What is the Best Surf Condition for a Beginner Surfer?

The best surfing conditions for a beginner surfer are: 

  • Offshore winds
  • Long peeling waves, usually not above waist height (1-2 feet)
  • Uncrowded space
  • Deep groundswell 

You can’t learn much when the tide and wind conspire against you. Having an idea about the ideal surf conditions will not only make your surfing sessions more enjoyable but will also help you learn at a faster pace. Factors like tidal movements, sandbanks, swell models and wind direction also affect surf conditions. 

Keep reading to know more about the best surf condition for a beginner surfer. 

What is the Best Wave Size for a Beginner Surfer? 

A beginner surfer should start with waves about 1-2 feet (knee to shoulder high). Small waves tend to be slower and not too steep. These waves are easier to surf and it also ensures safety for beginner surfers.

They can build up their confidence and experience with the ocean in this safer environment.

With experience and skill improvement, surfers generally want to try out bigger waves that give more speed and excitement. Remember that not everyone needs to ride bigger waves and people have their limits. Do not feel like you have to challenge yourself when it does not feel safe.

Wave size is only one part of the equation, and many factors play a role in surfing conditions. Let’s look at a different aspect of waves and the ocean.

What Tide is the Best For Surfing? 

The best tide for surfing is the mid tide going from low to high. Surfers can get slight assistance from the incoming tide at this mid-tide, and the waves tend to break without becoming too fast and steep. The waves also break into deeper water, making it safer for surfers when they fall off the board.

Let’s look at how different tide makes the wave behave differently.

  • Low Tide: The waves tend to break into shallower water, making catching the waves trickier. The waves tend to be suckier, meaning it breaks faster and steeper than normal.
  • High tide: The waves tend to break at higher water levels. The waves tend to be more mellow and ‘fat’, which helps the beginner surfer to feel safer. However, the wave tends to have less angle at full high tide and does not break as often. Therefore, there is less chance of surfing waves.

Tide selection is one of the most important factors in determining where and when you can surf. It’s important to understand that changes in tides do not occur based on 24-hour time; it cycles between high and low water twice a day, and the cycles move to different times the next day ( remember, it depends on the moon orbiting the earth).

You can check the tide from various websites, and it is pre-determined. There are waterproof watches with tide features, such as rip curl tide watches.

Certain beach breaks work at a certain tide, and you can find out by experiencing yourself or talking to local surfers.

What Time of the Day is Best For Surfing? 

Early morning is the best time of the day to surf. Due to the difference in temperature between land and sea, the wind tends to be offshore, and fewer people are on the beach, especially in the winter. Also, thanks to the lighting, the water looks very glassy and shiny in the early hours of the morning.

You can get an early start and be at the beach even before sunrise when it’s still quiet and calm. Check your favourite weather app for ‘First Light Time’ to get the correct timing. Surfing is one of the best ways to start the day.

What are the Best Months For Surfing in Sydney? 

The best months for surfing in Sydney range from March to September, Autumn to winter in Australia. The water temperature remains warm (close to 20 degrees celsius) during the Autumn months making surfing more pleasant. These seasons also offer bigger waves and longer hours of offshore winds in the mornings, making the ideal condition for surfing.

Sydney is one of the most famous cities for hitting the waves. This city has more than 70 beaches, which not only makes it the best city for surfing for experienced but also an ideal place to practice surfing for beginners. There are numerous places you can rent surfboards and wetsuits across major tourist beaches such as Bondi and Manly.

Sydney’s surf season runs all year, although the best times for surfing are between autumn and winter as it offers bigger and cleaner waves. However, for beginners, you wouldn’t have a problem finding waves in Sydney any time of the year.

What is the Best Wind Direction For Surfing?

Offshore winds are the best for surfing. Offshore wind is when airflow blows from the land into the ocean, creating a smooth water surface. Ideally, the wind should be below 20 knots (fresh breeze), as the strong offshore wind can push the surfer backwards and block the surfer’s vision with water spray, making the take-off difficult.

When you check the wind direction, ensure you know which direction the beach is facing. For example, if the beach is facing south, offshore wind would be the wind blowing from North. If the beach faces east, the offshore wind would be wind from the west.

The last thing to point out is that the wind does not have to be direct offshore wind. If a beach is facing east and the wind is blowing from North-East, the condition will still be quite clean.

Is It Bad To Surf With Onshore Winds?

Onshore winds are more common on most beaches worldwide and flow from the sea toward the land. Onshore winds can be quite helpful if you want to practice aerial maneuvers. The reversed wind current helps the board stick to the rider’s feet. 

The other benefit of onshore winds is that it helps keep the crowd level low. Some surfers will not choose to surf when they know the wind direction is onshore. If you keep your expectations low and try to find some fun waves, I bet you will find one on light onshore days.

How do you check wind condition?

