Let’s face it, Quebec is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of surfing in bikinis and sunbathing on a sandy beach, mojito in hand.
Nonetheless, surfing has gained a lot of popularity in our beautiful Province. Whether it’s on the static waves of the St-Lawrence, in the deserted landscapes of the North Coast, or during summer trips in Maine (soon, soon!), surfing is on many peoples’ bucket list! Seeing surfers glide effortlessly from one wave to the next makes many of us want to do the same. That’s why we created a complete line of surfs : Malibu 7'2, Malibu 7'10 and Longboard 9'0 that are very well adapted to the reality of surfing in Quebec. Whether you're an urban surfer in Montreal or on a mission to explore new surf destinations in Gaspésie and on the North Coast, we’ve got the perfect surf guide for you!
With the help of a few tips, tricks, and lots of practice, you too will eventually be able to keep your head out of the water and eventually stand on your board.
Whether you want surf the small waves in the Hamptons, the famous Vague à Guy in Montréal, or the pipelines of HawaiI, you must respect certain rules and principles. To help you save time, gain confidence, and avoid looking like a “kook” out there, here are a few things you need to know when starting out.
Nature has its reasons (and is always right)
Before applying any of the following suggestions, it's important to remember what you’re up against: the ocean and its waves. Don’t think for one second that you can defy either of these elements. The ocean accepts that we play with it if we respect it and follow its rules. Surfing will teach you to analyze and understand your surroundings. No two waves look the same, so you always have to adapt. Surfing is not just a sport; it is also a great teacher of humility and patience. The waves often have the last word and always remind us of who the master is. We have nothing on the elements, but with the right information and the proper reflexes, we can learn to befriend them.
Checking conditions, location and launching
Surfing comes with responsibilities. Every surf spot has its particularities: orientation, sandy or rocky bottom, currents... Understanding the environment and the location will allow you to optimize your session: taking advantage of the currents to go up to the peak, passing the bar more easily, bypassing the breaking zone, etc. All this starts with a good analysis of the location and the swell, and awareness of the conditions and risks. Take the time to observe your environment before getting in the water: most people downplay the effort and jump in too fast, when they should be reading the waves. Do the waves seem easy, or challenging? Do they look crumbly or hollow? How’s the current? Is it strong? In what direction is it moving? How are other surfers behaving? How do they get in and out of the surf zone? If you lose your board, will you be able to swim back to shore?
This step is essential in order to choose the right spot suited to your skill level and experience. Your goal is to catch waves, and have fun, not battle with them or fear them! Don’t hesitate to scout the beach for a quieter surf spot, and don’t start out where the most beautiful waves break, unless you want to compete with the champions and your level allows you to! Smaller waves in less crowded areas, although less appealing, will allow for more opportunities to catch a wave (as more will be available), making the experience less frustrating overall. Be patient and compare your experience level with others on the water when choosing your location!
Respect surfing etiquette and locals
First of all, prevent accidents by avoiding swimming areas when first learning to surf. Be polite and say hello when you arrive in a surf zone and apologize if you cut a surfer’s path. Also, just like driving has its road rules, surfing also has some basic rules that must be understood and respected. In general, you're not alone in the water. That said, only one of you will get to surf the next wave.
1. Follow the rules of priority
- The surfer closest to the peak has priority over the entire length of the wave, even if another surfer makes a take-off in the foam behind him (snaking). The basic rule is: one surfer per wave. Before trying to catch a wave, verify that another surfer does not have priority over you. If you accidently cut in front of another surfer, get out of the wave as soon as possible and don’t forget to apologize.
- On a peak or a frame wave (which breaks equally to the left AND to the right), priority is given to the first surfer that goes for it, and this goes for the direction they want to take. If this is you, let others know which direction you want. This will allow another surfer to take the other direction
- When two waves meet, surfers must exit their wave before the meeting point to avoid any risk of collision.
