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How to start surfing in Sydney


You’ve probably heard of the Australian surfing lifestyle and maybe even dreamed of it.  Maybe you've just moved to a coastal town in Australia, even the most famous: Sydney!

Sydney is an ideal place to live for its lifestyle, especially if you love surfing. There are so many opportunities to go surfing and to embrace the surf lifestyle. I’ll tell you all about how to start surfing in Sydney in this blog post but first let me tell you a bit about my surfing experience.

I’ve been passionate about  surfing and loved it since I was very young but unfortunately where I lived had more wind than waves. I got to do some sailing and sometimes bodyboarding but that was pretty much it. I only started surfing at around 19 years old (wishing I had pushed myself to do it a lot earlier) in Lacanau, France, at a surf camp. After that amazing experience, I learnt the basics of surfing and surprisingly, whilst in Portugal, I got to surf in Sagres and I was actually better than I thought.

I then moved to Australia but couldn’t go surfing regularly as I didn’t have a board or car and had to rent each time I went, which was a bit daunting. However, I still tried to go often. I finally bought a car in November 2015 and this was the revelation! I got a board from my boyfriend in December and was set to go surfing! Since then I have gone surfing almost every weekend, joined the Girl Boardriders Fraternity (more about this below) and made some wonderful surfing girlfriends! Now I’m getting my second board, just got roof racks to fit everything and I have many plans for surfing trips around Sydney for the Summer!

Myself going for a surf in Manly beach!

Here is my guide on how to start surfing in Sydney:

1. Book a lesson or two


If you’ve never set a foot on a board and have no idea how to operate a surfboard, it might be a good idea to try it with a lesson from a professional surfer first. You may discover that you don’t like it or you could love it. Surfing is a hard sport and takes a lot of perseverance to overcome the frustration of the first few times.

A friend could teach you as well but I think it’s always good to start with pro surfers who can show you the best techniques, give you the right board and push you in the water.

Some great surfing schools in Sydney (depending on where you are):


2. Do a full week of surfing

One lesson is great but a full week of surfing when you start can really make a difference. It really helped me when I was in France to grow my confidence over the week and try my best each day.

It is also a great way to push yourself in different conditions and try new moves and even try to turn! If you can choose a full week surf camp, that’s best. And why not do it away from Sydney to take a holiday at the same time? For example, Byron Bay is the Mecca of surfing and you can enjoy a beautiful beach, seaside town and relaxed atmosphere at the same time. I would definitely do it!

bondi beach surfing

3. Rent a board and go on your own!

Once you’ve had a few attempts in the water with some help, it’s time to jump into the big blue on your own! Renting a board + a wetsuit if needed is super easy in Sydney although it can get a bit costly if you do it often.

But just try at least to go on your own or with a friend and have fun! Stay in the water one of two hours and test yourself, try new things, meet locals, and did I say HAVE FUN?

One of my favourite place to rent boards is Dripping Wet in Manly. They are super nice and always give you great advice! 

4. Get your own board and wetsuit

Now if you’ve mastered all those steps, you’re on your way to becoming a real surfer! Definitely get your own board, one designed for beginners at first, so you can practice as much as you can before getting a better board. There are so many second-hand boards for sale around Sydney, so you will have so much choice. It’s best to do a bit of research beforehand so know what kind of board you need. There are few types: the longboard, mini mal and shortboard. When starting it’s great to have a soft board for more fun than a hard board. I went for the hard board directly and loved it, but now I’m getting something a bit lighter and shorter as it fits me better. Just choose the right board for you and your level.

As for the wetsuit, you can also get some good ones second-hand but consider whether you need one for a long time or just for a few months. Also, think of the conditions; do you need a full ‘steamer’ or just a spring wetsuit? So many possibilities! Also, don’t forget to protect your skin that’s not covered by the wetsuit. Zinc or 50+ Extreme Sport from Cancer Council are both really good.

Freshwater beach surf sunrise

5. Spot your favourite breaks and remember the surfing rules  

Depending on where you live, there are lots of possibilities on where to go surfing. Each beach has a different vibe and different surfing conditions. Some beaches are more protected and some have more space. My favourites are Manly and Freshwater but I have yet to try new beaches! I have surfed in Bondi, Collaroy and Maroubra which are fun as well. It’s all about trying.

Remember when you are on your own, you can do anything in the water but there is surf etiquette and rules, just like skiing, snowboarding or even driving!

Just a few rules - more in details on Surfing Wave here.

  • Watch for wave priority and right of way
  • Don’t drop in (cutting in front of other surfers already up)
  • Don’t snake (paddling around someone to get in the inside position)
  • Don’t monopolise the waves (learn to share with others)
  • Do say sorry (if running into someone else for example)
  • Respect the locals
  • Help other surfers if needed
  • Respect the beach

I know these are a lot of rules but believe me, it’s essential to know and respect so we all contribute to a safe surfing environment and keep a good surfing culture.

Surfer in Manly Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

6. Make some surf friends and talk to the locals

Surfing on your own can be fun but having some great people to go surfing with is more than amazing! Especially if they are locals, they will know where to go, what to do and will always be encouraging you!

As a surfer girl starting, I didn’t have many contacts already surfing around Sydney. For a while, I went with my friend Agathe in Bondi Beach and together we learnt a lot and pushed ourselves to get more and more waves. I’ve also joined a club called the Girl Boardriders Fraternity and met some amazing girl surfers. Each month we meet for competition time and we also just go surfing on our own. This has really boosted my confidence and makes me even more excited to go in the water each time! Now that I’ve moved more towards the North side of Sydney, I go on the Northern Beaches more often and love meeting new people out or in the water!

Freshwater beach surf

7. Learn to fall and wipeout

It’s going to happen and you have to learn the hard way. But that’s the way it is, so best to learn how to wipe out/fall to not get injured.

Falling is going to be pretty frequent when you start and you definitely shouldn’t think that you suck at surfing. Surfing is hard and you’ll fall, but falling can be fun! As long as you know where you are, that no one should be around you and where your board is to not get it in your head, fall happily!

Wiping out is another thing -- It’s when you get crushed by waves as a result of nose-diving or being in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Wipeouts can be a bit scary because it’s like being in a washing machine for some time and having no idea where is the top, the bottom and where your board is. The first rule is: PROTECT YOUR HEAD and watch for your board! So, so important but hard to remember when in the water. Your head is the most precious and important asset to protect, in case your board bumps into it. Believe me, it can be very, very painful and even knock you off in the water. Then the second rule is: try to get back up as soon as you can, as you’ll feel much better! Final rule: take a break for a few minutes in a safe place, as wipeouts can shake you a bit. To learn more on how to wipeout safely, learn more here.  


Remember that everybody is a beginner one day at surfing. Have fun and relax. This is an amazing sport which lets you connect to nature and yourself. Thank yourself for doing such a hard job. Many people wish they could surf and yet you are doing it so high five yourself for that!

Ps: if there’s a shark alarm, please get out of the water! I’ve experienced it at Bondi Beach and I still don’t get why people stay in the water, haha.

So have you tried surfing in Sydney? Tell me all about it and don’t hesitate to ask me questions!

Don't forget to have fun! Photo: Marine Raynard