It's one of the most frequently asked questions we get from people who have either never surfed before or those who've done a few weeks of surf lessons - how long does it take to learn to surf?

The answer, of course, isn't exactly straightforward.

It depends on many variables such as whether you've got a boardsports background, how often you practice and even the gear you learn on. Not to mention the fact that different people learn at different speeds, so that's worth considering too.

Oh... and let's not forget either that unlike learning how to kick a soccer ball, the learning curve for surfing is really dependent on Mother Nature (and she doesn't always cooperate).

Fortunately, after hosting hundreds of eager beginner surfers and travelling around the world, we've got a good handle on this question. Below is our answer to everyone who has ever asked, "How long does it take to learn to surf".


Our definition of "learning to surf"

A group of guests and friends that Never Surfed Before, learning how to surf in Praia da Arrifana, Algarve.

Before we tell you how long it takes to learn to surf, we must first define what we mean by "learning to surf".

There are different levels of surf skill, starting from a beginner level ranging right up to a professional standard.

When we talk about learning to surf here, we're talking about standing up on a surfboard for the first time and eventually going across a green (unbroken) wave, which puts you in either our 0.0 Never Surfed Before, 1.1 Beginner Surfer or 1.2 Advanced Beginner categories.

If you're unsure as to what your surf skill level currently is, please check out our guide here.

6 factors that influence how long it takes to learn surfing

As with learning anything, there are certain factors that influence how we answer the question, “How long does it take to learn to surf?”. These are as follows.

1. Fitness

Generally speaking, fitter people will be able to learn to surf quicker than those who are not as physically fit.

This is because surfing requires a lot of upper body strength and endurance. However, the right board and good instructors (plus some yoga) can compensate for a lack of fitness, which means you can still learn how to surf relatively quickly with the right guidance.

2. Prior experience

If you've wakeboarded, skateboarded or snowboarded before, you'll likely learn to surf relatively quickly. This is because you already have the basic balance and coordination required to surf plus the added benefit of knowing how to handle a board.

3. Wave quality

Do you live near a beach with really good waves or are you forced to wait weeks (or even months) for even the smallest pulse of swell? This will obviously have an impact on how long it takes you to learn to surf since more consistent surf spots allow you to surf more and hone your skills faster.

4. Equipment

One of the most underestimated factors when determining how long it takes to learn how to surf is equipment. A board that's too small for you will be much harder to surf than one that's the right size. The same goes for a wetsuit that's too big or too small. Make sure you have the right gear and it'll make your learning curve a lot less steep.

5. Opportunity

If you study long hours, have a demanding job or simply live in a landlocked country, you may only be able to surf a handful of times a year. This obviously won't allow you to progress as quickly as someone who can surf every day.

6. Commitment

Last but not least we have commitment. How hard are you willing to push yourself to learn to surf? For those of you who really want it, nothing will stand in your way. You'll find the time and opportunity to surf as often as you can. And when you do, you'll quickly see results.

Valentina, progressing her Advanced Beginner surf skills in the Algarve.

The time it takes to learn surfing

So how long does it take to learn to surf?

Based on our opinion, an individual in the Never Surfed Before category can expect to learn the basics (paddling for a wave, popping up and going straight) in just 1-2 surf lessons. It's possible you'll then reach the Advanced Beginner level we spoke about earlier after at least one week of surf lessons.

In saying that, we recommend our surf lessons in Portugal on our Algarve surf trip if you're keen to accelerate your learn to surf journey.

With five days of surf lessons in the Algarve plus quality surf equipment and transport to beginner-friendly surf spots in the area, you can master the fundamentals in what’s often called the best place to learn to surf in Europe.

Book a learn to surf trip in the Algarve now