The surf forecast is the easiest way to identify wind direction. Popular surf forecast websites are www.swellnet.com and https://magicseaweed.com.

If the wind arrow on your surf forecast points from the land towards the sea in the right direction, you can expect to see offshore winds. Do remember that wind direction may even change several times during the day. Sometimes, even if it looks offshore in the forecast, it might be the opposite when you reach the beach. 

Offshore winds can be seen from the beach. The water surface is clean, and you can see water spaying to the back of the wave as it peels. Many beaches also have flags or other equipment showing the direction of the wind.

Here are simple tips when checking the wind.

  • Know the beach’s direction and see if the wind will cause offshore/onshore.
  • The strength of the wind is important too. It’s not easy to surf wind of 15knots, even if it’s offshore.
  • Be open-minded: with light onshore wind, you can still find good waves and have fun!

Beach Break Vs Point Break Vs Reef Break For Beginners 

Beach BreakPoint BreakReef Break 
Surfable break that breaks on the beach, forming waves against the shoreline. Breaks that create long waves that run along the coastline of the headland Breaks that offer longer waves to surf than beach breaks. 
These are created by shallow sandy bottoms or sometimes by jelly or groyne. These are created by rock, carol or sandy bottoms. These are created by reefs underwater. 
Famous beach breaks- Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, and Huntington Beach in California. Famous point breaks- Noosa in Queensland, Australia, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, and Rincon in California.Famous reef breaks- Uluwatu in Bali and Pipeline in Hawaii. 

Beach break has a safer and softer bottom than reef break, which makes it ideal for beginner surfers. Point breaks are also safe for beginners, but surfers can be quite territorial. Lastly, Reef break is not safe for beginners. It could be dangerous for beginners as its coral reefs are sharp and hard; surfing on reef break require extra caution and skills.

It’s important to note that every beach is different, and not all sand-bottom beaches are equally safe. For example, some sand beaches have very strong currents while others may have very strong shore breaks. Before you go in, check online and talk to local guys/shop owners and find out which are the best beaches for the beginner surfer.

Reading the Surf Report

This is a compilation of all the metrics required to understand how the waves will behave on the beach on a particular day. A surf report is typically a combination of charts & graphs and is quite easy to look at if you understand the terms. You should look out for primary characteristics: wave height, swell period, speed and wind direction. Let us know more about each of these: 

  • Swell Period: This is the time it takes a wave to pass a certain point. A smaller swell period is a sign of wind swell waves that are choppy and of low quality. Longer periods indicate waves that travel over a long distance and are clean. 
  • Swell Direction: This tells you if a wave will hit your shore or not. Look for a swell direction that is the same way your beach faces. 
  • Tide: Tides move by 50 minutes every day. If a high tide was 8: 00 A.M. yesterday, it was 8:50 A.M. today. Just ask some experienced local surfers about the best time at your spot.  
Swell Period Remarks
1-5 Unsurfable Waves with minimal swell are created by local weather conditions. These waves are small and mushy, breaking very close together 
6-8 WeakStill weak and mushy, these waves are also not ideal for surfing 
8-10 Poor to AverageCrumbly yet rideable waves which break close together 
10-12 Good to Great Good surfing waves with a pronounced shape and a definitive shoulder
13+ Excellent Long-period ground swell caused by high winds. Excellent for surfing 

Essential Safety Tips for Beginners 

  • Steer clear of all the waves starting over the 4-foot mark. Bigger waves are quite powerful and can hold you underwater for longer. Before paddling in, check where the rips are and see the general strength of currents by observing surfers: they may drift away and constantly paddle to stay in the same spot.
  • Stop holding your board sideways or perpendicular to the waves to avoid collisions with your surfboard. Avoid purchasing heavy boards with a hard-top material as this can cause more pain when collisions occur. Go for soft-top foam boards if you want to be extra cautious.
  • Look both ways before you get in the lineup so that you do not enter a wave simultaneously as another surfer. This can lead to a collision and even cause some serious injuries. 
  • Another common problem new surfers face is related to sunburns. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause you to get 3rd-degree burns. Always carry and apply plenty of SPF lotion on your face, arms, chest, back and legs. 
  • Some new surfers also worry about shark attacks, but these cases are rare. If you would like to see full details about shark attacks see here. Other animals that could harm you while surfing our stingrays and jellyfish. Shuffle your feet while walking on the beach to scare off these little guys. 

Summing Up

The best conditions for beginner surfers are mild winds coupled with off-shore waves. If you decide to hop on a larger wave during your first few sessions, the powerful current can push the board out of your hand and potentially hit someone. Smaller waves might be less fun to ride, but at least you will not hurt yourself and build the foundation required to ride on larger waves. 

You shouldn’t completely rule out non-ideal conditions as they are also a part of your learning curve. 

Happy surfing!


My name is James, the person behind SurifngHeadquaters.com. With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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