Tamarindo Costa Rica is one of the top destinations in the world to learn how to surf. Sure, you can take a vacation to Costa Rica, rent a board and try it out yourself, but if you really want to learn how to surf you need to learn the basic surf techniques. And what better way to learn to surf in Costa Rica than staying at a surf camp located directly in front of the best teaching waves in Tamarindo?
Iguana Surf Camp has been teaching fail-proof surf techniques in Tamarindo since 1989. Our instructors have taught over 125,000 beginner surf lessons. If you want to learn how to surf in Costa Rica, make sure you learn proper techniques before you develop bad habits that will keep you from shredding it!
Teaching you the basics on land is one of the most important things that the instructors will do. After warming up your muscles, they will show you the basic surf techniques, such as how to lay on the surfboard, how to hold the board, correct paddling technique, checking your leash, and some basics on how to read a wave. The most fun part of the land lesson is when the instructor teaches you the exact steps needed to actually stand up on the board!
Taking the time to learn basic surf techniques on land is crucial to enjoy your first surf and avoid panic and total frustration in the water.
Mark The Board
Whether you are riding a longboard or a shortboard, marking the center of your board with wax can help beginner surfers find the balance point on their board. This will help you quickly decide where to place your feet when you pop up on the board. You can also mark an eye line to help with your paddling technique. To do this lay on your board with the bottom of your chest, or sternum, on the center mark and draw a line where your eyes would meet the board. This way, when you’re paddling you can easily see that you’re in the right position.
Practice Your Stance
The proper stance will make all the difference for a surfer and it’s something you will need to practice before heading into the water. For a proper surfing stance, you want your chest facing the side of the board, not the front. A sideways stance is a key to maintaining balance. Keeping your feet about shoulder distance apart, bend your knees and crouch down with your knees bent more inwards than outwards – this will help you gain more control and help you keep your balance. With your feet facing slightly forward, your front foot will be at the center mark while your back foot should be roughly where the fin underneath the board would be. You will need to see which feels more comfortable to determine which foot you will put in front of the other when you stand up on your surfboard. Regular footed surfers ride waves with their left foot forward, while goofy footed surfers ride waves with their right foot forward. Don’t worry, there is no right or wrong surfing stance, these are just surfing terms. To finish off the proper surfing stance, keep your arms out with your elbows slightly bent to help you balance, and keep your head up and eyes on the waves ahead!
Pop Up Technique
This is one of the most important surf techniques to master to ensure you are getting up on your board once you’re out in the waves. You will definitely need to practice the pop-up before getting wet! To do this, lay face down on your board, placing your sternum on the center mark on your board. Looking forward and pressing up with your palms on the center mark, put your feet together and push your upper body up while pulling your feet towards the center of the board. Put your front foot forward at the center of the board and keep the back foot towards the back where the fin should be for the proper stance. Beginner surfers may find it easier to put down their back foot first before their front foot, while some find it easier to land both feet at the same time.
Keep Your Eyes On The Waves
When you’re in the water, always keep your eyes on the waves in front of you and behind you. This is not only for safety but to know which way to ride the wave. Look over your shoulders to see which side of the wave is bigger. If the wave is bigger on the left, you usually ride to the right and vice versa.
Paddling Out Into The Water
When you are learning to surf you will catch most of your waves close to the shore, especially if you’re learning to surf on Tamarindo Beach. But once you’re ready to paddle out to the bigger waves you start by walking your board out into the water as far as you can, pushing down on the tail of the board and thrusting the front of your board over the white water. Make sure you throw your weight forward over the waves or you will be tossed back towards shore. Dig your feet into the sand to get up onto your board, placing your hands and sternum in the center of the board while keeping your eye line at the mark you made earlier. Start paddling out towards the waves. When you approach a wave you want to go over, go into the press-up position, push your upper body up, and keep your weight forward to help you go over the wave. If a wave is too big to go over you will have to go under, using the duck dive or turtle roll technique.
Duck Dive Technique
The duck dive is how a surfer goes under a large wave while paddling out to the desirable waves in the lineup, which is where the other surfers will be, waiting for the perfect wave. This surfing technique takes a lot of practice and you likely won’t be learning this as a beginner surfer. The great thing about this surf technique is that you can practice it anytime, even if conditions are flat. To duck dive, take a deep breath and place both hands on the rails out in front of you, and push downwards, sinking the nose of your board under the water. Keep your arms straight and lean forward to help get more of the board under the water. Use your foot or knee to push the back of the board under the water. Lay out flat on your board as the wave starts to go over you, creating as little resistance as possible. Then you simply angle your board back up to the surface as the wave passes over.
Turtle Roll Technique
Similar to the duck dive technique, the turtle roll technique is best for getting through white water when pushing through just won’t cut it. This method is also better for longboards and foam boards which are harder to sink and duck dive. To perform the turtle roll, wait for about 6 feet (2 meters) before a white-water wave gets to you, then grab the rails beside your pectorals and turn yourself and the board upside down. Don’t forget to take a deep breath before flipping under! Underwater, leave some space between your body and the board and make sure the surfboard’s nose is sunk in the water. Your arms should have a slight bend in them and your head should not be close to the board. Now, just relax and wait for the wave to pass over you. To flip the board back up, pull one rail with one hand, push the other with your other hand and kick your legs to help you back up.
Falling Off Your Surf Board
When the wave ends and your start to lose your balance, always try to fall against the wind and use your feet to push your board back towards shore. You never want your board between you and the waves so it doesn’t end up smashing into your body and causing injuries.
We guarantee the first time you pop up and stay up on a wave it will be worth learning all the surf techniques you need to learn to surf in Costa Rica. Iguana Surf instructors will give you guaranteed steps during your Tamarindo surf lesson that will lead you to ride your first wave and feel amazing about it!
By Jennifer LaCharite