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Posted by Jeb Brinkley | 01.24.2024 | Surfing Lessons

When, Where, & What to Expect From Your First Surf Lesson

Bigger waves isn’t always better for beginners, and utilizing a local surf coach will almost guarantee higher success rates, faster progression, and more fun in the waves!

Whether you’re just looking for a fun thing to do on vacation or are seriously interested in getting started in the sport of surfing, there is a lot of factors that should go into where and when you should book your first lesson.  Here I will breakdown the most important things to consider so that you can have a safe, fun, and productive first session out in the waves.

Location and the type of break have nearly everything to do with a spot being beginner friendly.  Beginner surfers should always stick to sand-bottomed breaks, or beach breaks.  The alternative would be a reef break or point break, both of which come with heavier waves, a lot of current, and the potential for an injury after a fall.  When calling the surf school who will be giving you (or your child’s, or your spouse’s) a first lesson, always remember to ask if you’ll be surfing a sand-bottomed spot.  The answer for a first-time lesson should always be yes!!

Another important factor is swell size and intensity, and the two don’t always go hand in hand.  Every surfable beach has a peak swell season and a low season.  On the US East Coast, our low season is from June to end of July, while peak swell season is from September to December.  Beginners will

You’ll feel much more confident paddling for your own waves under the guidance of a coach, and when you know you’re surfing in a safe location.

find more success, especially in their first lessons, surfing in the low seasons of the area you’re surfing in.  Surfers who are new to the sport will likely be frustrated learning in bigger, more powerful swells, and will also run the risk of injury to themselves or other, more experienced surfers.  In essence, when it’s big let the locals and advanced surfers have their day and save the lesson for when the ocean settles.  When you call a surf school and ask how the waves are during the time of year that you’re booking for, you might hear the response, “small, but perfect for learning,” and that’s exactly what you want to get started!

Once you’ve determined where and when you’ll be taking your first lesson, it’s time to make sure your expectations for your own progression in wave riding are reasonable.  Very few surfers can turn, ride all the way to the beach, or even catch a wave by themselves within the first lesson.  If you feel like you’re struggling, that surfing is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and that you thought you’d pick it up quicker than you are, just remember to relax and not take the lesson too seriously.  You should be having fun!  Everyone learns differently and at their own pace, and it’s possible that you’re just one adjustment given by your coach away from having all the pieces fall together.  Most surf schools will take you through the same lesson format – practice popping up on the beach, pushing you into small waves or whitewash at first, getting you to paddle for your own waves, then teaching how to turn down the line.  You may not reach all these steps in the first lesson, which is completely okay!  The pace of progression will be different for everyone regardless of previous like experiences.   A good coach will know this, however if you have an instructor who in your first lesson skips these steps and has you trying to paddle and turn on your very first few waves, it may be worth finding a different person to teach you.  Surf Instruction is a hands-on job, and surfing isn’t typically an activity someone can simply talk you through successfully.

Once you’re comfortable popping up and paddling for waves, it’s time to get down the line!

At WB Surf Camp we’re proud to say that we have some of the best surf instructors in the Carolinas, all of which are patient but able to challenge their students, and capable of turning the newest of new surfers into confident wave riders.  We have all of the local surf spots figured out and can tell you the best date and time possible for your first surf lesson.  If you’re looking for your first surf session, book a coach with us to ensure that you get it right from the start!

We’ll see you out in the lineup!