Surf some inside sets.. Get a feel of the waves crashing into your face. Get the feel of getting up on the board and cruizing and position. Go on a smaller day or just surf the inside. My first day out when I was little was on a short board in some pretty big waves 3-6ft maybe. when I was younger. I didnt know how to duck dive, I just ditched the board and went under. Nothing happened to me but i was stoked to get outa there! And ****ting my pants on the paddle in cuz i didnt know how to ride waves!!! Just gotta become nature to it. TIME!!! thats it!!!
yeah like he said its just water and sand nothin to be scared of. just make sure you watch it for a bit to get a feel for when the sets come and the intensity and direction of the current so you can time your paddle out. and make sure you choose the right place to paddle out too as structures like groynes jetties piers and pipes can help you get out but can also be extremely dangerous.
since youre starting out you should watch others surfers as they duck dive and paddle out before you go out so you can get an idea of how oceans behavior is that particular day.
if youre scared of steep waves, just become a stronger paddler since the faster you paddle into a wave the better your chance is of making a steep drop. when you wipe out just relax, protect your head and avoid other surfers and grab your board as soon as you can after the wave lets you go.
finally, the thing that always pushes me to overcome my fears is paddling out with friends. there was a time on a trip where it was 6-8 foot breaking on a reef that looked 2 feet deep and no one else was out. i never would have paddled out alone but i couldnt be the only one in my group of friends to wimp and we all scored nice waves the worst that happened was one dude stepped on a sea urchin.
I have been surfing for 35 + years and still get scared. Head high plus surf is when I get it the most. When I was younger even though I didn't surf as well I was rarely scared and would paddle out in anything. Water or not falling 8 feet from a pitching lip can hurt if you fall wrong. Sometimes I am the only one on the beach being honest about the fact that I'm freaked about paddling out on certain days. I know some of the guys I'm standing next to are uncomfortable but they never admit it. It makes me feel better to admit it and still go then to talk big. Just take your time, fear comes and goes and is a good thing as long as you don't let it get you into trouble, like not fully commiting on a steep big wave. It's better to eat it on the beach side of the face then to hesitate and get caught in the lip and get yourself pitched.
When I was fighting, the absolute worst part was when my trainer was putting the salve & the grease on the cut points on my face in the corner before round 1.
D AMN H ELL, I absolutely hated that moment. I just wanted to charge across the ring & get it on, get it going! Until I got hit, my mind was always an insane & chaotic swirl of emotions. Once it was on, though, all the fear & the chaos went away & it was .... better. So much better. Win or lose, didn't matter because I was out there in it. Odd, too, even when I got hit hard, I never really felt it. It's more like an impact. Hard to put into words, I guess.
Like the guy from Jersey commented in this thread, I too fear the paddle out on big days. I just hate getting caught & smashed under or backwards, so on the paddle out, yeh, I have fear. Having said that, once I get pummeled then the fear goes away. Until, of course, I'm waiting on a set & a beast sneaker set looms up & everyone's paddling like mad to try not to get blasted. That's not a good moment, either.
On bigger days, I always always always surf tight with at least one buddy. The ocean doesn't care about you. Friends do.
BTW, remember this: you should always be able to swim to safety from the spot that you're surfing. I.e., if it's 8 feet & you're 1/4 mile out, if you can't literally leave your board & swim in ... ? Then you shouldn't be out there.
That little parameter may save your life someday.
I agree with what a couple others have commented: just stay with the small stuff for awhile, stay with friends or the crowd (yes, if you need help, other surfers WILL get to you & help you if you holler, even if we all seem cavalier on this board).
i dont know about getting scared at 6 feet. Id say i start to get nervous around 8 feet. And am in over my head 10 feet and up. I think the biggest wave I've ever caught was probably like 6 feet. I cant wait to reallly get bombed :P
I definetly agree it's the paddle. Once you get past the breaking point, you can take a rest and check out the line up, see how the waves are breaking around you, and basically just get oriented. Once you mastered your take off, then move into bigger waves. It seems as though the only kind of big waves here are steep beach break, so you'll definetly want to have your take off under your belt. Even if you fall, it's not like being held under at Jaws. You just get washed around under water for about 5 seconds max. I luckily have never had a wipeout where I have been continually pulled under and beaten. Then again, I don't go out in tripple overhead blizzard conditions.