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The mistakes to avoid when starting to surf

When someone starts surfing, they often make several common mistakes. These errors can impede progress and sometimes lead to frustration or even injury. Here are some of the most common mistakes beginners make when learning to surf:

1. Choosing the Wrong Equipment

Choosing the right equipment is crucial for any beginner surfer.

Common Mistakes:

  • Using a board that is too small or too advanced: Beginners often start with shortboards because they look cool, but these boards are difficult to balance and paddle. Opt for a longboard or foam board, which provides more stability and makes it easier to catch waves.

  • Not wearing the appropriate wetsuit: The right wetsuit ensures comfort and protection from cold water. Wearing a suit that’s too thin can lead to hypothermia, while one that’s too thick can restrict movement.

Solution: Consult us at Sandycamps Imsouane or Sandycamps Peniche surf camp. We are experienced surfers and will find the right board and wetsuit for your size, skill level, and local water conditions.

2. Poor Paddling Technique

Effective paddling is key to catching waves and positioning yourself correctly.

Common Mistakes:

  • Paddling with arms too wide: This increases resistance and slows you down. Keep your strokes narrow and close to the board.

  • Using inefficient strokes: Flailing arms waste energy. Use long, smooth, and deep strokes to maximize efficiency.

  • Not paddling hard enough: You need sufficient speed to catch a wave. Paddle vigorously as the wave approaches.

Solution: At Sandycamps, you will practice your paddling technique in flat water. Our surf instructors will focus on keeping your body streamlined and using powerful, controlled strokes.

3. Improper Pop-Up Technique

The pop-up is the movement from lying on the board to standing up.

Common Mistakes:

  • Using knees to get up: This creates instability and slows you down. Practice popping up to your feet in one smooth motion.

  • Hesitating or moving too slowly: Quick reflexes are needed to catch the wave's momentum.

Solution: In Sandycamps surf camp in Imsouane and Peniche you will practice your pop-up on dry land until it becomes a fluid, automatic motion.

4. Incorrect Position on the Board

Your position on the board affects your balance and paddling efficiency.

Common Mistakes:

  • Standing too far forward: This can cause the nose of the board to dip underwater.

  • Standing too far back: This increases drag and makes it harder to paddle and catch waves.

Solution: Lie on your board in the water and find the "sweet spot" where the board is level. Mark this position mentally and aim to lie here every time you paddle out.

5. Lack of Wave Knowledge

Understanding waves is fundamental to surfing success.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not understanding wave selection: Beginners often go for any wave, leading to missed waves or wipeouts. Learn to identify the best waves for your skill level.

  • Failing to position oneself properly: Being in the wrong spot can result in missing the wave or wiping out.

Solution: With our surf instructors you will spend time observing waves before you paddle out. Notice where and how waves are breaking, and aim to position yourself accordingly.

6. Ignoring Surf Etiquette

Surfing etiquette ensures everyone enjoys the waves safely.

Common Mistakes:

  • Dropping in on others' waves: This means taking off on a wave that someone else is already riding, which can be dangerous and rude.

  • Not observing the right of way: There are unwritten rules about who has priority on a wave. Failing to follow these can lead to collisions and frustration.

Solution: At Sandycamps we always teach you the basic rules of surf etiquette, such as giving right of way to the surfer closest to the peak of the wave, and always look both ways before taking off.

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7. Poor Balance and Stance

A stable stance is essential for staying on your board.

Common Mistakes:

  • Standing too stiff: Flexibility helps you absorb the wave's movements. Stay loose and relaxed.

  • Feet too close together: This reduces stability. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

  • Not bending knees enough: Bent knees act as shock absorbers. Standing too straight makes you more likely to fall.

Solution: During our surf lessons, you will practice your stance on land. Adopt a low, balanced position with your knees bent and feet apart.

8. Lack of Physical Fitness

Surfing is physically demanding, requiring strength and endurance.

Common Mistakes:

  • Underestimating the physical demands: Paddling, popping up, and riding waves require full-body fitness.

  • Not having the necessary endurance and strength: Fatigue can set in quickly if you’re not in shape.

Solution: In Sandycamps surf camp Imsouane and Peniche we give you advices to incorporate strength training, cardio, and flexibility exercises into your routine. Focus on building upper body strength, core stability, and cardiovascular endurance.

9. Impatience and Frustration

Learning to surf takes time and patience.

Common Mistakes:

  • Expecting to catch waves immediately: Surfing has a steep learning curve. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed right away.

  • Becoming discouraged after falling: Falling is part of learning. Each wipeout is a step closer to mastering the sport.

Solution: We will set realistic expectations and celebrate small progress. Remember that even experienced surfers fall frequently.

10. Safety Oversights

Surfing comes with inherent risks that need to be managed.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not being aware of the surf environment: Ignoring hazards like rips, rocks, and other surfers can lead to accidents.

  • Not warming up properly: A proper warm-up can prevent injuries and improve performance.

Solution: Before every surf lesson in Imsouane and Peniche our instructors will analyse the surf conditions before entering the water. They'll teach you how to identify and deal with rip currents, and take a few minutes to stretch and warm up your muscles.

11. Overestimating Skills

Pushing your limits can be dangerous, especially for beginners.

Common Mistakes:

  • Attempting to surf in conditions that are too challenging: Big waves and strong currents are best left to experienced surfers.

  • Not taking lessons or seeking guidance: Professional lessons can provide a solid foundation and accelerate your learning.

Solution: With our surf instructors at Sandycamps you will always stick to smaller, more manageable waves until you build confidence and skill.


Surfing is an exhilarating and rewarding sport, but like any new activity, it comes with its set of challenges.

However, learning to surf doesn't have to be a solitary journey. Joining Sandycamps in Imsouane or Peniche can provide you with the perfect environment to hone your skills under the guidance of experienced instructors. Both surf camps offers a comprehensive learning experience, combining practical surfing lessons with theoretical knowledge about waves, equipment, and surf etiquette. Our camps provides beginner-friendly boards and wetsuits, ensuring you have the right gear from the start.

By immersing yourself in our well-rounded program, you can avoid the frustration and slow progress that often accompany self-taught surfing. Instead, you’ll gain confidence, improve your skills more rapidly, and most importantly, have fun riding the waves.

So, whether you’re just starting or looking to refine your technique, consider Sandycamps as your gateway to becoming a better surfer. Embrace the learning process, enjoy the journey, and soon enough, you’ll find yourself catching waves with ease and confidence. See you soon at Sandycamps!


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