Thursday, July 18, 2024

Want to learn to surf like a pro? Come to Puerto Escondido

Want to learn how to surf but have no idea where to begin? Maybe you’ve seen photos and videos of people catching monster waves on Mexican beaches in Los Cabos and questioned how they do it so effortlessly. That was me before I arrived in Puerto Escondido for my first lesson.

I can’t say I’m ready for the big waves at places like Zicatela Beach after one week of surf school. But there are enough beaches in this part of Oaxaca that perfect for beginners looking to learn how to surf for the very first time. 

The beaches of Puerto Escondido are the perfect place for beginners to get to grips with an incredible sport.

In my experience, you’ll also have a great time while developing your new skills and confidence in this sport. That’s what counts the most at the end of the day, right? 

Surfing isn’t easy. From basic techniques and safety rules to reading waves, and knowing which beaches to practice on, it can be overwhelming at first. But considering Puerto Escondido’s history, there’s no better place to learn in Mexico. 

Where to take classes & potential costs

Puerto Escondido has been a popular surf town for decades, and that means there are endless surf schools and instructors to choose from when shopping for lessons. 

There was a moment during my third class when I saw a young father and his newborn son going far out into the water of Playa Carrizalillo. Noticing how surprised I looked, my surf coach smiled and told me matter-of-factly: “In Puerto Escondido, you learn to surf before you can walk.” 

Chingón Surf School is great with beginner surfers.

The company that helped me go from beginner to surfing small to medium-sized waves within five days was Chingon Surf Lessons. But if you walk along the path towards La Punta Beach, you’ll find a plethora of options that may be right for you.

Expect to pay anywhere between $800-900 pesos per lesson. Typically, they last about two hours, which includes the use of a surfboard and a certified instructor assigned to be your guide for the morning or afternoon.  

How long does it take to learn the art of surfing?

From the way you position yourself on the board to knowing when to dive under the water to avoid getting injured by the rough waves you’ll find in Puerto Escondido, there’s a lot to understand. 

Granted, the technical aspects of surfing and basic safety rules are things your coaches will go over with you before getting into the ocean. But there’s a difference between knowing in theory and real-world practice.

If your footwork isn’t fundamentally sound on the board, you’re going to fall off when trying to catch a wave. If you don’t position your hands in a push-up position or get up on the board too late or too early, you’ll also dive straight into the water. There are also unexpected things you need to know once you’re practicing this sport. 

Preserving your energy between waves is a big one. 

Swimming against the current for two hours or for however long your session is can be exhausting. Battling aggressive waves coming your way as you swim, shredding water, and handling your board, can result in increasing physical and mental fatigue. 

I learned the hard way in my second lesson, in particular, when the waves at La Punta Beach weren’t giving me a break. Let’s just say, I took plenty of falls and hits that day. 

Nothing is more satisfying than a successful day of surfing, especially when you’re still learning the ropes.

But once I took my time to swim back into the surf lineup, as well as resting on my board when the tide was calm, I found myself paddling less and having the strength to handle more waves and grow my confidence.  

All-in-all, a week of consistent lessons is enough to learn the art of surfing. It’ll take more time to become a seasoned pro if those are your goals, but you’ll at least have a good foundation and be able to go out on small to medium-sized waves. 

Beginner-friendly beaches to practice your new sport 

Puerto Escondido is best known for its powerful waves at Playa Zicatela, but if you’ve done a week of intensive surf lessons like I have and feel confident to practice on your own, there are two solid options: La Punta Beach and Playa Carazalillo. 

Even though it’s hard to predict how the waves will be on any given day, these beaches are welcoming to all levels. You see plenty of surf students like myself and their coaches there almost daily, which is reassuring. 

Playa Carizalillo is a great place to get to grips with the waves in a relatively calm bay.

If I had to pick one, however, I’d say Playa Carazalillo is the most beginner-friendly beach to surf in Puerto Escondido. It’s also a beautiful place to hang out after your surf session is done. 

There is a good balance of small to medium-sized waves that come your way here, and it’s easy to avoid falling on rocks since the water is so clear. 

La Punta Beach is another good choice. The only difference is there are slightly more people in the surf lineup and sometimes big waves that appear out of nowhere. But if you’re aware of this beforehand, you’ll be more than okay. 

Ready to start your surfing journey? 

If anyone tells you surfing is easy, they’re lying — even if that person happens to be Laird Hamilton. But if you learn the technical aspects of the sport and practice enough, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy days out on the waves sometime in the future. 

My surf coach once told me there’s not much to do in Puerto Escondido other than to go surfing in the morning and relax in the evening. Even though I slightly disagree — it’s a popular checkpoint for young backpackers and spiritual types who have no interest in surfing —  there is some truth to the coach’s words. Having spent over a week in this Oaxacan paradise, there’s no activity I’d recommend more. 

Ian Ostroff is an indie author, journalist, and copywriter from Montreal, Canada. You can find his work in various outlets, including Map Happy and The Suburban. When he’s not writing, you can find Ian at the gym, a café, or anywhere within Mexico visiting family and friends. 

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