There was a time when learning to surf was a case of ‘sink or swim’.

You either overcame copping a battering to your body by whitewater and wayward boards (not to mention a severely bruised ego from repeated unsuccessful attempts to stand up) before you finally experienced the sheer thrill of riding a wave … or you gave up and took up an easier sport.

These days, it’s much easier — there are surf schools, professional coaches to give you one-on-one tutoring, and ‘soft boards’ which make for a much less painful fall.

And now there’s a new guide for anyone wanting to become a member of the surfing tribe.

What’s more, it hasn’t been compiled by some former world champ, but a woman, no less!

Learn To Surf Locality Guides has been put together by Lisa Messenger (main picture), who graduated from Southern Cross University in Lismore and first learnt to surf on a visit to her mum in Byron Bay. Lisa was aged ’30-something’ at the time.

She loved surfing so much she wanted to find out all she could to improve in the sport.

But after finding information was lacking for beginners on things like what gear to buy, how to be safe in the surf, rules and etiquette, and how to read weather and water conditions, Lisa set about pulling the resources together from the local and surfing communities to produce the Learn to Surf Locality Guides.

The book, however, does not focus solely on our local area.

Learn To Surf Locality Guides come in three different editions — one for Byron Bay, one for Bondi and one for Manly.

This ‘surfing bible’ for beginners and visitors to the region provides all the knowledge a beginner surfer and visitor to the area needs to know, not just to get you up and riding, but also information about the local surf area, the breaks and fitness tips.

The guide also fills you in on things to do in the area, local markets and annual events, and lets you know where to eat, sleep, shop and party.

Also featured are profiles on local and pro surfers.

Former world champs Barton Lynch and Layne Beachley have input into the guide, as do current women’s world champ Stephanie Gilmore and Byron Bay’s most prominent surfer of the past two decades, Danny Wills.

Danny tells how, as an 18-month-old wearing floaties, his dad put him on the nose of his malibu. By the time he was about two-and-a-half years old, ‘micro grommet’ Danny was riding his own board at The Pass.

Now nearing the end of his career on the ASP world circuit, Danny (left) might not have a world title to his name, but he has one very cherished moment: beating nine-times world champ and his hero, Kelly Slater, in a heat.

One thing I really liked about the guide was the repeated message to beginners that you must learn the basics before you tackle a crowded line-up.

This is reinforced by Danny Wills in his advice for beginners.

“Avoid the line-up until you’re ready,” says Danny.

“I’m all for people learning to surf, it’s unreal, but don’t get out there in everyone’s way until you have the gist of it and you’re doing okay.

“At The Pass there are people who get really close to surfers like myself but they have no ability and it can get really dangerous.”

Sound advice indeed!

Learn To Surf Locality Guides:

  • RRP: $14.95
  • Published by Messenger Publishing
  • Available at selected surf outlets, surf schools, book stores, newsagencies