2. Respect the trajectory
The surfer who is on a wave has priority over the surfers who follow. If you are following a surfer and feel like you still have time, paddle as much as possible to the outside of the wave to bypass the breaking zone. If you don’t have time, it won’t be as fun, but you’ll have to paddle inside the wave and towards the foam and duckdive (dive under the wave with your surf, nose first).
3. Respect the position
It is imperative not to place yourself in front of or behind a surfer who is already waiting for his wave in a line-up. Always stay side by side. If the surfer who is the furthest in turns to take a wave and paddles quickly towards the beach, he might find himself face-to-face with other surfers, which is both annoying and dangerous. This rule is often forgotten, even by experienced surfers.
4. Check behind you
When I find myself facing a wave that’s too big for me to duckdive, I anticipate my board release by looking behind me. If a person is behind me, I paddle sideways - to the right or to the left - to prevent my board from becoming a dangerous obstacle, or worst yet, hitting and hurting them. If you see someone not doing this, firmly remind them of this rule because not following it can have severe consequences (skull fractures, drownings, disfigured faces...), to avoid!!
5. Do not take all the waves
Obviously, if you manage to ride the best wave, and then everyone sees you paddle back in to catch the next one, there’s a small chance that you’ll be appreciated or congratulated for it... It’s always best to wait your turn. The ocean is meant to be shared.
6. Be polite and respectful
Politeness and respect also have their place on the water: Say hello and learn to apologize and communicate if you make a mistake. Often, the vibe is very chill, and most surfers just enjoy focusing on the ebb and flow of the ocean. Respect peoples’ bubbles, and don’t insist on chatting if you sense that the other person doesn’t feel like it. Smiling is also always a good idea. It’s contagious, it helps relax the atmosphere at the peak and is a great way to make friends.
7. Respect the locals
If I don’t surf in the same spot all year, I don’t feel totally at home. Some may not necessarily agree, but that’s what happens and what it feels like in the water. I think we must understand this. If you don’t know me and I go to your house, open your fridge, eat all your good snacks with my feet on your table, there are good chances that you’ll ask me to leave, more or less nicely. It’s a matter of respect for the surfers who have chosen to live near a spot year-round. So, all you have to do in a new spot is to be nice, say hi to people and try to observe how others behave and enjoy!
Humility will help you progress
As for all disciplines, learning to surf is not a linear experience: depending on your state of mind and your physical condition, you might surf very well one day and feel as if you’re going back to square one the next. Surfing is an especially difficult sport because it’s practiced in a natural and changing environment. A trick you master in some waves, might require more practice in other conditions. The ocean is powerful. Humility, and accepting one’s own limitations are very important traits to have. There is no shame in giving up when you don’t feel like tackling certain waves. Surfing must remain fun!
Surf lessons to save time
Taking a surf lesson allows you to adopt the right moves and reflexes from the beginning. A well-designed class with a good teacher, at the right timewill accelerate your learning curve and allow you to gain autonomy faster and have more fun in the waves.
You are now ready to conquer the waves! Don’t forget that the best advice when starting out is ... just start! So, wax your board, put on sunscreen and get in the water!
Best Surf Schools:
- Surf School KSF - Montréal
- Surf Shack – Sept Îles
- Liquid Dreams Surf Shop – Wells, Maine
- Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co - Hampton Beach, NH
- Tofino Surf – BC
- Aquaholics Surf – Wells, Maine
- Surf Sisters – Tofino, BC
Best Surf Spots:
- Habitat 67 - Montreal
- Vague à Guy - Montreal
- Sept-Îles, Côte-Nord
- Tofino, BC
- Chambly, QC
- Percé, Gaspesia
- Magdalen Islands
PS – No waves to surf? No worries! The best alternative to surfing is paddleboarding! Paddleboarding is ideal for strengthening your shoulder muscles (important for paddling) and your core (to help propel you up on your board), and of course, for improving stability! Don't know how to start? Read this article to help you choose your board. 🏄