6 Qualities of a Good Surfer

The skill of a surfer is almost always determined by how well they ride waves. In this article and corresponding podcast episode, you’ll be introduced to 6 qualities good surfers possess other than their skill on a wave.

The goal here is to highlight the characteristics that anyone can cultivate, regardless of the amount of time they’ve been surfing because no matter how long you’ve been surfing, we’re all trying to ride waves a little better.

So let’s focus on the following 6 qualities, and chances are that will translate into getting more waves, which means getting more practice, and ultimately results in better surfing.

1. Be a Good Paddler

How could we not include the fundamental of all surfing fundamentals? If you’re paddling technique is poor you’ll be spotted from a mile away and dismissed as a beginner in a heartbeat.

If you want to be a good surfer, start with the thing all good surfers do extremely well.

Paddle well.

With good form through your body. Without any compromises in position or alignment. Always paddle with good technique, and have a pride about possessing that quality.

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2. Have Fun

It’s been said, “the best surfer is the one having the most fun”.

Good surfers stand out in a crowd because they beam playful energy. They enjoy their time in the water like a grom. They know there’s plenty of waves in the sea and so they’re happy to share them. They’ll call you out to go on a wave even when they’re in better position.

Try it out! You don’t have to be “the best” surfer to give a wave away to a friend or a stranger.

In a difficult and complex endeavor like surfing, it can be easy to get carried away and take it too seriously. You might find yourself feeling down if your performance isn’t what you hoped for.

This is an important moment to step back and remind yourself that surfing is also supposed to be fun, and the amount of fun shouldn’t entirely depend on the score you give yourself for a particular session.


You’re dealing with the ocean. That’s what a surfer is, and a surfer knows the ocean can’t be controlled or bent to your will. Sometimes it’ll make your life hard, and other times it will feel like a cakewalk. Be grateful for your blessed life and have fun in both circumstances.

Your health and outlook on life in general stand to benefit greatly from this mindset as well if you can incorporate it into your daily attitude.

3. Ride Any Board

Good surfers can ride any craft and enjoy it. Longboard, shortboard, boogie board, fat board. It doesn’t mean they’ll ride it comparative to a pro of that particular discipline, but they’ll go catch a wave and sail down the line.

In the mind of a good surfer, things are actually quite simple.

Matching a waves speed under power by your own strength and technique, in time with the waves movement towards the beach is a boiled down way of explaining what a good surfer will do on any craft.

Whether they’re jumping off the seafloor into closeouts 20′ from shore with their boogie board, or paddling from way out the back on an 11′ glider in time with a gentle roller, the essence is the same and once you’re tapped into the power you’ll have the pleasure of setting a rail and going down the line.

Be able to do that on any craft, and you got yourself one characteristic of a good surfer.

4. Be In Tune with the Ocean & Weather

What’s the wind doing? Is it forecasted to be light all day, turn onshore, freshen and blow strong by noon? What time is low tide? How low is low tide today? What about the swell? Is it building, holding steady, or fading? Is a new swell from a different direction filling in on top of a pre-existing swell?

These are just a few of the questions you should have answers to on a daily basis because a good surfer is in tune with what’s going on outside.

While there’s a potential for debate regarding the good surfer that just shows up to the beach daily and surfs regardless, you’ll be hard pressed to find a surfer that has this style and doesn’t get in tune once they arrive at the beach.

They’ll immediately take note of the tide and it’s direction of flow. They’ll be sensitive to the wind on their face and notice the moment it freshens or changes direction.

Whatever you choose to be, make sure you’re paying attention to the arena in which we play. The great outdoors and mother ocean.

5. Don’t Be Too Good

Ever catch a whiff of a spoiled surfer in the lot? It stinks. They look down their nose at small waves or mediocre conditions and ultimately decide to turn their back on the ocean and do something of lesser value with their time.

A good surfer is a good surfer for a reason…because they surf all the time.

They’re not too good for small waves, or sub-par conditions. Surfing is fun whether it’s a classic, all-time day or just a little lap around the line-up to keep the arms in shape.

Be wary of becoming a surfer that is too good lest you spoil a beautiful thing.

6. Have Respect

  • Smile, say hello, introduce yourself
  • Don’t drop in on people already surfing
  • Be quick to apologize
  • Don’t take advantage of lesser surfers
  • Give a wave away to someone else
  • Don’t back paddle surfers who are waiting their turn
  • Encourage other surfers to take their turn and get a wave
  • Don’t yell at people who make mistakes
  • Calmly and politely confront the offender of a serious mistake
  • Offer a helpful tip if you see the cause of someone’s struggle
  • Don’t paddle to the top if you just paddled out
  • Surf inside and away from the pack if you’re not local
  • Stay out of the way

There’s a lot of unsaid rules in surfing. The above are just a few. If you don’t know surf etiquette, educate yourself the best you can. You’ll certainly learn as you go through experiences, and not everyone you encounter will be gracious in their style of education. Stay humble, take note, apologize, and become better whether the teacher is aggro or polite.

We have a bunch of other videos and resources to help you become a better surfer in the simplest of ways. Try our online membership program to get on the pulse and get access to all the premium content we produce to help surfers.

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