How to Get into Competitive Surfing Guide

Surfing is an exhilarating and rewarding sport that offers endless opportunities for progression and challenge! Are you sitting there wondering what the next step is for you? Thinking about how to get into competitive surfing? Wondering how to one day become a pro surfer? Competitive surfing is the ultimate form of surfing that combines technical skill with speed and power. Nothing is as exciting as watching it all unfold! Here are some tips and tricks for aspiring surfers eager to jump into the competitive surfing scene!

Getting into competitive surfing involves developing your skills with risky speed maneuvers and great flow. Join a community of surfers for networking, finding competitions, investing in the right surfing gear, and training your body and mind to handle complex waves and maneuvers.

 One of the most pivotal parts of getting into competitive surfing, and being successful at it, is understanding how the judges will score you. We’ll cover scoring, how to develop your surfing skills correctly, and the importance of joining a surfing community. We’ll also look at the essentials of gear and preparing your body to become the instrument of your success.

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 Develop Your Surfing Skills

Developing your skills as a surfer is crucial to get the most out of the exciting world of competitive surfing! Landing a 360-air reverse, traveling through a barrel, or flawlessly executing a roundhouse cutback are all impressive maneuvers. But these maneuvers alone won’t be enough to capture the judges’ attention.

In today’s competitive surfing scene, WSL judges have specific criteria in which they favor creativity and originality, paying careful attention to the difficulty of your maneuver when they score you. Remember that judges are also surfing fans who crave excitement and surprise just as much as they do technical proficiency!

Critical, Flow, and Speed are the primary factors that will help you succeed in competitive surfing!

Critical, Flow, And Speed

Being critical means performing risky turns in the most dangerous parts of a wave. This is where the excitement comes in – watching a surfer navigate a critical section is thrilling because it’s high-risk and can be intense, alluring, and even nail-biting.

Judges love it when a surfer takes risks and executes critical turns with precision, but it’s also risky because the surfer could wipe out and waste the wave. Critical surfing is essential to competitive surfing because it’s both exciting to watch and challenging to execute.

Flow is all about transitioning smoothly from one maneuver to another without wasting movement. The better your flow, the more appealing it will look to the judges. It may involve pumping the board up and down between turns or executing a few minor speed pumps to maintain momentum.

If you were to use up all your Speed in the initial turns and neglect the rest of the wave, you would likely not score as high as you could have if you maintained a smooth ride.

Find The Right Surfing Competitions

Entering your first competition can be a daunting experience because you’ll have a panel of judges scrutinizing all the time and effort you put into getting to that point. For this reason, local competitions are a great way to get started in competitive surfing and can help you build confidence and experience.

You’ll likely have friends and family that come and support you, plus you’ll also have spent countless hours in the same waters, offering some familiarity.

When you feel that you’re ready to test your skills against other competitive surfers, the World Surf League (WSL) website is one of the best places to go. They are the governing body for professional surfers and host multiple competitions throughout the year.

The Pipe Masters is another thrilling competition that takes place annually in Hawaii at the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.

If you have aspirations to compete in the Olympics, visit the official Olympics website. It has all the essential details you need to know, like the number of athletes competing, the stars to watch, and what you need to qualify.

Get Involved in Your Surfing Community

If you’re an aspiring competitive surfer, joining a surfing community will be an immense boon for growth and development! You’ll receive support and encouragement to hone your skills despite your failures, and you’ll emerge on the other side feeling much more confident.

One of the most valuable aspects of joining a surfing community is having like-minded individuals offer feedback on your techniques and where you can focus on improvement. They can also advise you on your equipment and refine your training exercises.

A surfing community is a handy place to access essential resources, such as coaches, training facilities, and local knowledge of surf conditions. If you incorporate this knowledge on the day of your competition, you already have the advantage when preparing for specific conditions.

Remember that any community is foremost a place to connect with people, and there are all kinds of essential figures within a surfing community! You’ll network with other surfers, coaches, sponsors, and industry professionals. Suffice it to say, it can open up doors to future opportunities if you’re serious about getting into competitive surfing.

Invest In the Right Surfing Gear

When you get into competitive surfing, you want your body and mind to be in top shape, and that’s where the right surfing gear can make a significant impact.


The right surfboard for you is the one that aligns comfortably with your height, weight, and skill level, but none of these factors are as important as considering its volume (buoyancy). Volume refers to the space inside a surfboard, measured in liters, and affects its stability, speed, and ease of paddling.

Surfs with higher volumes are more stable, making them easier to paddle and more suited to less experienced surfers. Lower-volume boards are more maneuverable and responsive, making them ideal for advanced surfers who wish to perform advanced maneuvers.

