Learn to Surf Byron Bay

Learn to Surf

Byron Bay is often promoted as a great place to learn to surf, and with very good reason, it is. We have some breaks with really nice gentle waves just perfect for learning to surf. Now the whole idea of learning to surf is to have fun, and surfing is extremely good fun. But nobody wants to take their fun at the expense of other people’s safety or their own. So before you embark on a learn to surf adventure In Byron Bay, read our Free Learn To Surf Guide carefully, it’ll help you to be so much safer and have a whole lot more fun in the process.

For many years there has been a growing misunderstanding that everywhere in Byron Bay is great for learning to surf. This is not entirely true, and it has caused many dangerous situations to arise from novice surfers being where it is not safe for them to be. This is because many of the waves in Byron Bay are often small with deep water channels. Making it quite easy for learner surfers to paddle out to the main lineup (break) where the more experienced surfers are. Inexperienced surfers are often able get into the main break and mix with the crowd easily. The word spread amongst beginners that Byron is a great place to learn to surf, and so the myth has grown.

Let s take The Pass as a perfect example: The Pass is famous; it's a fast walling and sometimes very shallow wave. It often has strong flowing currents and it's usually crowded, it's often quite small and easy for an inexperienced surfer to reach the main break near the point. At The Pass even when its small surfers can gain tremendous speed on the wave, especially longboarders, even if the wave appears slow. This translates as fast moving objects moving through a dense group of people. Then add boats launching and beginner surfers paddling through the crowd. You soon have a situation that is far beyond the ability of any inexperienced surfer to deal with safely. The Pass like many other famous breaks is not really a good place for inexperienced or beginner surfers. Unless the beginner stays out of the crowd on the inside break or in the white water. Now this brings us to a very important key point.

  • When you are learning to surf it's not the locality that counts, It matters little whether the break is famous or not. What is vitally important is where on your chosen surf break you learn.

Let me explain, traditionally beginners have always learnt to surf on the inside break, first in the white water away from the main break, and away from the crowd. Then they would progress to the smaller breaking waves on the inside section, still away from the crowd. This is the way it's been done throughout surfing history. In recent years surfing's popularity has exploded and naturally many folks wish to surf the same waves as the experienced surfers. But they want to do it without doing their time in the white water first. But it just doesn't work. You learn better balance and timing in the white water. You also have room to make mistakes; you can take your time and not feel pressured about being in someone's way or getting run over. But most importantly of all you will develop stronger paddling skills, catch more waves, have more fun and grow as a surfer, faster. The experienced surfers know this they've done their years on the inside in the white water when they were younger. To earn you place in the lineup, you need to do it too. Having a lesson with a surf school is a lot of fun. But it does not replace your first few years of surfing. No matter what anyone tells you there are no shortcuts. Starting later in life doesn't just mean you progress straight to the level of surfing elder, you need to learn the basics, same as everyone else.

You must develop mastery of these three basic skills before you move into the main crowd on any break no matter how big or small it may be:

  1. You need to be able to turn your board confidently and accurately while riding a wave to avoid hitting another surfer without falling off.
  2. You need to be able to paddle out, avoid a collision or ruining another surfer's wave by being able to quickly and accurately, assess the situation. Then make a split second decision to paddle out of the way of an oncoming surfer.
  3. You need to be willing and able to successfully take the hit from the white water, without ever letting go of your board or panicking and paddling in front of an oncoming surfer.

If you cannot honestly tell yourself that you are in possession of these three simple skills, then you have no business paddling into a crowded surf break in the first place. This may sound harsh, but it is not about surfing hierarchy. It is entirely about public safety.

So where exactly should I learn?

Well anywhere you like that's the beauty of it, provided you are not within 50 metres of where the experienced surfers are riding. That means from where they take off on a wave to where they finish. It's really that simple, learners are not banished to learner purgatory. You are just as welcomed in the water as anyone else. But for yours and others safety you do need to split off from the main body of the crowd. Learners that do the right thing, often find that the more experienced surfers are willing to help them develop their skills more quickly.

It's the same principle as skiing. When you go skiing the slopes are graded. Ski instructors and marshals on the slopes will move beginners off the more challenging slopes to the beginner slopes. Why? Because the beginners are not equipped with the necessary skills to safely handle the more difficult slopes. Think of crowded surf as a difficult slope and white water as the beginner slope. It's really very simple just remember this equation.

Gentle Rolling White water + low crowd = safe and fun for learning to surf.

Byron Bay is indeed still and probably always will be a great place to learn to surf. That much has always been true, we have many breaks that are uncrowded and have nice gentle rolling white water waves with sandy bottoms. Many of these places are within easy sight of much more crowded breaks so you don't need to go somewhere isolated. But as an inexperienced surfer it's up to you to resist the urge to join the more crowded breaks.

The whole idea about learning to surf is to have fun, so do your time in the white water first. Learn the skills required, and remember it takes time, years not days. So be patient with yourself and others. Surfing is always about learning, we never stop learning. If you think you already know it all, then you probably haven’t learnt anything yet. So take a little time and read Free Learn To Surf Guide and you’ll have a whole lot more fun.


Ben Bennink:

Certified NSSIA Level 4 Master Instructor / Coach (retired)

Pacific Longboarder Magazine Columnist ‘Master Class’ advanced longboarding techniques.

Author: (NSSIA Approved). The Surfing GooRoo Online Learn to Surf Guide.

Four decades surfing experience including: Pro/Am competition, Shortboarding, Longboarding, Kneeboarding, Bodyboarding, Mat surfing, Bodysurfing.