3 surf safety essentials for beginners

by Fraser
Published: Last Updated:

When you get it right, surfing can be a sport that delivers a rare blend of exhilaration and inner calm. There is nothing quite like catching the perfect wave and riding it out. But always remember: Surf safety first!

If you are just beginning your first steps in the sport, then you are in for a treat. But before you learn to surf, you need to learn to respect the ocean. Surfing is not a dangerous sport – only 2.2 injuries are suffered per surfer for every 1,000 days on the water – but it is important to understand where the risks are and then know how to reduce them. A combination of common sense, good equipment and some very basic safety tips will help you avoid the pitfalls that many beginner surfers fall into.

Here are three important surf safety tips you need to pay attention to.

1. Protect yourself and others

You are going to fall off your board. A lot. Get used to it. It is all part of the fun at the start of your learning curve.

But while you can’t control when you fall and where, you can control what you do when you fall.

The priority when you wipeout should be to protect your head. You don’t know what is under the water and so your first move as you start to fall towards the sea should be to move your arms up towards your head to protect it.

The main dangers when you fall are your own board, the bottom of the sea, any rocks that could be lurking under the surface and other surfers.

surf safety for beginners
Credit: Unsplash

You need to be particularly careful if you are falling into shallower water, as many beginners will be in at the start.

Another thing to remember when you are in the water is to keep hold of your board at all times. You should have an ankle strap or leash but do your best not to let go when you fall or when you are paddling out. If it does get away from you, it could hit you or another surfer.

A classic mistake many beginners make is to not keep your board by your side as you go out into the waves, by doing that you risk it flipping up and catching you in the face.

2. Make sure your basic fitness is up to it

Surfing is demanding on the body. Very demanding. You need to have a strong chest and arms to paddle out, you need to be lean and have good cardiovascular fitness in order to keep going. And, of course, you need to be able to swim, because you will be doing a lot of that at the start. So, get fit – get really fit – and you will go a long way to making sure you are safe.

surf safety
Credit: Unsplash

3. Plan where you're going to enter and exit the water

When you’re waiting on the beach before you begin surfing, work out where you are going to go into the water and where you want to get out again. At a lot of beaches, it will be clear and easy to work out.

But lots of other beaches can have complicating factors, such as rip tides, strong currents, rocks and tidal movements that you need to be aware of.

So, pick your spots and stick to them. Whatever happens. And if you are not sure, ask the local surfers or lifeguards. Be very careful about jumping into the ocean from rocks – it may look great on YouTube, but if you don’t know the area you are risking your life! Surf safety first!

surf safety for beginners


  • Fraser

    The Free Surfer's founder and editor. Fraser is super passionate about surfing, travelling and testing new gear. The site is packed full of reviews, advice and stories from his adventures – enjoy!

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1 comment

Scott October 20, 2021 - 6:55 am

Thank you for sharing these safety tips. Surfing sure is quite an exciting sport but doing it safely is essential so you can keep doing it. Risks are always gonna be there but can be avoided or reduced. Using the right equipment definitely helps and don’t forget your fins. Learn more about the importance of surfboard fins and safety here:


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