Do You Need To Know Swimming For Surfing?- Guide For Non-Swimmers!

Surfing is the most exciting water sport you can ever try. But right when you feel the hype, you remember you don’t swim. And just like any other non-swimmer, you wonder: do you need to know swimming for surfing?

Do You Need To Know Swimming For Surfing

Well, you should know some basic swimming strokes to start surfing. Because surfing is a very wild sport and swimming plays a big factor in keeping you safe. Plus, you won’t be able to catch the waves without knowing a few paddling tricks.

Don’t worry. You can learn how safe surfing would be for a non-swimmer throughout this article. Not just that, I have also explained which skills are important to surf successfully. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump into it.

Do You Need To Know Swimming For Surfing?

The one-word answer would be, yes. You need to have some core water skills to tackle any kind of situation while surfing. Sea is full of dangers. And, you never know what’s awaiting you. 

Although the sport itself doesn’t require you to swim, you can’t neglect the pre-conditions. For example, you need to paddle the board with your hand and reach any unbroken wave before surfing. These “paddling” tricks are nothing but a replica of swimming strokes to keep your head out of the water. 

Is It Dangerous To Surf Without Having Swimming Skills?

Unlike other soft sports like snorkeling or scuba diving, you can’t take a bunch of safety measures with you. All you can have is a leash. It will only help you find the board even if you fall off. 

Dangerous To Surf Without Having Swimming Skills

That’s why you require swimming strokes to get on the board again. Suppose, the waves have taken you further into the sea and you want to return to the shore. How are you supposed to reach there? Because the surfboards will stay in a place without moving if you don’t paddle them. 

Or worse, your board could get hit by a rock or coral. The board won’t be of any use to you after that. Only your swimming strokes can save your life. 

So, don’t take any chance on your safety and learn to be comfortable in the water.

How Should A Beginner Prepare For Surfing? 

Now that you know about the importance the swimming, let’s discuss the five steps to prepare for your first surfing trip. Are you ready?

  • Choose The Right Surfboard

Be it any game, choosing the right equipment is the key. That’s the same case for surfing too. The surfboards are your only supporter on the sea. If you are a beginner, getting a high-volume board is a right decision. 

By volume, I mean the width, length, and density. It gets easier to ride strong waves with high-volume boards. Especially, as a beginner, try to stick with the longboards instead of the shorter ones. These are more comfortable to maneuver. 

Well, keep that in mind while choosing the right size of surfboards for your next trip, To know more about the best surfboards for beginners, you can read our article on this topic.

  • Take A Swimming Class

Trust me. You can never go wrong with a brief swimming lesson before taking part in any kind of water sport. It is even more important since the sport is surfing. 

learn about swimming

So, what kind of water skills do you need exactly? Although I appreciate it, you don’t have to enroll yourself in a lengthy program. Learning how to paddle properly, tread water, kick back and forth and stay afloat are some of the key factors to surviving in a sea. 

You see, all the skills we mentioned here are not strong strokes. It is very easy to learn. You can cover at least 100 to 200-meter distances easily with these tricks. And, that’s enough for catching up with an unbroken wave. Moreover, you need these skills to retrieve the board in case you lose it.

Without knowing these basic water skills, you will end up hating the surfing experience.

  • Learn About The Waves

You must have proper knowledge of “green” waves before starting. It can be either a plunging or a spilling wave. Plunging waves are only suitable for experts. If you are a beginner, make sure to avoid such waves at all costs. You might end up getting spun like a washing machine. 

Now, let’s move on to the spilling waves. Such waves are the result of a gradual slope on the sea floor. Experts categorize the spilling waves under 4 categories (A, B, C, D). Both, C, and D are broken waves or whitewashes. You can’t surf those waves. On the other hand, category A is too far away and might break on you if you try to catch it.

 So, that leaves us with Category B or the “green” wave. It is perfect for surfing. Mostly, when you are only 4 to 5 meters away from a steep lump on the sea, it’s ideal for paddling. But to identify the green waves, there is no other way besides practicing multiple times.

