Copyright © 2012 Mark Kaplan. All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents
I>Preparing the Beginner for the Adventure
1. Water Safety 6
2. Preparing Your Body to Surf 7
3. Nutrition for Surfing 8
4. Wet Suits and Leashes 9
5. Journaling 10
6. What the Oceans Teaches about Spirituality 10
7. Swimming with the Dolphins 11
8. Cross Training 12
II>Waves, Beaches and Boards
1. Learning About Waves 14
2. Sand Bar vs Reef Beaches 17
1. Board Selection 18
2. Soft Top Boards 18
3. High Performance Short Board 20
4. Hybrid Short Board 20
5. Mini Long Board (fun board) 21
6. Long Board 21
7. Soft Top and Styrofoam Boards 22
8. Paddling and the Board You Choose 22
1. Finding the Sweet Spot on Your Board 24
2. The Pop Up 25
3. Pearling 28
4. Going Over The Falls 29
Surf Instructions Beginner toAdvanced
Copyright © 2012 Mark Kaplan. All RightsReserved Page 3
5. Riding Foam Waves 30
6. Three Methods of Paddling 32
7. Getting Out Through the Waves 33
8. Going Turtle 33
9. Paddling Through the Lip 33
10. Standing Up on the Board 34
11. Letting Go of Your Board 34
1. Surfing Better Waves Makes Surfers Better 34
2. Duck Diving 35
3. Peaks, Shoulders, and Corners 36
4. Close Outs and Walled Off Waves 37
5. Catching Waves Before They Break 37
6. Timing the Wave 38
7. The Need For Courage 40
8. Getting the Feel of the Wave 42
9. Types of Maneuvers 43
10. How to Start Carving 44
11. Stability vs Speed 45
12. Cut Backs 46
13. Angling on the Wave 47
14. Driving the Wave 48
15. Pumping in Transition 49
16. Pumping Down the Pocket 49
17. Accelerating or Rail to Rail 50
18. The Right of Way in the Line Up 53
19. Winning in the Line Up 56
20. Surfing Any Day Big or Small 58
21. Learning to Fall 59
22. Take Your Riding to the Inside 62
23. Long Board Techniques 63
Surf Instructions Beginner toAdvanced
Copyright © 2012 Mark Kaplan. All RightsReserved Page 4
24. Big Wave Surfing 66
1. Making Bottom Turns 67
2. Hitting the Lip 68
1. How to Do and Land Aerials 68
2. How to Land 360’s 68
3. Aerial 360’s 69
4. Back Side Reverse 69
5. Front Side Air Reverse 70
6. Snaps Off the Lip 72
7. Tail Slides 72
8. Floating the Lip 72
9. Getting Barreled 73
VIII>How Surf Boards are Constructed
1. SurfBoard Construction 77
All photos by Mark Kaplan
Laird Hamilton rode a historically large wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti that made
Surfing Magazine Cover with the caption “Oh My God”. His dad asked him
why he does these crazy things and his answer: “I do not want to not live
because I am afraid of what might happen”.
Hopefully, you will feel the same
In learning to surf, I read a lot of books on various aspects of this great sport. The history is
rich with early island surfers on big boards. The sport eventually spread to Australia and
America and then all over the world.
I have been a lifelong skier and recent snowboarder.
Surfing offers similar but different challenges than either of
my previously two favorite sports. For those who love
surfing, it becomes addicting. Living at the beach, I get to
serve that addiction every day. I have also had the
opportunity to start many surfers on their first ride. That also becomes addicting.
There is a real thrill in standing up on that board the first time as the wave pushes you to
shore. There is a great thrill in seeing how stoked the first timer becomes experiencing the
sport that has captured millions of enthusiasts since the 1960’s.
In surfing, the psychological barriers can be as big as the physical and technical barriers. It
takes mastery of all three to become an expert. The mechanics are important and I have
tried to explain them in a narrative which may be easier to take into account what you are
feeling, thinking and experiencing.
I chuckle to myself as tough marines mention they are nervous about catching a wave and
getting trounced. We all learn we are no match for Mother Nature. Good technique is our
I hope you enjoy this book and feel when you are finished that you found it beneficial. Even
more so, I hope it helps you become addicted to the sport and starts a lifelong relationship.
Preparing the Beginner for the Adventure
A lot of beginning surfers give up when they face the exhaustion of paddling and the
roughness they endure from the waves. Getting trounced depletes energy. It robs you of the
expectations you had of easily mastering this experience. Strangely, you have to take a
perverse pleasure in getting trounced if you are going to continue your commitment.
It takes a while to get into surf shape.
Paddling is more difficult than anyone
imagines. Even the easiest board, the soft top,
is a challenge at the beginning. When you are
done paddling, you are through for the day. It
requires a specific set of muscles that can’t be
developed on dry land. Standing on the board
consumes only a fraction of the time you
spend in the water.
Don’t go in when you are not at full energy. Don’t take the ocean for granted and go in after
drinking or other abuses. Try to go in at your peak physical time of day. I like to have food
an hour or so before I go in. Most surfers I know like to eat before they go in.
