7 tips from a first surf lesson in Santa Cruz, CA

Ever since watching the surfers on North Shore in Hawaii (one of the best surf spots on Earth, with huge waves) I was obsessed with the thought of surfing. One day, somewhere… But, there were so many ‘but’s, the most upsetting of which – ‘I’m not a good swimmer. I will drown before being able to even stand up on the board!’

Well, a few years later I was more and more watching surfing videos, reading the forums, checking the best and nearest surf spots..and figured out my fears might not be right. So, during a recent business trip to San Francisco last July, being very close to a great surf spot – Santa Cruz – I decided: I’m doing a surfing lesson! And I did. And it was ..maybe in the top 3 of all most memorable experiences in my life!

I wanted to share a few tips for those who really like this sport but still hesitate trying. Guys and girls, it’s really less difficult and more exciting that you’d imagine!

1. You don’t need to be a good swimmer

This made me sooo happy. Seeing that the board is actually neatly tied to your leg and you can drag it and crawl over it in seconds was a breakthrough realization! You really can’t drown. Well, with big waves where you can get hit by the board the situation is different..but being a beginner, you’d better pick your waves!

2. Try picking your surf instructor/surf club carefully

Having taken surfing lessons in both Santa Cruz and the Canary islands later on, I realize how important it is that your surf instructor can very well explain the principles behind surfing, in a consistent manner. I’m totally pleased with my instructor at Club Ed, who made everything seem so easy and exciting! But, I did spent a good time reviewing surf club feedback on Facebook and instructor recommendations in forums.

3. Surf in a less popular time to avoid the crowds

You don’t want to mind the surfers in addition to the waves. So, pick a time of the day with less surfers. 6 am (when my lesson in Santa Cruz took place) seemed like total craziness to me at first, but when I realized it was only me in this crazy time, and the conditions were perfect – I realized how lucky I am.

My surf spot at 6 am.. small waves and totally empty!

4. No, you won’t freeze

After my fear of drowning, my second biggest fear was that of freezing in the cold ocean water. Beginning of July the water in Santa Cruz was .. well, definitely not warm! The day before my surf lessons I spent 10 minutes in the water and got totally frozen! But – a big ‘but’ – when surfing there’s the [ugly] wetsuit. And it makes hell of a difference. So, after 90 minutes in the water, I was perfectly fine and feeling even warm!

5. Picking the right spot for your level is crucial

In Santa Cruz the waves were just perfect for a beginner. Big timing between the waves, fairly small waves, and you manage to get perfectly prepared to catch them. The Canaries – oh well, we hit a pretty rough ocean during our beginner lesson, and I could hardly catch a wave! I was constantly hit, one wave after another, and could hardly enter deep enough, not to mention standing up on the board. But, when we moved to a calmer ocean, it was great.

6. Paddling is what really gets you tired

Very surprising, but after 30 minutes of paddling in, I was hardly feeling my arms. The very surfing is absolute pleasure, especially if you manage to stand up, yay! But all this paddling to get in a position to catch a wave – OMG, it’s soooo tiring!

7. Practice, practice, practice!

With a good instructor you will surely stand up on your first lesson. But, when you are on your own, things change a lot. And then it’s only practice and nothing else that lets you feel the board, your body, the wave and the right timing to stand up. The times I managed to stand up so far are just a few, but I still remember the excitement!

And one tip that sounds straightforward for the USA but.. I didn’t really figure out. Don’t go surfing on the 4th July!! Especially if 4th of July is part of a long weekend. It seemed like the whole state of California was in Santa Cruz, and there wasn’t a single spot to stay. Not even a camp place where I could park the car and sleep in the car. So – I spent most of the night enjoying the beach area and Santa Cruz during the night.

Santa Cruz residential area is lovely!

And, if you want to join the more experienced surfers – head for Pleasure Point beach. At 9 am there was hell of a crowd there… but, as you already learned, don’t go on the 4th of July 🙂

Pleasure Point surfers waiting for the waives..

Few people manage to catch the waive, the others just keep waiting for the next one

So – you figured it out – surfing is a fabulous sport! Next time you have a chance to be close to a surfing spot – do try it!!

Next in my blog come posts on several stunning locations in Croatia!

4 Responses to 7 tips from a first surf lesson in Santa Cruz, CA

  1. Fran Glasby says:

    Awesome post! I love your images. They are really good. Keep up the nice work!

  2. Ron says:

    I want to try surfing so bad! You have inspired me! Do you think you will go again soon?

    • Svetla says:

      Great – you will surely enjoy it!
      I did surf afterwards in the Canaries and it was awesome – great spots for beginners, surf hire was pretty affordable so – would advise you to also go surfing there. But maybe one day will go back to Santa Cruz as well, liked it so much!
      Enjoy the great time on the surfing board!

  3. Aditya Rana says:

    thanks for sharirng such an informative blog … i learnt surfing in CA from http://santamonicasurfschool.com/

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