An everyday surfboard like the 5’6” Sloth has 30L of volume, has a hefty amount of float. A Raptor surfboard, which sits between a regular and high-performance board, is 5’6” with 27.2L of volume. The Donkey is another 5’6” board but with a volume of 22.9L.


The primary factors to consider for wetsuits are warmth and flexibility. If your wetsuit is too tight, you won’t be confident to go for maneuvers that count. On the other hand, a wetsuit that leaves you freezing will suck all the joy out of surfing and take away from your focus.

Whether you prefer a snug 4-3 or a flexible 3-2, finding a balance is key. Here’s a table to consider for the best wetsuits according to the temperature:


Temperature Wetsuit
Fahrenheit (°F) Celsius (°C)
46 – 53 8 – 12 5/4mm gloves, boots, hood, steamer
49 – 55 9 – 13 4/3mm gloves, boots, hood (optional), steamer
56 – 64 13 – 18 3/2mm steamer, 2mm steamer
62 – 68 17 – 20 2mm steamer, shortarm, springsuit, boardies + vest
68+ 20+ Board shorts + vest/spring suits


You might also consider a rash guard, a lightweight shirt that you wear under your wetsuit that protects your skin against irritation, chafing, and sunburn and offers an additional layer of insulation.


A good leash is vital if you plan to get into competitive surfing because it will help you maximize your time riding a wave, among other things.

When it comes to competitions, it is a requirement for safety reasons. It attaches to the tail of your surfboard and your ankle, preventing your board from getting away from you when you wipe.

A runaway surfboard can quickly become a safety hazard for other surfers suddenly collide with your rogue surfboard. Having to swim after your lost board also tires you out quickly and wastes the time that you could have spent on your performance during a competition.


Using the right wax on your surfboard can give you some much-needed grip between your feed and your board. It’s great for maintaining balance and control when you’re riding waves.

Without wax, the top of your surfboard will be as slippery as the bottom, which can be a nightmare when it’s crunch time, and you must perform a tricky maneuver. Remember that in a competition, every second counts, and each decision you make can award or cost you points.

When choosing a wax, Zogg’s Sexwax, Sticky Bumps, and Fu Wax are among the best.


Fins are minor modifications that slightly alter your ability to perform certain maneuvers on your surfboard. Fins with a longer rake (they curve more and extend back farther) will give your more control and hold when you ride larger waves.

You also get fins that hardly curve backward, appearing straighter and pointing upward. These kinds of fins give you more pivot and maneuverability, especially with small waves.

When it comes to competitive surfing, you’ll want to experiment with different fin setups to find what works best for you under specific wave and weather conditions. Have a good idea of what you want to accomplish when you ride and choose your fins from there.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong option regarding which are the better fins. Consider what you want to accomplish on the water, then decide whether you want fins with a lot of rake or only a little rake.

Train Both Your Body and Your Mind

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It feels great when you’re doing training exercises and succeeding at every one of them! Keep in mind, however, that your body is the tool that allows you to perform these daring feats with such intensity.

Cardio will make you a stronger paddler and help you to stabilize your breathing during long surfing sessions. Being fit allows you to push yourself for longer without getting tired, making you a stronger competitor in competitions.

Mobility, resistance, and strength training are important steppingstones to prepare you for competitive surfing.

Mobility training is super important as competitive surfing demands various motions, like rotations, extensions, and flexions.  Mobility is the key to conquering these types of maneuvers. It also reduces your chance of injury when you can easily traverse the waters. Many surfers practice yoga to assist their mobility.

There are a few ways to do resistance training, like walking in water with heavy weights. It’s perfect for strengthening your core, back, shoulders, and legs, which you use when you perform surfing maneuvers. It helps you generate more power when you paddle, and you get to add more speed and control to your turns. It also improves your balance and stability on your board.

Strength training is possible by lifting weights. It can significantly improve your paddling speed and endurance, plus you’ll catch more waves and maintain positive energy levels throughout your heat. Stronger muscles mean more explosive power, and judges can’t get enough of that!

When you realize that risky maneuvers become second nature and waves that once gave you trouble go unnoticed, your mental state will gain a significant boost! You’ll feel more confident, so much so that you’ll start to develop your own maneuvers and dabble in creative ideas that are sure to impress the judges!


Competitive surfing is exciting and allows you to push yourself further than before. Remember that there’s more to developing your skills than mindless exercises; work on your speed, power, and maneuvers that will impress the judges. Consider your gear carefully, participate in a community, and adequately prepare your body. Now, get out there and enter your first competition!

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