Before studying abroad in Australia, I had never surfed before. Getting to try surfing while abroad is definitely one of my favorite memories. While it was so much fun, there is a lot to know with regard to safety. Here are a few tips to stay safe while still having fun!

TEAN Surf Lesson

Surf with a friend

Always have a buddy! Its safer to have a friend out in the water with you and it is also a lot more fun. You can cheer each other on when you catch a wave or laugh when you wipe out. The photo below was from our TEAN organized surfing lesson.

Surf Lesson

surf at patrolled beaches

The beaches in Australia are beautiful at all times of the day. However, lifeguards (surf life savers) aren’t going to be out later on. Swimming and surfing are at your own risk so make sure you are extra careful, monitor conditions, and come back in if the current is feeling too strong. Or pick a beach and time when the surf live savers are available.  You can download the Beachsafe app get get detailed info on service patrol times, and other helpful safety information.

Photo from Coolangatta taken by TEAN Alum Daisy Alexander, University of Kentucky who studied abroad in Australia.
Photo from Coolangatta taken by TEAN Alum Daisy Alexander, University of Kentucky who studied abroad in Australia.

Know your personal limits

The waves in Australia can get huge! Make sure that you’re only going in the water to surf if you think that you can handle the waves. This photo was from the Quiksilver Pro Surf Competition on the Gold Coast. It was cool to watch professional surfers go on the big waves, however I know that I would never go out in these conditions.


know what to do in a riptide

Riptides are definitely one of the dangers of surfing. If you find yourself getting caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore to get out of the riptide. It is always one’s first instinct to swim right to shore. However, you’ll grow tired if you try to fight the undertow.

Dangerous Current Bondi
Sign posted warning people of dangerous currents that day at Bondi Beach in Sydney

Listen to the Surf Life Savers

Beaches will have colored flags and signs posted to let swimmers and surfers know of the current status of the water. Sometimes it is recommended not to swim because of spotted marine life or if the current is too strong. While the turtle below might not be so dangerous, jellyfish and sharks can cause problems for surfers.

Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving

Lastly, don’t be ashamed if you don’t pick up surfing quickly… I sure didn’t. I tried surfing A LOT. It is so much fun but can be really challenging. Don’t give up! Surfing takes coordination and concentration. The more you practice the more comfortable you’ll get.

Rachel Levin is a TEAN program alum and Global Ambassador at The University of Maryland. She studied abroad with TEAN on the Gold Coast, Australia.