing comes fairly easily. These naturals are often tempted to try and bypass important steps in the learning process, such as spending ample time on a longboard. If a first-time surfer downsizes his or her board too quickly, they’ll soon encounter a whole new series of frustrating challenges. Surfing a longboard is an essential step in learning to surf that allows beginners to learn wave mechanics and footwork with a degree of forgiveness that is not found with smaller boards. At Las Flores Resort, our instructors will ensure you are on the ideal board for your skill level and progression goals.

10- Not understanding priority At many crowded lineups, surfers dread seeing beginners in the water. Not because they’re judging their surfing ability, but because beginners often don’t understand the “rules of the lineup,” which can be dangerous. To fully understand the lineup, one must understand wave priority. The general rule that can be applied to lineups all over the world is that the surfer paddling for the wave that is closest to the peak has priority. At our El Salvador surf resort, our instructors will explain the nuances of surf etiquette to ensure you are safe in any lineup, whether your surfing here in Las Flores or back home.

At Las Flores Resort, our staff strives to provide guests a complete El Salvador travel experience. In the water, this translates to thorough surf lessons and surf guiding that explores El Salvador’s wave-rich coastline.

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