How to Train and Prepare for Your First Surf Competition

How to Train and Prepare for Your First Surf Competition

The moment has arrived: you’ve decided to take the plunge and enter your first surf competition. It’s an exciting and potentially nerve-wracking prospect, but with the right preparation, you can feel confident and ready to perform your best. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you should take to train and prepare for your first surf competition. From physical preparation to mastering your technique, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make your debut a success.

Choosing the Right Surf Competition

Choosing the Right Surf Competition

Before you dive into training, it’s essential to find the right competition for your skill level. This will ensure that you have an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Local contests for beginners

Start by looking for local contests designed for beginner surfers. These events often have a more relaxed atmosphere and can be a great way to ease into competitive surfing. Check your local surf shops and online forums for information on upcoming events.

Finding a contest that suits your skill level

When choosing a competition, consider the wave conditions, location, and level of competition. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and select a contest that matches your current skill level.

Physical Preparation

Physical Preparation

Physical fitness plays a crucial role in your surfing performance. A well-rounded training program should include cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility exercises.

Cardiovascular fitness

Cardiovascular fitness is essential for surfers, as it helps you paddle efficiently and maintain stamina during long heats. Incorporate activities such as swimming, running, and cycling into your training routine.

Strength training

Surfing requires a strong upper body for paddling and a powerful lower body for performing maneuvers on the waves. Include exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges in your strength training routine.

Flexibility and balance

Flexibility and balance are vital for executing smooth maneuvers and preventing injuries. Incorporate yoga, Pilates, or other stretching exercises into your routine to improve your flexibility and balance.

Technical Skills Improvement

Technical Skills Improvement

As you prepare for your first surf competition, focus on refining your technical skills and mastering the maneuvers required for your event.

Mastering basic maneuvers

Ensure that you have a solid foundation in basic surfing maneuvers like bottom turns, top turns, and cutbacks. Practice these moves repeatedly until they become second nature.

Perfecting your technique

Perfecting your technique

Work with a surf coach or watch instructional videos to fine-tune your technique. Focus on aspects like body positioning, foot placement, and timing to improve your overall performance.

Learning competition-specific skills

In addition to basic maneuvers, learn competition-specific skills like wave selection, heat strategy, and priority rules.

Mental Preparation

Mental Preparation

A strong mental game is just as important as physical fitness and technical skills. Develop a mental preparation routine that includes goal setting, visualization, and confidence-building exercises.

Goal setting

Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your competition. These goals should focus on aspects like improving specific skills, placing in a certain rank, or simply enjoying the experience.



Visualize yourself successfully performing in your competition. Imagine the waves, the crowd, and the feeling of accomplishment as you ride your best waves.

Building confidence

Develop a pre-competition ritual that helps you feel confident and focused. This could include listening to your favorite music, repeating positive affirmations, or engaging in deep breathing exercises.

Equipment Selection

Equipment Selection

Having the right equipment is crucial for a successful surf competition.

Choosing the right surfboard

Select a surfboard that suits your skill level, the wave conditions, and your competition division. Consult with a local surf shop or experienced surfers for guidance.

Wetsuits and accessories

Wetsuits and accessories

Invest in a high-quality wetsuit and accessories like booties and gloves to ensure you stay warm and comfortable during your competition.

Spare gear and repair kits

Bring spare fins, leashes, and a repair kit in case of equipment damage or malfunction during the event.

Understanding Competition Rules and Etiquette

Understanding Competition Rules and Etiquette

Familiarize yourself with the competition rules and etiquette to avoid penalties and maintain a positive atmosphere.

Knowing the rules

Study the competition rules, including the scoring system, priority rules, and interference penalties. This will help you develop an effective heat strategy.

Respecting other competitors

Respecting other competitors
Image Courtesy of Word Surf League

Be respectful and supportive of your fellow competitors, both in and out of the water. Good sportsmanship is an essential aspect of competitive surfing.

Communicating with judges and officials

Maintain open communication with judges and officials, and address any questions or concerns in a respectful manner.

Planning for the Big Day

Planning for the Big Day

Proper planning will help ensure a smooth competition experience.

Scouting the location

Visit the competition site in advance to familiarize yourself with the waves, currents, and potential hazards.

Preparing a schedule

Create a schedule that includes your heat times, warm-up sessions, and breaks. This will help you stay organized and focused throughout the day.

Packing essentials

Pack all necessary items, including your surf gear, sunscreen, snacks, water, and a first aid kit. A well-prepared bag will help you stay comfortable and focused during the competition.

Nutrition and Hydration

Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for maintaining energy levels and preventing fatigue during your competition.

Eating right for energy

In the days leading up to your competition, focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates will provide you with the energy you need, while proteins and fats will aid in muscle recovery and overall performance.

Staying hydrated

Dehydration can hinder your performance and increase the risk of injury. Drink water regularly throughout the day and consider using sports drinks to replenish electrolytes during your competition.

Snacks and supplements

Pack healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and energy bars to fuel your body between heats. Additionally, consider using supplements like protein shakes or electrolyte tablets to support your nutrition and hydration needs.

Dealing with Nerves and Anxiety

Dealing with Nerves and Anxiety

It’s natural to feel nervous or anxious before your first surf competition. Use these strategies to help manage your nerves and stay focused.

Breathing exercises

Practice deep breathing exercises to help calm your nerves and focus your mind. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

Positive self-talk

Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and the hard work you’ve put into preparing for the competition.

Support from friends and family

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family members who can provide encouragement and reassurance during the competition.

Post-Competition Reflection and Growth

Reflection and Growth

After your competition, take time to reflect on your performance and identify areas for improvement.

Analyzing your performance

Review videos or photos of your heats to assess your technique, wave selection, and overall performance. Identify areas where you excelled and those that need improvement.

Learning from mistakes

Embrace your mistakes as opportunities for growth. Reflect on any setbacks or challenges you faced during the competition and develop a plan to address these issues in your future training.

Setting new goals

Use your competition experience to set new goals for your surfing journey. This might include entering more contests, improving specific skills, or exploring new surf spots.

Post-Competition Reflection and Growth


Preparing for your first surf competition can be both exciting and challenging. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can build your physical fitness, improve your technical skills, and develop a strong mental game. Remember to enjoy the experience and learn from each opportunity as you continue on your surfing journey.


How long should I train before entering my first surf competition?

The ideal training period will vary depending on your current skill level and the type of competition you’re entering. As a beginner, you should aim for at least a few months of dedicated training before your first competition.

What type of surfboard should I use for a competition?

The best surfboard for a competition will depend on your skill level, the wave conditions, and your competition division. Consult with a local surf shop or experienced surfers for guidance.

How can I find surf competitions in my area?

Check your local surf shops, online forums, and social media groups for information on upcoming events in your area.

What should I eat before my competition?

Focus on consuming a balanced meal with carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. This will provide you with the energy you need for the competition.

How can I manage my nerves during the competition?

Managing nerves during a competition involves a combination of deep breathing exercises, positive self-talk, and seeking support from friends and family. Remember to focus on the aspects of your performance that you can control and enjoy the experience.