Words by Corinne Evans // Above photo courtesy Rip Curl

When learning to surf it can be hard to understand where you’re going right and wrong. Making mistakes is all part of learning to surf, but sometimes a nudge in the right direction can make a big difference. As a surf coach, I get to witness all the little mistakes beginner and intermediate surfers make; here are some of the most common:

I am nervous about dropping in, how can I overcome this?

Commit to your waves. If you’re going to paddle for it, put your heart into it. If you hesitate, especially at the top of a green wave, you’re more likely to wipe out and possibly hurt yourself. The best thing you can do is commit to the drop, be brave and just go for it.

Why can’t I catch many waves?

If you’re struggling to get into the waves or find the wave has passed you by when you pop up, it’s probably because you’re not paddling enough. As a general rule, when you think you have paddled enough, do any extra 3 or 4 strokes, get your head down and commit to the wave. You will feel the wave pick you up and push you forward, which is your due to pop to your feet.

Am I surfing the wrong board?

As appealing as it may be to surf a board that you can easily fit under your arm, make sure you don’t go too small too quickly. Beginners should start out on a foam surfboard: They are perfect for learning on and extremely forgiving when you fall (which you will do a lot). When you’re at the stage where you feel you can pop up every time on a foam surfboard, then it’s time to move onto a fibreglass surfboard. Mini Mals are great boards to transition onto, so whatever you do don’t let a surf shop sell you a shortboard. This is a marathon not a race!

Why do I keep nose diving?

If you’re nose-diving every time you paddle into waves, you’re probably too far up your surfboard. Try shifting your weight back on the board and see the nose come out the air. You never want to see the nose of your surfboard underwater when paddling into a wave.

Committed to the wave, Portugal’s Francisca Veselko. Photo courtesy @iwillphoto / @jeanpierre_whitfield

How long will it take until I can surf green waves outback?

Although the thought of surfing the big, peeling green waves out back may be more appealing than the white water chop in the shallows, it’s important to take small steps with surfing and make sure you don’t rush the process. Master the white-water first, and then progress out back. It may take longer than you initially thought, but that’s ok because you’re in this for the long haul.

How do I know which ankle to put my leash on?

Find yourself popping up and seeing your leash at the front of your surfboard? Then you need to switch it onto your back foot. Don’t worry if it takes time to figure this out, if you’re learning to surf just be sure to look down and check your feet.

How do I know which beach to surf at?

Just because you like the look of a beach doesn’t mean it will deliver the right waves for your ability. Do your research and watch the waves before you head out. There is no shame in moving to a beach with smaller waves or fewer crowds; it’s all about finding the right waves for your ability.

Why does the nose of my board stick out when paddling?

If you’re not getting any waves and the nose of the board is sticking up in the air, you’re too far back on your board! Shift your weight a little further forward and try and level your surfboard out. If all your weight is on the back of your surfboard, then you’re not going to go anywhere.

When should I start paddling for the waves?

Give yourself enough time to get prepared for the wave. It can often take a bit of time to find your sweet spot on your board. When you see a wave coming that you want to go for, give yourself plenty of time to paddle.