619 How to Surf

Mitchell, from Hawaii, gives Joel advice on how to learn to surf.

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Joel: So, Mitchell, I only surfed for about a year and I never got very good at it. I wonder if you could explain how a beginner goes about learning how to surf.

Mitchell: Well, that's a tough question because I was surfing ever since I was small so it came natural to me, surfing, but since I know I surf. The beginning is put your board in the sand, lay on your board on the sand, pretend that you are paddling and then push yourself up like a push-up and then stand. You repeat that over-and-over again and eventually you enter the water and you get a friend to hold the board for you and then you stand up in the water while your friend pushed the board to gain balance.

Interactive Audio Quiz
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Joel: The part I had the hardest time with was when there were big waves, it was so hard to get out far enough so that you could actually catch a wave. What do you call it, "duck diving"?

Mitchell: Duck diving, yeah, it's key to surfing. If you see a wave, the thing is that you have to see the wave before it comes. That's the secret, like where's it crashing and when it's crashing. We call it "crashing" when it's coming down. Duck diving, you put your knees on the board if it's a big wave...

Joel: Oh, you get on your knees.

Mitchell: You get on your hands and knees and you push the nose of the board down

Joel: OK, push the front part down.

Mitchell: Yeah, and at the same time, after you push it down, you also kick your hips, and push with your hips, like how you dive in water, like a dolphin.

Joel: OK, and then when the wave crashes over you, do you lay down on the board.

Mitchell: You get back up. You pull your nose back up.

Joel: OK, you pull the front and back, back up, and that helps you to back under the wave. And what about when you're...

Mitchell: But the key is, you don't want to duck dive when the wave is crashing on you because you are already screwed.

Joel: OK, you have to duck before the wave.

Mitchell: Before the wave or when it's crashing on you, like we call it white water. A lot of times you duck dive in white water. White water is when the wave crashes. The water looks like it's all white like white cotton candy, so you duck dive underneath that.

Joel: And when you're catching a wave, how do you know when to stand up?

Mitchell: Like when the wave, when you see the wave coming you start paddling to get with the wave and before the wave even starts curling, you're already getting ready to stand up. It the wave is already curling, and your standing up, it's too late.

Joel: It's too late. OK. So you have to stand up...

Mitchell: Before it starts curling.

Joel: I see. I see.

Mitchell: And going the direction where it's crashing.

Joel: Well, I'm going to have to go surfing with you sometime so I can have a private lesson.

Learn Vocabulary from the Lesson

that's a tough question

That's a tough question to answer, because I can't explain how I learned how to surf.

Something is a 'tough question' when the answer isn't easy. Notice the following:

  1. Which parent will I stay with after the divorce? That's a tough question.
  2. What's my favorite food? That's a tough question. I love everything.

come natural

I was surfing ever since I was small, so it came natural to me.

When something 'comes natural' to you, it means that you learn it easily and quickly. Notice the following:

  1. Swimming comes natural for me, but running is very difficult.
  2. Learning a language comes natural for some. For me it is hard.


Just lay on your board and pretend that you are paddling.

To 'paddle' you put a long piece of wood with a flat side, or your hand, in the water and push away from the direction that you want to go.  Notice the following:

  1. I can spend hours just paddling around in the pool.
  2. My shoulders are really tired from paddling all day.

get out far enough

It's hard to get out far enough when there are big waves.

To 'get out far enough' means to get to a reasonable distance that is safe. Notice the following:

  1. If you don't get out far enough, you will hit the sand when the wave drops.
  2. There is a strong current under the water that makes it difficult to get out far enough.


Before the wave starts curling, get ready to stand up on your board.

A wave 'curls' when it gets to its highest point and then folds over. Notice the following:

  1. The waves aren't tall enough when they are curling today.
  2. If the wave doesn't curl the right way, you can't ride it.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
tough • natural • paddle
far enough • curling
  1. Dancing does not come for me at all.
  2. The interviewer asked him a lot of questions that he really didn't want to answer.
  3. I don't know if we are out for the water to be deep here.
  4. It's so peaceful to watch the waves over.
  5. We had to the boat in after it ran out of gas.