How Long Does It Take to Learn How to Surf?

Catching your first wave and riding it all the way to shore is a magical moment for any new surfer. But mastery of this graceful water sport does require time and practice. So how long exactly does it take to learn how to surf? While timelines vary by individual, following a strategic progression will help you stand up and surf sooner.

The Learning Process and Timeline

Learning to surf involves mastering skills in a sequential order. Here is a general timeline:

1. Get Comfortable in the Ocean – 2 to 4 weeks

  • Develop strong and relaxed freestyle swimming skills.
  • Learn how to handle wipeouts safely.
  • Practice proper duckdiving techniques.
  • Build endurance paddling out past breaking waves.

2. Catch Unbroken Green Waves – 1 to 3 weeks

  • Identify proper surf zones for beginners.
  • Time paddling to match wave speed.
  • Practice popping up to bent knee stance.

3. Ride Broken Whitewash – 2 to 6 weeks

  • Catch and ride mushy crumbled waves into shore.
  • Control speed by angling board.
  • Stand up with stability all the way through to finish.

4. Ride Green Unbroken Waves – 6 weeks to 5 months

  • Identify best takeoff point based on curl.
  • Match board speed while paddling into unbroken swell.
  • Quickly pop up to feet before wave breaks.

5. Develop Style – 6 months to 2 years

  • Gain balance for trimming and maneuvering.
  • Perfect smooth pop up to feet.
  • Learn techniques like carving, nose riding, and cutbacks.

Total time to progress from complete novice to intermediate surfer riding green waves is typically 6 months to 1 year with regular practice. But surfers improve with ongoing experience over years.

Factors That Impact Skills Progression

Several variables influence how quickly people move through the surfing learning curve:

Strength and Athleticism

  • Paddling stamina and power helps reach waves faster.
  • Agility and balance quickens standing up.


  • Frequent sessions (2-3x a week ideal) spur skills development.
  • Infrequent surfers may take years to rise above beginner abilities.

Quality of Instruction

  • Proper lessons prevent ingraining bad habits.
  • Poor instruction leads to slower advancement.

Wave Conditions

  • Learning in ideal small waves allows mastering fundamentals.
  • Bumpy choppy surf slows down skills build.

Board Choice

  • Longboards provide stability to progress as a beginner.
  • Attempting shortboards too early leads to discouragement.


  • Younger surfers often advance rapidly with less fear.
  • Older surfers may take longer to gain confidence.

With a strategic approach optimized for your individual circumstances, the progression to surfing enjoyment can be accelerated.

Surf Training Tips to Improve Faster

Beyond frequency, there are training tips that can help speed up surfing competence:

  • Take video of your surfing to analyze technique.
  • Stretch before sessions to increase flexibility.
  • Go out in mellow waves to practice popping up.
  • Visualize the feeling of catching and riding waves.
  • Slowly work on maneuver techniques after competent paddling out.
  • Start sessions paddling along unbroken waves to build timing skills.
  • Engage core muscles when paddling to increase speed.
  • Learn safety tips like leash usage from the start.
  • Watch other surfers and study their techniques.
  • Gradually increase session length as fitness allows to maximize time surfing.

Be intentional about properly sequencing training for maximum efficiency during your sessions.

Using a Surf Camp for Faster Progression

Participating in a multi-day surf camp can provide big boosts in skill level compared to sporadic lessons.

Immersive Learning

  • Consecutive days of focused sessions ingrain abilities faster.

Video Analysis

  • Instant video feedback improves form.

Pro Coaching

  • Trainers provide consistent, expert-level guidance.

Ideal Conditions

  • Surf camps choose optimal surf spots and conditions.

Community Support

  • Group atmosphere motivates progression together.

One or two weeks of total immersion in surf training can fast track skills that may take months to achieve through casual periodic lessons.

Maintaining Progression After the Basics

Learning surfing never really stops as experience grows:

  • Challenge yourself gradually with new techniques and spots.
  • Vary wave sizes and conditions.
  • Refine style and fluidity of maneuvers.
  • Start nose riding once standing up is automatic.
  • Work on proper positioning to maximize rides.
  • Develop skills like carving, cutbacks, floaters and barrel riding.

View yourself as a lifelong student of surfing. Allow progression to unfold steadily over years of enjoyable surf sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions on Learning to Surf

Here are answers to some common questions about becoming competent at surfing:

Can you learn to surf on your own?

It’s extremely difficult and you will progress much slower without proper coaching. At minimum take a few lessons first.

Is surfing easier to learn as a kid?

Kids can pick up surfing quickly by fearlessly trying maneuvers. But adults can learn too with the right instruction.

What is the easiest way to stand up on a surfboard?

Plant your back foot first where the leash plug is then quickly bring your front foot up near the middle of the board.

Can you teach yourself surfing with videos?

Videos help supplement lessons but cannot properly diagnose bad habits. Seek help from experienced surfers when starting out.

Should I start with a longboard or shortboard?

Always begin with at least an 8 foot longboard which is stable and allows focus on proper technique.


Learning to surf is incredibly rewarding but does require ample practice time and high quality instruction to build proficiency safely. While timelines vary by individual, dedicating 6 months to 1 year of regular surf sessions to master basics like paddling, wave reading and green wave riding is typical for most beginners. Maximizing time on appropriately sized boards, receiving consistent coaching, and using focused training techniques accelerates progress. View surfing skill advancement as a lifelong endeavor, not a sprint. With the right approach and patience, the joys of riding waves can become accessible to committed surfing students in any stage of life.

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