Thursday, April 17, 2008

Surfing for Beginners

(MS) - With family vacations on the horizon, and visions of wave-lapped beaches as part of the picture, many families will be participating in recreational activities that involve water fun.
Since the turn of the century, few sports have experienced as great a rebirth as surfing. Whether it's due to warmer temperatures across the country or an increased societal emphasis on fitness, the popularity of surfing continues to grow.

While the stereotypical notion of a surfer is that of a carefree and laid back lover of life, surfing is in fact a very demanding sport, one that requires as much hard work and discipline as any other sport. And thanks to the often unpredictable nature of the ocean, surfing can be among the more dangerous sports if participants aren't careful. For those thinking of hitting the waves soon, it's wise to consider the following precautions before heading out to hang ten.

· Get in shape. Few sports are as physically demanding as surfing. For those considering pursuing surfing as a hobby, the first step has nothing to do with the ocean, and lots to do with getting in shape. Before you even consider buying a board and hitting the beach, be sure to improve your fitness level. Surfing is very demanding on the body's cardiovascular system, so be sure to include cardio exercises such as running, riding the exercise bike and especially swimming into your exercise routine. If your swimming skills are a little rusty, consider taking a refresher course. In general, you should be able to comfortably swim roughly 150 feet in open water before you even consider getting on a surfboard. Consider daily ocean swims as part of your preparatory workout routine. This will both increase your stamina and give you a realistic expectation for the rigors of ocean swimming and surfing.

· Suit up. While swimming in the ocean typically requires nothing more than a pair of swim trunks (for males) or a swimsuit (for females), surfing requires its own unique attire. The standard surfing attire is a wetsuit. Wetsuits ensure that surfers spending hours out in the ocean remain warm.

Many different types of wetsuits exist, though all operate under the premise of keeping surfers warm in the water. A full wetsuit (recommended for anyone surfing in spring or fall when water temperatures are typically lower) has long sleeves and long pants. A shorty, on the other hand, is a sleeveless wetsuit that also has short legs. These are good for hot summer days where you'll still want to keep your core body warm. When the air is warm but the water's cold, a Long John suit might be best. It will keep your body warm while in the water but you won't overheat once you're out.

While most beginners will avoid surfing in very cold temperatures, that doesn't mean everyone will. For beginners looking to dive right in, accessories such as boots, gloves, caps, and hoods are a good investment.

· Go to school. Surfing is not a sport that can be learned on the fly. Due to the heightened risk involved, beginners should always take a class from a certified professional before heading out into the water. Even veteran ocean swimmers will need to learn about what to expect and how to avoid strong currents.

In addition, surfing carries with it a certain ocean etiquette, as the ocean belongs to everyone. A seasoned surfing teacher will explain all you need to know about surfing, both in the ocean and out of it. Those taking a class should not be discouraged if the first few trips don't yield the romanticized vision of success you might have had for yourself. Becoming a good surfer takes time and hard work. But as any surfer can attest, it's well worth the effort!

CAPTION: Surfing requires hard work and discipline from anyone hoping to catch a few waves.

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