By Jackie Dent for CNN
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(CNN) -- Shortcut to surfing
Get a big board: For beginners, the bigger the board, the better. Yes, it can look a tad uncool prancing down the beach with barn door but you'll be standing up quicker than on a shortboard. Longboards -- known as the "Malibu" -- have rounder noses and are generally between seven and 10 feet long. While you may feel like Frankie Avalon in a beach party movie, you could eventually learn to "hang 10" your toes over the edge of the board.
How do I stand up? Rehearse on the beach. Lie on the sand with your hands next to your chest and as if moving to do a push-up, pull your knees to your chest and snap your arms out. Once you've done this 100 times, head to the sea with your waxed-up board and plenty of optimism. Being able to swim is useful, as well as having a friend on the beach to witness the fact that you really did conquer the first challenge in surfing.
Learn local etiquette: Local surfers can be as territorial as tomcats and do not take kindly to beginners. In Australia, surfers have come up with the Tribal Law of surfing to stop bouts of surf rage, which can range from expletives to fisticuffs to spray paint on cars. The most important rule is NEVER, EVER "drop in," which is basically taking over a wave when somebody is already surfing it. While throwing the board is a natural response to a terrifyingly enormous wave coming towards you, duck diving -- holding on to the board and pushing it under - is a much safer option.
Go in: No matter how miserable it looks: It's cold and raining, and the waves are messy and choppy; your lover is home in bed watching a DVD. Go surfing anyway, as you have to learn to deal with all sorts of weather conditions.
Be indifferent about sharks: Surfers have a scary ability to not care about scary sharks. They'll be surfing at an empty, remote beach and a helicopter will come by warning of them of a great white in the area. They'll retreat to the beach for ten minutes and sensing a good set on the horizon, will head straight back out. Perhaps stats are on their side: In 2005, sharks attacked 59 people but only four died. If you are still utterly terrified, avoid surfing at dusk and dawn, when sharks are said to be more likely to munch.
Watch "Big Wednesday," absorb surf culture: This coming-of age story is the coolest surfing movie ever made. Released in 1978, it charts the story of three Californian buddies surfing, partying and eventually growing up, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. There are some seriously dodgy lines and bad haircuts but the film climaxes with "Big Wednesday," the biggest swell to hit the Californian coast in years. The extraordinary cinematography inside the barrel of this legendary wave has equally inspired many a grommet -- i.e. beginner -- and swelled the breasts of old-timers lamenting that summer -- i.e. youth -- does end. Former professional surfer and folk singer Jack Johnson can also add an edge to your understanding of surf culture. "Salty substitute, just not going to do. I need some air, if I'm going to live through," he sings. Finally, surf magazines can provide an insight into the goofy adolescent humor that tends to go with the sport, as well as the latest shots from Teahupoo, Tahiti, home of the world's most terrifying wave.
Find a burger bar: Surfing is tiring and makes you hungry so finding a good local burger bar for a post-surf pie and fries is important. The burger bar can also be a place to learn that surfers are prone to complain about the swell. "It was good, but the wind got in after an hour" or "it was too crowded" are likely whinges. Just remember, the quest for the perfect wave can take a lifetime.
Step one: Get a big board
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