When you are sitting at home watching surf videos of the best surfers in the world, it all looks easy enough. When you finally decide to give it a try, it feels a lot more difficult.
The first thing to do when deciding to take up surfing is get fit and get comfortable in the ocean. Assuming you are ready, the first real part of learning to surf is learning how to catch a wave.
The physics behind catching waves is really quite simple. In order to catch a wave, you need to be traveling at the same rate the wave is breaking. This is why you see surfers patiently waiting for a wave turn around and start to paddle before the wave is near them. Slower surfers sit out a little further so they have more time to build up momentum. Strong surfers seem to be able to sit in the critical spot and catch a wave with just two strokes.
Timing and wave selection take practice. The best advice is to sit in the line-up near another surfers of your same fitness and experience level. Mimic the ones that catch waves and simply do as they do. The more ocean knowledge you have going into the sport, the faster you will experience success.
There are several different types of waves, even at the same beach with different tides. Beginners do better learning at breaks where the waves break soft and don’t barrel. Longer beaches tend to have mellower waves, and tide can affect the shape of waves. Most reefs should be saved for surfing once you get better.