Do You Need To Know How To Swim For Surfing?

Do you need to know how to swim for surfing?

Surfing is all about catching the wave and riding it to shore, but do you really need to know how to swim to surf?

The short answer is a resounding yes, and actually having the ability to swim is a basic necessity for anyone who wants to safely engage with the ocean’s waves.

Knowing how to swim isn’t just a safety precaution — it’s actually critical for your surfing performance.

Without it, even the most experienced surfer can find themselves in a sticky situation when faced with unexpected currents or choppy waters.

While it may seem like all you need is a surfboard and a fearless attitude, the ocean is a powerful force that can quickly turn dangerous if you don’t know how to handle yourself in the water.

Why Knowing How to Swim Is Important In Surfing?

As we already mentioned, knowing how to swim is important for surfing, but don’t worry you don’t have to be a pro swimmer.

You just need to know the basics of swimming and that would be enough. I can split the importance of swimming for surfing into two elements:


The ocean is a powerful and unpredictable force, and being able to swim provides a sense of security and confidence while in the water.

This can be particularly important in emergency situations, where a surfer’s ability to swim may mean the difference between life and death.

Imagine if a surfer’s surfboard is caught in a strong current, or if they are suddenly separated from their board.

In these cases, being able to swim back to shore or paddle to a safe location around you can be a lifesaving skill.

Being able to read ocean conditions and react quickly when something unexpected happens helps keep surfers safe from potential dangers like, as mentioned, rip currents and large waves.


Being able to swim not only increases the chance of survival in the case of an emergency, but it also allows surfers to enjoy the activity to its fullest potential.

Knowing how to swim is also critical for paddling, which is a fundamental skill for surfing. If you can already swim then you won’t have as much trouble paddling out on your board — and the paddling part of surfing is incredibly vital.

In order to catch waves, surfers must be able to paddle quickly and efficiently, and knowing how to paddle correctly in swimming, would benefit a lot when paddling in surfing.

For example, consider a surfer who is able to swim a few miles in the pool but struggles to paddle for even a few minutes on their surfboard.

This lack of paddling ability will limit their wave catching potential, as they will be unable to generate the necessary speed and momentum to catch the wave.

On the other hand, a surfer who has a strong swimming background and is able to paddle effortlessly will be able to catch more waves and have a more enjoyable surfing experience.

I Don’t Swim At All But Feel Comfortable In The Water

Not knowing how to swim but feeling comfortable in the ocean is like saying you don’t know how to drive a car, but you’re comfortable sitting in the driver’s seat with your hands on the wheel.

If you’re determined to tackle surfing without the knowledge of swimming, we recommend seeking professional guidance.

Book a surf lesson and be open with your instructor about your limitations, and they will guide you through your first waves, ensuring you have the proper safety equipment and help you hit the waters correctly.

It’s important to note that just because you feel comfortable in a pool doesn’t mean you’ll have the same level of confidence in the ocean.

The variables of tides, currents, wind, and swell make the ocean a constantly changing environment, so that added sense of security could actually be hazardous in the waves.

Safety should always be a top priority, so make sure you’re fully prepared before hitting the waves.

Also, another reason why swimming is helpful, especially when learning how to surf is that it allows surfers more time in the lineup.

When you don’t have basic swimming skills, paddling out can take up most of your session, which means less time riding waves.

How Good at Swimming do I Need to be to Surf?

Surfing doesn’t require you to be a world-class swimmer, but having at least some swimming experience and basic water safety knowledge is essential.

All you need is a basic level of swimming proficiency — you should be able to confidently swim in the ocean, have a good sense of orientation when in the water, as well as an understanding of currents and tides.

It’s ok if you don’t feel confident to swim in the ocean while the waves are big, that’s why you have a surfboard, but if there are small waves and you are in control, that’s good enough.


In the end, if you want to make the most of your surfing experience and stay safe while you’re at it, it’s crucial to know how to swim.

Not only it will help you stay safe, it will also help you surf much better, and enhance your experience of surfing.

Even just basic swimming skills would be enough, no need to panic, just make sure you’re feeling good in the water and if you don’t know how to swim at all, it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance.

With a good foundation of swimming, you’ll be able to enjoy every moment in the waves. Keep shredding.