The Basics of Surfing at a Costa Rica Surf Camp: A Beginner’s Guide

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Pool view overlooking the pacific coast

Many times, advanced surfers don’t want others to pick up the sport. They’re territorial and might seem aggressive to beginners. Though it sounds a little scary and shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself, it’s important to understand the behavior.

Typically, these people have a good reason for being aggressive. A novice surfer with a surfboard who can’t control it in the waves can put others in danger. Unlike other outdoor activities, the waves (resources) are quite limited.

If you’re planning to enjoy Costa Rica’s beauty by surfing, there’s a right way to start as a beginner. You must stay safe, avoid angering others, and choose the best surf camp. KalonSurf is one of the top choices and offers a week-long experience to fully immerse yourself in the sport without stepping on anyone else’s toes (or surfboards).

Kalon Surf Camp on the beach aerial view of palmtrees, beach and pacific ocean

Be a Good Beginner on Your Surf Trip

Surfing as a beginner means choosing appropriate spots. Ultimately, surf lessons can help you learn to protect yourself and others. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Watch the Surf

Spend 30 minutes or so watching the water before paddling out. Pay attention to surf breaks and where others go while focusing on everyone’s skill level. Do you see other beginners, or are they advanced? Ensure the waves are appropriate for you, and notice how big the sets get. Once you’re out there, sit to the side and continue browsing the scene.

Be Respectful

As with other outdoor activities, pay attention to the locals because they know the area well. They might act like they own it but will be polite if you are. Try not to yell or get in other people’s way.

Know the Rules

Generally, the rule is one person per wave. Look to see where the surf breaks. The surfer closest to that area (called the deeper) has first dibs.

Imagine a wave is coming fast; you and another person turn to catch it. However, it breaks on your left side, so you move to the right. If the other surfer is on the left, they actually have the right of way. You should stop paddling, waiting for the next chance.

When there are consistent waves in both directions, surfers can ride in each. Typically, you’ll hear someone yell “going right” or “going left,” indicating their position and showing they have the right of way.

Be aware that it’s bad etiquette to paddle around others during a break with one takeoff spot. Instead, you should wait your turn and move forward slowly.

Ultimately, the best solution is to consider a Costa Rica surf camp. It offers accommodations, food, and lessons while helping you learn everything as you go.

Stay Out of the Way

As you paddle in the ocean, stay out of the way. Experienced surfers often move to a channel because the waves won’t break there.

If you can, avoid paddling through the lineup or surf. This protects you and everyone else, but it will also help you save energy.

Sometimes, the only option is to move through the whitewater. When that happens, avoid surfers riding waves. If you take surf lessons, you can prevent this confusion because the instructors will explain everything and ensure everyone’s safety while learning.

12x Ned Surfing at hidden beachbreak
Ned Surfing at Kalon Surf Luxury Resort

Where to Surf (Choose a Costa Rica Surf Camp for the Best Results)

Surf etiquette is very important, especially if you’re visiting Costa Rica’s beautiful country. However, you also have to focus on where to go for the best waves possible.

Ideal surf spots focus primarily on areas where the waves break slowly over a shallower, sandy bottom.

When you’re starting out, you don’t need perfect waves. Instead, focus on long rows of whitewater that come to your knees while rolling toward the shore. While you might want to jump right into the fray, it’s best to choose spots with other learners. Those won’t be as crowded, and you can master the art of popping up and paddling by the Pacific Coast.

It’s also wise to get surf lessons before you hit the water. No one expects you to be perfect, but it’s important to understand what to do, where to look, and how to stay safe.

Considering a Costa Rica surf camp is the best solution. These all-inclusive resorts take care of everything, including equipment, accommodations, food, and transportation to the most popular surfing areas.

Kalon Surf Villa Sunset - Drone View

What to Ride

When learning surfing skills, you’ll probably do well with a big board. Many beginners purchase shortboards because they look cool, but they don’t have enough length or volume to catch waves and improve in time.

If you book a stay at a Costa Rica surf camp like KalonSurf, it provides you with the equipment you need. However, learning about the different boards can help you feel more confident and less nervous. The options include:


In a surf town, you’ll find countless shortboards. They are about 6.5 feet tall (or less) and have little volume. Usually, they feature a tri-fin setup, which is designed for large waves, more speed, and faster turns.

