How Long Does It Take to Learn to Surf? A Comprehensive Guide

Wanting to know how much time it will take to develop your wave-riding skills is one of the most frequently asked questions by surf enthusiasts. You may have already begun the journey to train until you become a worthy challenger to other surfers, but there could be some information that will help along the way, apart from what your trainer tells you. This is where a concise guide, like what you're reading right now, comes in.

Here, you'll read about the time frame for mastering the use of a surfboard and how difficult it can be. There'll also be a section for things to know before beginning surf training.

Skill Levels of Surfers

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Surf

The skill levels of surfers go from beginner to advanced beginner to intermediate to advanced intermediate to advanced. See their descriptions below.


A beginner has little or no surfing skills. You have to be a good swimmer and learn the basics of board usage on the waves before you can become an advanced beginner. Surfing basics include lessons on the following:

  1. Etiquette
  2. Equipment
  3. Safety precautions
  4. Standing on a board (positioning & stance)
  5. Paddling for a wave (passing the breaking waves to get to the line-up)
  6. Moving straight
  7. Turning right and left
  8. Popping up

Advanced Beginner

An advanced beginner is already at the point where the basics can be performed without help and directions. At this stage, you'll start learning how to read the ocean's movements and time yourself to catch waves. And, of course, the basics will be improved on as well with experience.


Intermediate learners can surf, get to the line-up, and catch green waves without directions. Now is the time to improve your wave-riding abilities in the following ways:

  1. Ride the shoulder left and right in shoulder-high to head-high waves
  2. Enhance your paddling, positioning, and duck-diving skills
  3. Be more comfortable and confident in various surfing conditions

Advanced Intermediate

By now, you should be able to surf in nearly all wave conditions. You can begin practicing advanced maneuvers at this stage. Hone your positioning and speed generation skills, beginning from the bottom turn to the top turn. If possible, you could explore other surfing spots—possibly traveling to other countries. 


Surfers of this caliber are those who have learned almost all that's needed to learn about the basics and almost everything advanced. They can also compete favorably in professional competitions or challenge other surfers for some bragging rights. The true test of their abilities lies at a few great surfing spots like Banzai Pipeline, where they'll find the largest, heaviest waves.

How Much Time Will It Take to Learn How to Surf?

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Surf

It should take a dedicated and confident first-time surfer as few as 1-2 training sessions to fully grasp the basics of surfing. You should be able to reach the advanced beginner level after a week's worth of training or 20 hours.

The time you spend to get to higher levels will depend on your commitment and frequency of training. Other factors that surf trainees and trainers should consider are explained below.

Physical Fitness

Physically fit people will be able to learn faster than those who aren't. Consider your upper body strength, endurance, body weight, etc.

Previous Experience

It may be easier to get the hang of the surfboard if you've used a snowboard, skateboard, or wakeboard before. Such experience will be crucial in balancing yourself and coordinating the board's movement in a shorter time.

Quality of the Waves

Your local surf spot may produce a few good waves on a handful of days in a year. This is going to hinder your progress, and you may have to go to a better surfing location. The Banzai Pipeline is definitely not for a beginner!


The wetsuit and board have to be right for you in terms of size and comfortability.

What to Know Before You Start Surf Training

Keep these 15 tips below in mind as you begin to learn how to use a surfboard.

  • Surfing will become a life-changing experience for you.
  • There are so many things to learn about using a surfboard or riding waves. For example; gear hacks, surfing techniques, nutrition, gear selection and maintenance, etc.
  • The training requires constant dedication, motivation, practice, and perseverance.
  • Be prepared to get wiped out by the waves and fall. Just get used to it until you can do so with caution and grace.
  • It's a simple process to learn the fundamentals of using a board on the waves.
  • Apart from your life being impacted positively in general, the training will mold you physically and psychologically.
  • Protect your body properly with the right outfit or gear, lotion, safety precautions, and information about the surfing location. For example; wetsuit garments and boots, sunscreen, rash guard, surfboard wax, traction pad (deck grip or deck pad), etc.
  • Have no fear for the water and be bold when facing the waves.
  • Continue developing any area of weakness in your surfing abilities until you're good enough or perfect.
  • Treat the water with respect, while understanding that it's a dangerous entity that poses risks to surfers.
  • There are specific times when surfing is ideal and favorable, that is, you can't just surf any time or day.
  • Know how to read and interpret ocean conditions, especially with the aid of forecasts and technology. For example; smartwatches with surfing-related functionality.
  • Be ready to relate courteously, humbly, selflessly, considerately, and generously with the locals, fellow surfers, and non-surfers at surfing locations to establish mutual respect.
  • In using a surfing spot, you're not just a surfer but also a guardian of its environment and inhabitants (e.g. wildlife). In other words; you're obligated to help in keeping the water and shore clean, intact, peaceful, pleasant, and safe.
  • Surfing is a lifelong learning process, and you could choose to surf for decades like the legendary professional surfer Kelly Slater and others.


The most important thing to note about learning how to surf is that you need to have a passion for it. After that comes the courage to face small waves and conquer them, then you can move on to bigger ones and possibly take on the famous perfect barrels at Pipeline.

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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