There has to be a real commitment to enter every day and develop the paddling power
while learning how to avoid the impact of the waves. Both come gradually. It takes a while
to learn where the waves peak and impact the hardest.
Staying safe while you learn will be important to your desire to continue. A year of surfing is
really nothing in learning to master this sport. I tell my beginners that it takes a thousand
waves to get the feel and now they have ridden five, so they have a ways to go. Some get
the picture of what they are in for.
Preparing Your Body to Surf
I have never participated in a sport where your body can get so twisted up as it does in
surfing. When you come off the board in a fall in riding real waves you can hit the water
and do under water somersaults. If you get in the impact zone of a big wave, it is
guaranteed you will do underwater backward somersaults. This makes some people
reconsider. Those of us that make it, just laugh. You have to surrender to the greater
I have often wondered how my body survived the motion without constant tweaks and
injuries. We all get a few tweaks and have stories to tell as time progresses. You definitely
want to stretch out all your muscles. In cold water, I find that I sometimes can get cramps
as my legs get colder in the water or when I get sprung off my board. Sometimes it’s just a
calf cramp but I have had the hamstrings cramp as well.
Cramps can be a result of the cold, being low on potassium, not hydrated, or not being
stretched. When this happens, I have had to get back on my board and straighten my legs
until the cramps relax. If your core gets cold the body protects the organs and the circulation
to the limbs slows down. In Oceanside, the water in the winter can be 55 to 59 degrees
which eventually penetrates your wet suit.
A thicker wet suit might be a solution to the cold. In a 4/3, there is extra padding over your
chest and legs with your arms getting the lightest insulation. I have a 3/2 wet suit, but I have
a vest that I put under it to keep my core warmer and wear booties in the winter. Now I have
gloves as well because I found early mornings in the winter are really cold and the wind can
get your hands. More insulation means more time in the water. I don’t suffer the cold like
many others now.
Staying active in the water keeps up circulation and might keep the cold from penetrating as
quickly. I try to keep my muscles loose by engaging in stretch exercises every morning
when I get up even when I am not surfing. I usually stretch my legs, my back, and my arms.
I also have cables that I will frequently use to loosen and warm up my muscles. They are a
set of rubberized cables on two hand grips that wrap around a post and allow you to do
front side and backside stretches. At the beginning, I often used them after I surfed to take
the lactic acid out of my muscles.
After stretching, doing some pushups, and a little running, my body is nicely warmed up
when I enter the water. Your heart has to get up to speed as you paddle and your arms
have to get warmed up as you pop up. Being pre warmed I find helps me on those first few
waves. I like to catch the first wave I see just to get my mojo working.
Nutrition for Surfing
Sometimes I fit in two surf sessions a day and in the summer I may be in for a few hours. I
need to get enough fuel and recovery food into my diet without over loading my digestive
system. When too much blood goes to digestion, it robs the brain and body of needed
oxygen to perform at a high level.
I want my surfing to energize my body, but I don’t want my digestion to rob my brain of the
energy it needs to perform during the day. So I need to eat well but carefully.
The best balance of nutrients for appeasing the appetite and fueling the brain is mixing
carbohydrates and protein. Protein supports thinking and carbohydrates hinder brain energy
if you eat too many. Nonetheless, the brain uses a great deal of energy, so like muscles, it
I have found that a carbohydrate load in the morning an hour or two before my first surf
session, gives me ample energy. I like ten grain cereal, oat meal, or a pancake along
with a fruit bowl. I put nuts on top which have more protein and of course are good for
After surfing I like to eat a second meal with plenty of protein because I feel my muscles
are in the first recovery stage of the day. I might have a small hamburger patty or put
hamburger, chicken, or turkey into a vegetable omelet.
You can have lots of fun creating new concoctions that are healthy, tasty, nourishing
and are weight maintaining. If you paddle an hour a day, you will burn a lot of energy. I
like to surf every day, so fueling and recovery are important.
I have managed to fuel my surfing, stay healthy and lose 25 pounds.
Wet Suits and Leashes
If you don’t live on a tropical island, chances are you will need a wet suit. They come in
various thicknesses and your comfort will have a lot to do with how cold the water is and
your tolerance for cold.
I have always had a great tolerance for cold, but as I get older that tolerance diminishes.
The water in my surf spot in the winter runs mostly from 58 degrees to 62 degrees. I use
a 3/2 thickness wet suit with booties.
Many surfers don’t like the booties because it impairs the feel of their feet on the board.
If I don’t wear booties my feet get so cold, I wouldn’t be able to feel the board anyway.
Your hands can also get very cold. If I am not chasing waves, I like to keep paddling
around in circles so that my blood is circulating.
The next thickness is 4/3 and many surfers who know they cannot take cold just opt for the
thicker suit. It will impede on your feeling of freedom, but if you are frozen, you can’t be free
in any case.
You can rent a suit at your local surf shop and give the 3/2 thickness a test drive. If it is
good for you, these suits usually start around $100 with a pretty decent suit available at
$140 without shipping.
Even in San Diego California, I am wearing a wet suit most of the year. There are a few
weeks in the summer where the water rises above 68 degrees and I can venture in without
a suit. I am so used to the suit that I would prefer to wear it than be cold.
