BEGINNERS TO COMPETITORS: Tim MacDonald in the final of an Alex Pro Am surfing competition.
BEGINNERS TO COMPETITORS: Tim MacDonald in the final of an Alex Pro Am surfing competition. Warren Lynam

Surfing: Where to start when you don't know how

FEELING the water and hearing the waves can refresh and rejuvenate. Then there is paddling out over the waves, leaving all your troubles behind. It's all about you. Gaining confidence in the surf and testing your abilities against Mother Nature will challenge you. But surfing allows you to make the ocean your playground. Robbie and Carlene Sherwell will help you explore it in this series of Learn to Surf articles.


The Sherwell Family.
The XL Surfing Academy team. CONTRIBUTED


IT'S truly summertime again on the Sunshine Coast.

The beautiful mornings and warm weather assist in making the beaches so enticing.

If you have never surfed, you have probably been curious to try.

Learning to surf might be one of your new year's resolutions or an item you'd like to tick off your bucket list.

There is no better time than right now for learning how to surf, or maybe you'd like to brush up on your skills.

XL Surfing Academy has been teaching surfing on the Sunshine Coast for 19 years.

Robbie and Carlene started XL Surfing Academy in 1998 after Robbie retired from a 10-year professional surfing career.

Robbie and Carlene wanted to give as many kids and adults the same healthy addiction which got both of them hooked at a young age.

Learning through XL Surf will help you reach your goals, as the program is tailored for all ages and abilities.

The coaching staff provide learning for the complete beginners all the way through to those wanting to surf competitively.

>> DON'T MISS A LESSON: Click here then click 'follow topic' get a new lesson each day of the series

Surf legends Gary O'Donnell (black shirt) and Laurie Jarman (white shirt) check out some of the classic surfboards ahead of a new surf culture exhibition coming to the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Iain Curry / Sunshine Coast Daily
PICK A BOARD: Surfboards new and old, of all shapes and sizes and variety of fin, are available across the Sunshine Coast. There’s bound to be one to suit you and your needs. Iain Curry


SURFING is one of the more fortunate activities as it does not require a lot of equipment.

Buying a surfboard does not have to be an expensive ordeal.

There are plenty of options when buying a board to suit your budget.

Surf shops along the coast sell new and second-hand boards.

Private sellers are constantly selling boards online or in the papers.

The friendly staff at XL Surf will gladly help with picking the right surfboard for you.

The hard part will be to get them to stop talking about surf equipment.

Two essentials:

  • Wax - Needed on the board for grip and traction
  • Rash vest - Protection against the sun and from the rubbing wax

Surfboard varieties

  • The Malibu - Ideal for small waves, and good for beginners
  • Soft-top - Beginner boards (softer material to allow for a few bumps/spills)
  • Shortboards - For more advanced surf users

Features of a surfboard

A BEGINNER surfer needs to have an understanding of the surfboard - its shape, function and the terminology for the different parts. This knowledge will assist in developing skills and help make a more-informed decision when buying a board.

  • The nose: this is the tip of the surfboard. Shorter boards will have a pointed nose while the bigger boards will have a more rounded nose. Beginner surfers will find a rounded nose more beneficial as it decreases the user's chance of "nose diving" (when there is too much weight on the front half of the board and the board sinks rather than travels smoothly).
  • The tail: This is the opposite end to the nose of the surfboard. Learners will benefit from having a wider tail on their surfboards, providing a more stable platform for novice surfers.
  • The rails: Rails are the curved sides of the board, the rails help direct the flow of the passing water. A beginner surfer would be better suited to soft, curved rails. This provides more stability when the user is up and riding.
  • The fins: These are on the underside of the tail. The fins are what surfers use to control the direction they wish to travel. The number of fins on a surfboard is determined by the user's ability and how they wish the board to perform.
  • The legrope: This is a key feature of the surfboard. We attach the legrope to the board and our back ankle. Every fall the surfer has will not require a swim in as the board will pop up a few feet away and still be attached to the user's leg. Just remember: the legrope is not a life-saving device and can break, so it's a good idea to check your leash for nicks or worn-out nylon rope near where it attaches to your board. The other thing to be aware of is that with the power of the wave pulling your board away from you and the recoil it has when released, it can sometimes send the board hurtling back at you like a rocket. So it's a great idea after each wipeout to stay under water and count to three. Then come up with your arms covering your face, just to be safe. Nothing takes the place of being a competent swimmer with ocean knowledge in the surf.

OUR XL Surfing Academy Surf Guide continues tomorrow.