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  • Writer's pictureLaura Day

5 Empowering Tips to Establish Your Place in the Lineup

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

What intimidates you most about learning how to surf?

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just got your first board today (congratulations!) I know, that you have a response to this. Learning anything new comes with challenges but surfing and its changing elements make it a particularly difficult sport to learn: the weather, the waves, the swell, the board you're riding, the name it!.

Even with these variables in play, there was one common response when we asked: What intimidates you most about learning how to surf?

"Just finding my place in the lineup."

Confessions of a Surf lady a podcast by iaera surf and a space for us to extend the conversation beyond the products we carry into a platform that can better represent you: the everyday female surfer. Here, we take your anonymous confessions about surf lady topics and discuss them openly on our episodes.

What intimidates you most about learning how to surf?

In episode 06 we discuss how learning how to to surf an be an intimidating experience.

Bianca Mitchell, founder of

women's surf community: Ocean Goddess Surf, joins us and offers advice to your confessions.

Here are some surf lady confessions to:

What intimidates you most about learning how to surf?

Submitted anonymously:

"Just feeling like I have the right to take up space in the water, paddling into a crowded lineup, usually all dudes, and feeling like I deserve to be there. Even now, I still automatically defer to others far too often. Even if I am better positioned. If I see someone else taking off, it's like my body just won't go I’ll back out before it even comes to conscious awareness of what I'm doing."

Submitted anonymously:

"Finding my place in the lineup, the men tend to crowd where the wave breaks best. So, I try to stay away. However, I'm constantly worried about getting in the way of other people men have hollered at me in the past, even when I'm trying my best. I feel like I spend more time paddling out of the way instead of paddling for waves.

After speaking with Bianca and hearing from so many female surfers, we feel that the solution to finding your place in the lineup boils down to these areas: gaining knowledge, skill, and confidence.

"Feel like you have the information going out there. So, you're just as educated as anybody else and you feel the confidence and the right to be out there." - Bianca Mitchell

So here are 5 empowering tips to help you gain the knowledge, skill and confidence it takes to establish your place in the lineup.

5 Empowering Tips to Establish Your Place in the Lineup:

1."Seek out a coach and a community you feel like you can trust." - Bianca Mitchell

Having someone to confide in while you're developing your knowledge and experience is imperative to building your confidence in the surf. Knowing that there is a coach and a community to support you while you're learning will allow you to feel less intimidated when it comes to working yourself into a lineup. Since we, as women, move differently and have different body structure than men, working with a female coach can be really beneficial. If it's difficult to find a female instructor near you, check out these online resources by female surf instructors that can be accessed anywhere in the world!

The Surf Institute Founded by female coach Carla Zamora

2. Surf One Break Consistently

Two things happen when you surf one break consistently:

You get to know the break:

The many variables of surfing can make it difficult to learn and improve your skills. Eliminating variables will allow some consistency from session to session and help you build confidence as a new surfer. You can achieve this by focusing on surfing one break. When you focus on one break you will learn the nuances of that spot and how the tides, the swell, the weather affects the waves there. Having that knowledge will bring you confidence and if used correctly, will help you catch more waves. Once you understand one break, you can use the same process to get to know new surf breaks.

You get to know the locals:

When you are new to a break it's important to observe the lineup before you claim waves. The lineup has a social structure and each break has its own flavor so take your time and get to know the people around you. When you show up consistently you will see familiar faces, gain respect and likely make new friends. This is one way to gain confidence and earn respect in the lineup. The more effort you make to be part of the community, the more respect other surfers will have for you and the more they will be willing to share waves.

3. Do your research: Know your break and know your etiquette

Spend time researching your local break and how it breaks in different conditions. Learn when the best times to surf are and why. Doing research will equip you with the knowledge so you know what to expect before you arrive at the break. If you're new to surfing, study surf etiquette. It will take water time to put it into practice but prepare yourself with the information you need to be a responsible surfer. There are plenty of resources online on surf etiquette but I like to recommend Kim Hamrock's book: My Grandma Surfs Better Than You: A Woman's Guide to Catching More Waves. Along with Kim's amazing stories you'll find a surf glossary and a section on surf etiquette.

4. Be vocal, stand your ground, OR find another peak

If you're an experienced surfer and have put in the time with tips 1-3, you'll know that having the knowledge isn't always enough if you're dealing with a wave hog. If and when you encounter situations with wave hogs it may require more action for you to establish yourself in the lineup. In episode 13 Carla Zamora of The Surf Institute recommends that when dealing with a wave hog don't be afraid to "Be vocal." Communicate to the other surfers in the lineup and let them know that you understand how surf etiquette and priority work and that you won't let them continue to take waves from you.

Another great tip given by a member of our community is to "Stand your ground and don't allow them to keep paddling around you into priority position." This takes more physical action, skill, and strength but doing this establishes the same message as being vocal. Show them that you will not back down.

Understand that these techniques both require knowledge, skill, and confidence to execute and are not for everyone or every situation. If these techniques don't sound good to you and someone is hogging the break, consider finding another peak to surf. Standing up for yourself is encouraged but there's also nothing wrong with paddling away.

5. Be Safe, Have Fun!

Remember that surfing is supposed to be fun. It's common to have surf sessions that leave you frustrated and make you feel out of place in the lineup, especially when you're learning how to surf. So take a step back and remind yourself that surfing is a journey and over time you will progress. Go easy on yourself, learn from your mistakes and experiences and most importantly always aim to be safe and have fun while you're out there!

This post was inspired by our most listened-to episode with guest Bianca Mitchell, S1EP06 of Confessions of a Surf Lady: Feeling intimidated while learning how to surf.

For more inspiring surf lady content listen to the episode below or on all major podcast platforms.


Confessions of a Surf Lady Podcast is brought to you by The Surf Société.

Step Up Your Surf Game

The Surf Société is our online women's surf community dedicated to empowering women in the lineup through progressing our surf skills, building confidence, and pushing ourselves in challenging surf conditions.

Won't you join us?

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