  • Pick A Safe Location

Of course, you need to pick a location that is suitable for beginners. Especially, if you are a non-swimmer, you would want the beach to have lifeguards, That way, you can have a backup if an accident happens.

choose a better spot

 However, there are not many beaches that offer lifeguards for new surfers. You are kind of our own at the sea.

So, my recommendation would be to check whether any of the local beaches offer safety guards or not. If yes, you should stick to that location.

  • Practice The Etiquettes

Every sport has etiquette. So what if you are not a professional surfer? Respecting the rules will ensure harmony between the surfers in a particular area. The most crucial etiquette is to never “drop-in.” Okay, let me explain it.

Suppose you see a green wave and you are at a decent distance. Then, you see another surfer who is closer to the “peek” area than you. And, you can see that he is trying to ride that wave. In that case, the etiquette is to not chase that wave any more. Because only one surfer can ride a green wave most efficiently. Unfortunately, your participation might affect the steepness of the wave. 

That means you should only paddle towards the green waves that are closer to you than anybody else.

How long does it take to learn to surf? 

Most instructors with proper certification offer a 2-hour long practice session. It includes a 15-minute lecture regarding the rules and procedures. That doesn’t qualify you to go on surfing alone thinking you can handle it.

 During the practice session, the instructor shows you the ideal distance and demonstrates the steps. If needed, they tell you whether the wave is worth chasing or not. 

That being said, it can take up to 10 years to learn how to read the waves. Like most other sports, surfing requires patience and dedication.

What Is The Right Age To Start Surfing?

Many people assume surfing is an activity for teenagers only. According to experts, the best age to start is 10 years old. Most teenagers even prefer surfing over traditional exercises. And, why won’t they? It’s more fun and always gives you an adrenaline rush. 

But do you know that many pro-surfers are in their 30s, and 40s? Some even experience their first trip after retirement. That’s crazy, right?

You see, only physical fitness is important for riding waves. As long as you don’t have any disease that makes you uncomfortable in the water, you are good to go.

How To Get Over The Fear Of Surfing?

Surfing does seem very daring. It’s natural to get afraid after seeing a plunging wave in front of you. Most people don’t even stand up while riding because of fear. So, what’s the solution?

get over the fear
  • Learn how to stay at the center of the board. It keeps the board balanced. As a result, you won’t trip off the edge. The key is to focus on the board’s nose. It should be 5 centimeters above the water surface. Keep moving your body till your board is stable.
  • The next thing to learn is paddling. Make sure to not paddle with both hands at once. It will accelerate the board more than you want. To find a slow and gradual speed, try using your alternate hands for propulsion.
  • Remember to use the “crawl” technique instead of going all deep into the water. It’s very important to match the wave’s speed. You have to paddle faster if the wave is bigger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Surfing Schools Also Teach You Swimming?

You need to pass a small swimming test to practice surfing at the sea. It involves 100 to 200 meters of swimming in a pool. They don’t teach you complex swimming strokes here.

Is It Important  To Swim Well For Surfing?

You can be a pro surfer with low to medium swimming skills. All you need to know is to stay afloat and reach the board in case of an emergency. You don’t require very high or complex strokes to accomplish it.

Do Swimming Strokes Help With Surfing?

Yes, swimming helps with surfing a lot. The essential “paddling” trick is the copy of a basic swimming stroke. Knowing these strokes will make the sport easier for you.

How Much Should You Swim Before Surfing?

You need to show the instructor that you can cover at least a 200-meter distance without any aid (life jacket, buoyancy kit). Apart from that, you should know how to keep your head out of the water and kick your legs to stay afloat.

Can You Learn To Surf Without Lessons?

You can’t learn surfing without an expert’s demonstration. You need to take a few lessons to learn the basics like paddling, reading waves, or standing up while riding.


Want to be friends with the sea? Then, you must try surfing in your next trip. You can know a lot about your weaknesses and strength during the learning phase. 

In this article, I tried to break the question: do you need to know swimming for surfing and analyze different aspects of the game. So that, you can have a guide to help you decide whether to take part in it or not.

So, what do you say? 


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