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The first thing to know about surfing is that it is hard to learn how to do, but the process of learning is fun. So don't be discouraged. Have fun, and eventually expertise will come.

The first key is choosing a surfboard. Up to a point, the longer the board you choose the easier it will be to learn to surf. A first surfboard should be 8 to 12 feet long, thick, and wide. Maneuverability will suffer, but the key is learning to stand up and get your balance. A long board will allow you to do this much more easily than a short board.

First you'll need an understanding of what it is to surf. This drill is simplistic, but immensely helpful. Lay down stretched out in a straight line on your belly. Look forward with your head, and put your hands palms down on the ground next to your shoulders, as if you are about to do a push up. Then, pushing explosively with your hands, spring up into a crouch directly from the laying position to the crouching position (you'll need to quickly bring your legs under you as your arms help your body explode off the ground. If you can't visualize this, rent any surf video at the video store and you'll see exactly what I mean.) This is the basic motion of surfing, and almost exactly what you'll be doing once you get out into the water.

But before you get in the water you'll need: a leash and surf wax. The leash usually comes attached to the board. Never by or use a board without a leash. You'll need it for your safety and for the safety of others. The wax is to make the board less slippery. Un-waxed, you'd slip right off of it and into the water. Before going in the water, rub the bar of wax where your feet will end up when you are standing, and where your hands will grip as you use them to push yourself up into the standing position. Putting more wax on is much better than not putting enough on. After waxing the board, imagine what foot will be in front and which in back when you spring into the standing position. Whatever feels the most natural is fine. When you decide which foot will be the back foot, attach the lease to that ankle.

Now you're ready to go in the water. Hopefully you've chosen a beach with small waves since you are a beginner. Eventually you will paddle out to where the waves are breaking, but for now, just wade out to the white water. As a wave crashes and the whitewater approaches, lay flat on the board with the nose pointing the shore. When the whitewater begins pushing the board, mimic the exercise you did earlier and try to spring up to your feet. Don't worry if you need to get up on one knee first, or if you slip and fall. Just keep trying until you can stand for 5 or 10 seconds.

When you do stand and fall, make sure you fall backwards or sideways, but never in front of the board. The most dangerous thing about surfing is getting hit by the board. Only the board and the bottom can hurt you. So always fall any way but forwards, and never dive off the board head first.

After you can consistently stand in the whitewater, its time to try the real thing: surfing on the wave. Go out just beyond where the waves are breaking. Then, as the wave builds up and is about to crash, paddle with the wave towards the shore so that you can "catch it". Try this with a boogie board or body surfing for practice. Then, think of the board like a see-saw now. The wave is the fulcrum in the middle. If you stand up too far forward, it will tip forward and you will fall of the front. This is the worst thing that can happen. If you stand up too far back, you wont have enough momentum and you wont catch the wave. Successfully surfing means finding the perfect place to spring up, at the perfect time just before the wave breaks, and keeping your balance once you do it. Once you've done this, you can start turning along the face of the wave, away from the whitewater, so that you can ride along with the wave as it breaks down the beach. If you can stand on a breaking wave long enough to attempt this, you will have practiced enough so that the turning will come naturally.

Good luck, and cowabunga dude.