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Archives: Volume 2 - April 2001
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SURFING for Beginners

"If you are not having fun, you're doing it wrong."
-Jungle Jaak

Jungle Jaak 

The beaches around Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo are known for their surfing. As the tourist high season winds down for the summer months, the surfing season begins. To find out a little bit more about the practicalities of this exhilarating sport, we talked to Jungle Jaak of Jungle Tours for some basics from his surfing for beginners course.


Surfboards and You

Surfboards are made to float on the water. They have a natural center of gravity. If you were to lay any surfboard in a swimming pool, it would come to rest the same way every time. This is what we want to do when we lay on a surf board, have the board remain in the same relation to the water as it was without your weight on it, just a bit lower in the water. This is why I have developed what I call the nose of the board. This is a spot that I make on the board for beginners with a bit of wax or a magic marker. It is a reference point that enables them to put their nose on the same spot every time so the board will react to their weight the same way every time.

If the board's nose digs into the water it is called pearling and you must move the location of "your nose" back. To adjust, just scoot back an inch from the mark and make a mental note.

Too much weigh in the back and the board will cork the board. This is a common mistake amongst beginners. You cannot catch a wave if you are corking your board. Move up an inch at a time till the board lays in the water naturally. This will provide you with the maximum hull speed and minimum drag from the water displacement that you are causing with your weight.

Do not paddle with both arms simultaneously because this will cause the board to speed up and slow down in the water and you will not be able to maintain constant hull speed through the water. 

Always paddle with the crawl stroke; one arm and then the other alternatively. This will provide you with a constant speed so you can catch that wave. 

Ok, so now we know how to lay on the board, paddle the board. Now it's time to learn how to sit on the board. When you first try this you may be quite wobbly at first. The key to doing this well is being quiet, or trying to be still. The less movement that you make the easier you will find it is to do this. All the other skills of surfing will improve as you learn to be "quiet" while surfing.

Now it's time to learn how to stand up. This is something you have been doing all your life. Lie on your chest, your head up, looking ahead. Smile! Remember Rule Number One. Put your hands on the board beside your shoulders palms down like you were going to do a push up. Push your upper body up while at the same time you sweep your feet under you, laying them on the stringer so your weight is centered on the "line."

When you come up, remember to keep low. If you stand erect you will fall. Assume a position of a sumo wrestler. Press your feet shoulder width apart and "grip the board in your feet", opposite of the way you would press your thighs together on a horse. Have your hands a bit higher than your waist and just in view of your vision. Always look up! If you look at your feet, you will fall down. I promise!

Practice this for hours. Have someone watch you and have them critique your performance. Practice jumping up without making a sound on the floor. Quiet is the smoothest way to approach this so practice doing it quietly. If you have a surfboard, lay it on a large bed and do this exercise. This is a way for you to judge your ability to be quiet. Don't tell Mom cause she'll not be impressed.


Never have your board between yourself and the coming waves. 

To avoid collision with others, keep a safe distance, say fifteen feet.

Never push your board through the water fin first. The fin or fins were made to keep the board pointing nose first. Pushing the board fins first can be quite dangerous because the board wants to go the other direction.

Beginner surfers should consider wearing a vest, rash guard or tee shirt to avoid the rubbed rash they will get on their stomach and chest.

When you fall off your board, cover the back of your head with your hands, with your wrists over your ears and your elbows together. Stay under water for a moment longer than necessary. There are companies that make helmets and this is another alternative. This author does not use a helmet.

When you come up, try to be facing the oncoming waves and look for your boards location immediately. Loose boards in the ocean are very dangerous objects for swimmers.

Surfing Etiquette

The first standing surfer that is closest to the breaking wave is the rightful surfer of that wave. Anyone paddling for that wave must quit. There are repercussions to not following this rule and it can be very dangerous.

Most known surf spots have locals who surf that spot every day and some believe that they "own the beach". We all know that this is not the case. Having said that, the stranger, no matter their ability, should endeavor to show some respect for these social dinosaurs.

Many people are surfing on longer boards now days. These boards have greater flotation and provide the rider with a clear advantage regarding right of way. Remember, there are great advantages in sharing too!

I prefer to surf with women because they adhere to rule number one better than men.

The surfer riding the wave has the right of way and the paddlers who are paddling out must yield. This means that the paddlers must paddle out of the way whenever possible, even if it is into the breaking wave or behind the rider. If you are paddling for a wave and someone is paddling out toward you, make eye contact with that person and indicate your intentional direction in reference to them. A nod in the direction you are going can work. Every situation is different so practice being nice in the water. It will make you feel good, I promise. Hooting for a good wave or encouraging someone is good too.

Remember, you will get what you give. Always adhere to rule Number One!

Jungle Tours of Mexico was founded in 1990 in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Jungle Tours guarantees that you will stand up with their world famous beginner surf lesson or you don't pay. It includes a one hour lesson and the use of the board for the day. They also rent surfboards, bikes, boogie boards and fins or snorkel-fins and masks, daily or weekly. See their web site for more information and other tours, They are located in Troncones, phone # 553-2862, e-mail: or 

April 2001

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