The Top 12 Kook Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

I’ll never forget the time my board squirreled out from under me on my first wave of the session. I realized I was surfing with the leash still wrapped around the fins. Or how about the time I left my board face up in the sun. When I went for my second session there was no wax left. Or just last week when I was putting wax on my board while it was on a hard surface, another surfer informed me I could easily break a fin box that way. We are constantly learning!


Feeling like you are doing something wrong but not having any idea what it might be is never a fun feeling. The bottom line is that nobody cares if you look like a “kook” (novice surfer) or not, and neither should you. The most important thing is that you and your equipment are safe and you are having fun!


It really doesn’t matter if you give yourself away as a beginner, but there are a few advantages to avoiding these mistakes. The tips are not only for your safety, but also to help you catch more waves.


Here are the 12 common mistakes and how to avoid them.


#1 Strapping your board to the car with the fins down, or in the back

Surfboard strapped to a car
#finsfirst – Strap your board to the car with the fins in the front facing up


Remember: Fins first! If you are transporting your board on top of your car, do it safely.  Put the fins at the front end of the vehicle, facing up. That way if the board comes loose, hopefully the fins will catch it. Also, if you are transporting the board without a case, be sure the wax is facing down so the sun doesn’t melt it away. Investing in some good soft surf straps for your car with padding will be helpful to avoid pressure dings where the strap meets the rail of your board. 

Here’s a few we’d recommend:

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#2 Carrying a surfboard with the fins forward and out

When walking with your board the nose should point forward with the wax away from the sun. If possible the fins should point toward your body so you will be less likely to catch them on something. 


#3 Putting the fins in backwards

If you’ve ever seen someone put their fins in backwards then you know how embarrassing this rooky mistake can be. The entire beach will laugh. But don’t worry, we’ve all been there! (Well maybe not all of us, but I’ll admit I’ve done it once…okay, maybe twice!). The cut away part of the fin faces the back.


#4 Getting sunburnt

girl with sunscreen
Always wear sunscreen


Wear sun protection. There is nothing kookier looking than being bright red after yesterday’s session. If you haven’t been in the sun for a while and you are not using a wetsuit, be sure to use a shirt or rash guard and plenty of reef friendly sunscreen. With or without a wetsuit, mineral (not chemical) facial sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days. The sunscreen you wear on your face should be made specifically for surfing and ocean activities. If you’ve never bought sunscreen for surfing before here is a comprehensive guide. This will save you from a lot of trial and error that we went through to find brands that not only work well but also are gentle on the scin and don’t harm the ocean.

Here’s a few we recommend specifically for surfing:

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#5 Walking a long distance with the leash attached

It seems like a pain in the butt but after you’ve tripped on your leash a few time you will see the value of setting your board down just before you enter the water and attaching your leash.

Surfboard leash
Put your leash on near the shore


#6 Sitting your board down in a bad spot

When you do place your board down on the beach, be sure you look at the sand around it. If it looks freshly wet then sitting your board down there while you put your leash on or zip your wetsuit, could mean a dinged board or a bruised shin if a big set comes through. Never lay the board with the wax up in the sun. Try to avoid the sun altogether because it will yellow the board. Also, never let your wax get in the sand or dirt.


A surfboard rest on palm fronds
Keep your board out of the sun and dirt


#7 Letting your leash drag on the ground.

If you use a shortboard you can either coil the leash up in your hand, or secure it around the fins. This is to prevent sand from getting in the velcro and tripping. If you use a longboard, wind the leash around the tail. Longboards have long leashes. It’s hard enough to lug that huge board around, do yourself a favor and wind the leash around the tail when you exit the water to aid you in your walk back.


#8 Paddling with the legs open

There are a few reasons to keep your legs closed when lying prone on the board. First, it reduces drag when your legs are not in the water. Second, when you squeeze everything toward the centerline of your body it helps you engage your core and you will have more control over how far you can lift your chest comfortably.


#9 Not having enough wax or having really old wax on your board

Wax should be somewhat fresh (white, not a dull shade of grey) and plentiful. There should be no bare spots on your board, unless you are an expert and purposely don’t wax a middle section because you never step there. In general, you should put a little wax on your board before every session and entirely change your wax seasonally.


#10 Getting in the way or losing control of your board 

Paddle perpendicular to the incoming waves without changing directions or moving your board at an angle. Most of the better surfers in the line up will have no problem getting around a surfer if he/she does this. Never let go of your board. I once broke a friend’s rib by letting go of my longboard. He was paddling up behind me when a set got us both. Not a mistake I felt good about!


#11 Not understanding the rip currents

Of course it’s dangerous not to understand how the rips work at your surf spots, but in addition it can prevent you from getting waves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up from daydreaming in the line up to see the entire pack is now 50 meters away. Imagine how kooky I must have looked sitting there letting the rip take me out to sea.


Surfer girl
Getting caught in a rip can drag you hundreds of meters out of position in seconds


#12 Wearing a bikini that doesn’t stay in place. 

Just because it was made by a surf brand, doesn’t make it a good bathing suit to surf in. Investing in some surf-worthy bikinis is a must. Lucky we’ve tried just about everything on the market and not only have we reviewed them, we have discounts code for you! For your next bikini purchase check out our comprehensive review.

Check our discount code page for all the bikini, sunscreen discounts :-)


Often there is a certain style of dress that most surfers resonate with. The best style for you is your own. But if you are like me, you might like all the help you can get with your style. Here is how to look the part of a surfer girl even when you are away from the beach. Check out our handy guide to surfer girl style here.


Avoid these 12 kooky mistakes, not to look cool, but to have the most fun and safest session possible.


I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


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