There are plenty of surfing tips for beginners out there. But before just diving into all of them and feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to figure out, arguably, the most important piece of being on a board: How (and when) to choose the right wave.

For beginner surfers, the mantra is typically “the bigger, the better.” But that’s not always the safest way to go about choosing a wave — especially when a rider doesn’t know basic rules and safety procedures to follow. Remember, a surfer of all skill types wants to both enter and exit the water healthy.

To help all the beginner surfers, take the following advice to get comfortable on the water, and figure out the best way to choose your wave — and ride it into shore with success.

Surfing Tips For Beginners: How To Choose The Right Wave To Ride

Go Further Out Than You Might Think

Although it’s deeper the further a surfer goes out in the water, it’s important to be out far — while still being comfortable. While staying close to shore may seem to be easier, it can actually be more difficult because waves are breaking there more often.

One of the most important surfing tips for beginners is to avoid the impact zone of a wave and, instead, find the spot where waves are forming so not to be tossed around by the break. It’ll be more fun, more consistent riding and safer.

Observe Other Surfers First

Where you surf should be purely based off your ability. Sure, that may not necessarily be a surfing tip for beginners that many people don’t already know, but one would be surprised at how often beginners and even regular riders find themselves in an uncomfortable or scary situation.

When entering the water from the shore, look around to find the spots that look most convenient for your skill level. Don’t just head towards the biggest waves — especially if it’s your first time — and always be sure to look at the posted beach flags to see the severity of the conditions.

Since this is a piece for beginner surfers, it’s important to paddle to a spot that has waves you can actually ride and that match your ability. Going to the heaviest part of the break will not only be difficult, frustrating and (potentially) unsafe, but other, more experienced riders won’t necessarily be welcoming you with open arms.

Choose A Position Alongside Other Riders

There’s a reason why so many surfers are all lined up far from the shore — because they’re choosing their spot in line to ride a wave.

One of the most critical surfing tips for beginners is to pay attention to other riders, making sure only a few ride a wave at the same time. Should more people try at once, it can be dangerous for everyone — it’s not as if surfboards have turn signals and headlights to notify other riders.

By simply watching the riders getting ready to ride a wave from up close, you’ll start to figure out a good spot to set yourself up for when it’s your turn, so to speak. When finding the right spot in line, be sure to avoid picking a floating object, as it will always move — even if slowly.

Only Ride Waves With A ‘Shoulder’

Another important surfing tip for beginners? Finding a wave that has a “shoulder”.

While many waves at a beach tend to break in the same place and at the same time — leaving a rider with no options — the key to picking the right wave is to look for a shoulder instead.

This refers to the part of the wave to the right or left of the breaking peak of the wave. Waves often slope off or taper towards the shoulder, which makes them easier to ride than those waves that either dump and closeout.

Paddle, Paddle, And Paddle More Before Catching The Break

Now that you’ve picked the best wave, it’s time to paddle like crazy to get your momentum heading back towards shore. But remember, it’s going to take more effort than you originally think — so paddle as hard as you can.

Plan ahead by avoiding late takeoffs, which more experienced surfers can get away with and still catch their chosen wave.

Get the top of your board pointed towards the shore, keep your head straight and avoid rocking side to side in order to ride the wave to near perfection. Keep your core tight and maintain your balance to ride in smoothly.