Can you teach yourself to surf?

Surfing began as a pastime of the Polynesians, with the roots of the sport lying deep within the culture and spiritual beliefs on Polynesian islands.

Since then, surfing has become a popular phenomenon all over the world, enjoyed by professional sportsmen and hobbyists alike.

From Hawaii to the UK, surfing is enjoyed all over the world every day, and every day new people decide they want to try their hand at catching some waves! At Surfing Croyde Bay when offering Croyde surf lessons we often get asked – can you teach yourself to surf or should you get surf lessons?

So, this article answers the question!

Why learn to surf?

To truly weigh up whether or not you should try and teach yourself to surf, let’s first take a look at some of the reasons why people decide to learn to surf.

  • It feels exhilarating – When you are balancing on top of a surfboard with the salty sea breeze flowing through your hair, there’s really nothing quite like it. Surfing is one of the few sports that allows you to glide over water with just a board beneath your feet and it can sometimes even feel like you are walking on water! Surfing is a great way to encourage your brain to release endorphins, and when you catch a wave, the adrenaline rush is like nothing else.
  • You can be at one with nature – When you are out on the sea with your board, it is really just you and nature. This is a great time to reflect on life, distract yourself from the stresses of work and admire the world’s beautiful natural landscapes.
  • It is a fun way to get fit – Are you looking for a new way to get fit that is a bit more fun than a gym membership? Surfing allows you to spend so much time having fun that you don’t realise all the major muscle groups you are toning and strengthening along the way.

Is it possible to teach yourself how to surf?

Once you have decided that you want to try your hand at surfing, you may be wondering if it is possible to save yourself the expense of lessons and teach yourself. There are a number of factors that will dictate how easy it may be for you to efficiently teach yourself how to surf, including your fitness level and age.

The first and most important thing you should consider when deciding whether to teach yourself how to surf is the potential risks. Don’t go out on the water by yourself without knowing how the tides work at that location and if there are any dangerous rocks, riptides and animals to beware of. You can usually find out this information by talking to other surfers in the area.

To teach yourself to surf, it is also important that you find a beach suitable for beginner surfers. Not all beaches are equal when it comes to surfing; some offer far taller and more aggressive waves than others. An ideal beginner’s beach will have waves of around one or two feet high. Choosing a beach with smaller waves will also prevent you from getting in the way of more advanced surfers.

Lastly, you will need to understand surfing etiquette, ensuring you respect other surfers and swimmers enjoying the same beach. This includes, not riding a wave that another surfer is already riding, not getting in the way of fellow surfers, and not letting go of your board!

Remember, although there are a number of professional surfers who claim to be self-taught, they didn’t get where they are today without having any lessons!

What are the pros and cons of teaching yourself how to surf?


  • You can learn at a pace suitable for you.
  • You will feel an even greater sense of achievement when you eventually master the waves.
  • You can teach yourself to surf whenever you like, you don’t have to book in a lesson.



  • There are a lot of potential risks that you will have to get familiar with before entering the water – otherwise, you risk putting yourself in danger.
  • You will need to search for the perfect beach for beginners.
  • It will take longer to learn and involve more trial and error – which could mean more bruises, aches and pains along the way!
  • You will have to hire a surfboard or buy one and make sure it is entirely suited to your size and abilities.
  • You risk having more run-ins with angry surfers while you learn the etiquette.

The verdict

When it comes to learning to surf, it is totally feasible that with enough time and effort, you will be able to teach yourself. However, teaching yourself will require that you dedicate a lot of your time to the sport, even just to read up on the risks and surfing moves. If you are someone that is looking to dedicate a couple of hours out of your free time to picking up a new hobby or skill, investing in some surfing lessons is the safest, most efficient and most effective way to learn. An expert instructor who already knows which beaches are suitable for beginners and all of the potential risks and etiquette involved will make it much quicker and easier for you to get up and running on a board. The price of board hire is also usually included in the price of lessons, so you won’t have to pay for both lessons and equipment rental.