ANSWER: THE WHITEWATER AWAY FROM OTHER SURFERS. Head off down the beach away from any surfers. What you need when you start is whitewater, the wave after it has already crested and broken, and is rolling in long even white lines toward the beach.

WHY THE WHITEWATER: Everybody, to a man (or woman) starts in the whitewater. Anyone you’ve seen riding hundred foot waves on TV, each and every one of those guys started in the whitewater.  It’s just the way it is. (Anyone who paddles out for the first time and starts whizzing around the waves like someone who’s surfed for 10 years, is from another planet, and should be sent to Area 51 where the Roswell Aliens are stored to be studied by scientists under top secret conditions.)

WHY AWAY FROM OTHER SURFERS: It’s a safety issue. You’re going to find that moving the board around the way you want is tough at first, and until you can paddle and move the board around quickly to where you want to go, it’s best to stay out of crowds of surfers. A good part of surfing is just being strong and agile and being able to move the board around in the water quickly and with some degree of control.

This guy has learned how to surf!
Even this tiny little guy in the lower right of the photo started surfing in the whitewater.

THE GOOD NEWS: The whitewater down the beach from the crowds of surfers is always uncrowded, and it’s like going back in time to before the 1960’s in California when there were few surfers. Once you’re out riding whitewater, you may as well be one of the pioneers of California surfing, since the waves are the same as they were back then, it’s just the crud (hordes of surfers) that floats around on top of the water that has changed.

Learning how to surf.
This kid is riding a ten foot softboard in the whitewater away from other surfers. (The guy in the background is a surf instructor who is pushing the kid into the wave.)