Our body temperature is 98.6 so even at 68 degrees, your core temperature can start to
drop and you may feel it penetrate your body. When I get cold, I start to shiver and I also
feel like I am more likely to cramp.
The younger you are the more tolerant of cold and maybe the more body fat you have the
more tolerant you are to cold. Also being hydrated can keep you warmer and being less
anxious can keep you warmer.
Note: Leaving your wetsuit in the sun will cause it to deteriorate quicker. I wore my suit most
every day and it usually lasts a year.
The leash is what connects your board to your ankle so that when you are off your board, it
does not travel too far. The usual measure of a leash is the length of the board. If you have
a 6 foot board, you will probably have a 6 foot leash.
As I have gone to my 6’5” board, I used the 7 foot leash from my 7’6” fun board. I like the
longer leash. When I pop off my board at the end of the ride, I like that it is further away
from me. If I fall off my board, I like that the wave takes it further away. I haven’t been
tangled in an underwater somersault session with it yet, but my first thought is always that I
hope my board is not too close.
As a tip, when I put on my booties, I put a little Vaseline or skin cream on my heels and
back of my foot so the booty slides on easier and doesn’t tear out the heel.
I think it is a great idea to buy a calendar with the big spaces for each day so you can write
your experiences. You can write your impressions, what happened good and bad and
where you see your need to go.
You will find that progress is slow. You need to work on your next step each day. Record
what you accomplished, what you failed to make happen, and what you need to do the next
What the Ocean Can Teach Us about Spirituality
The ocean is a microcosm of the Universe. When we think of God or the Universe we think
in terms of unlimited. When we sit at the beach and gaze at the ocean, we have this feeling
of unlimited. It may be the largest vista we can ever see if we are not on a mountain top or
in an airplane.
In a recent storm from New Zealand that pounded the beach with 12 foot waves, every
spectator was awestruck. You could feel and hear the energy of the waves pounding the
beach. If you were on our local pier, you could feel it tremble as the waves crashed into
the pylons. Standing on the pier and watching the waves roll by underneath was like
looking into the mouth of a viper that was separated by a double pane of glass.
I recently was held down in the impact zone of a 7 foot storm wave and when it released me
I figured a 10 foot wave would probably kill me. I didn’t feel panic and I didn’t feel remorse. I
felt surrendered to the outcome because I had ventured into the situation on my own
volition. Afterward I was moved by the feeling that I had been swallowed and spit up by the
Being in the ocean is also like being in the hand of the creator. It can caress you and give
you a feeling that you are one of the blessed creatures under his care on earth or it could
crush you with no more thought than accidently stepping on a bug. You can query a handful
of land lubbers and half are afraid to go very far into the ocean because of the unknown.
The ocean provides everything we need on earth. It provides enough meat and greens to
provide for a nation. It absorbs and gives off heat. It has currents that circulate the globe like
the winds in the stratosphere. The plant life releases the majority of our oxygen. Its energy
could power machines. You can reach every land by navigating its surface. It can rear up
and swallow you and never give you back.
Anyone with experience in the ocean can tell you that it is always changing and it can
always be dangerous. The more experienced watermen like life guards, surfers, and
fisherman have more respect for the beauty and the danger. It has a yin and yang and you
tempt it with your presence.
There is this sense of surrender when you enter the ocean to surf. You are looking to have
the best time of your life. You are looking to be renewed by an hour in the water. You are
looking to find yourself in your skill to harness the waves. You are surrendering to the
experience of any outcome you might not have anticipated. I think this feeling of
surrendering is one of the more powerful experiences from my surfing.
Swimming with the Dolphins
One of the great pleasures of surfing is being close to the dolphins. When people are on the
beach they see the dolphins touring up and down and often notice how close they are to the
When you are on the outside, you also notice how close
they often come to where you are sitting. Recently, I was
about ten feet from a surfer and I saw two fins moving
rather frenetically about five feet on the other side of him.
Two dolphins were swimming back and forth, seemingly ignoring him while they perhaps
were looking at fish underneath the surface.
On a recent occasion, four of us were sitting on the outside when a pod of dolphins decided
to take a closer look at us. Ten feet away, a baby raised its head above the water and just
stared at me. I said “hi baby”, but it didn’t reply.
Another incident I will never forget demonstrated to me how big they are. On a very quiet
calm day with hardly any waves, I went out just to get wet. There were only two of us
surfers on the outside. We were about thirty feet apart as I was approaching his spot. I was
just about to say something to the other surfer when I saw a flash below the surface in
between us and a dolphin completely cleared the water like at Sea World.
Then he continued in the direction of shore with two more leaps, went to my outside with
two additional leaps and disappeared. The other surfer and I were mesmerized and
afterward said to each other, “you will never see that again”.
What amazed me was the size of the dolphin. When you see their fins from shore or even
out on your board, you imagine they are cute little things about six feet long. This dolphin
was at least twelve feet long and had to weigh over 400 pounds.
This is an excerpt from Surf Instructions: Beginner to Advanced
If you have comments or questions please email me:
markap12 at gmail.com