Your Costa Rica surf camp will likely have some shortboards you can test to see how you like them.


Typically, a longboard is 9 feet longer or more. It can use a single-fin setup (ideal for classic surfing and nose-riding) or the tri-fin setup (making it easier to turn).

Again, your surf school in Costa Rica should have these available, allowing you to try them and experience how they feel.

Surfboards in the shade near the jungle.
Surfboards in the shade near the jungle.


Many beginner and intermediate surfers use guns, which are 7 feet or longer and designed for big waves. Though it seems counterproductive, they are bigger and can help with balance.

The Costa Rica surf camp you choose will have them available, allowing you to experience their benefits.

Mini Tankers, Mini Mals, Funboards, Bronzers, Eggs, and Fish

These boards are all shorter and range from 5 to 8 feet long. However, they tend to have more volume to help you paddle those fun waves. They’re quite popular in a surf town.

Ask your Costa Rica surf camp if they offer these to test while you’re on vacation.

Important Gear to Consider

Besides the board, which a Costa Rica surf camp often provides, you don’t need much gear. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Wax
  • Board Leash
  • Swimsuit
  • Rash Guard

Catching a Wave, Standing Up, and Riding

Costa Rica is a beautiful place. You’ll learn the art of surfing from a surf camp, which includes these steps:

Step One

Before going on surf tours, practice your pop-up technique at home or on the beach. You’ll learn more about that below.

Step Two

The surf camp will explain everything to you first. Then, you’ll paddle to the lineup.

Step Three

During surf school, you’ll learn that the third step involves pointing the board’s nose toward the shore when you see a wave to catch. You’ll lie down and start paddling, saving some energy for the big push.

Step Four

After a few strokes, you’ll continue paddling forward while checking the wave’s location. Surf camp can help you practice this step because it takes some time to learn.

Step Five

As you feel more speed and momentum, it’s time to stand up and drop in, which feels like a roller-coaster ride.

Step Six

Surf camp will help you learn to fully commit. It’s time to stand up, and you should do it in one fluid motion. Congratulations! You’re surfing.

learn to surf in costa rica

Safety Tips to Protect Yourself

You want to enjoy your surf sessions in Costa Rica, which means staying safe. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Don’t hold the board between you and those waves.
  • Fall flat on the water’s surface instead of dropping straight down. Otherwise, you might collide with things under the water.
  • Cover your head as you fall, especially if you’re separated from the board.
  • Don’t hold or reel in the board with the leash string.
  • Enjoy your surf trips more by hydrating, stretching, and warming up before the session.
  • Stop surfing immediately if you experience pain in the neck or back.

The best way to stay safe while surfing is to choose a surf camp. It has everything you need for an enjoyable time, allowing you to focus on the sport.

Types of Techniques to Learn Before Your Surf Trip

Whether you attend a Costa Rica surf camp event or go solo, here are a few techniques you should learn and master:

Paddle Technique

Surf camps in Costa Rica often start with the paddle technique because it’s the foundation. Here are the steps to take:

• Positioning – You should lie face down on the board and put your hands under your shoulders.

• Paddle – Use the arms to propel yourself forward while kicking your feet lightly for momentum.

• Balance – Prevent tilting by maintaining a balanced posture.

Pop-up Technique

Costa Rica surf camps also help you learn the pop-up technique, which is the transitional move to stand on the board in the water. Here are some tips:

• Initial Position – Lie face down in a push-up position.

• Swift Transition – Push up with the arms while moving the back foot forward.

• Steady Stand – Your front foot pushes off so that you can rise to a standing position. Keep your knees bent slightly.

Overlooking the pacific ocean with costa rican coffee at pool

Don’t Go to a Surf Shop – Choose All-inclusive Costa Rica Surf Camp Packages from Kalon Surf

Planning a surf trip can be challenging because you want the best beachfront hotel in Costa Rica.

Instead of doing all that work yourself, book a Costa Rica surf camp at KalonSurf.

There are various surf packages available, and they all include a week-long experience. This will help you get the most out of your lesson while enjoying all the creature comforts of home.

Choose Kalon Surf for the best surf lessons, great waves, and a perfect luxury resort.

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