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Learn to Surf With Arran Strong

Dream of hopping on a board? Get tips from a pro surfer – and an advocate for people who have the rare disease Alpha 1.


Summer is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, but surfer Arran Strong continues to ride the waves in Portugal.

He says you can do it, too – provided you get training from a pro, use the proper equipment and follow the rules for staying safe while trying out this thrill-seeker’s sport.

We asked Strong to offer some advice for first-time surfers. Watch the video above to learn the basics, which he recommends you practice before you get in the water.

Prior to the global pandemic, Strong had been traveling the world to compete, but COVID-19 canceled all world-qualifying events, he said. Instead, he’s in Portugal where he’s competing in his home country while working with a surfing coach.

Born with the rare disease Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, Strong combines his surfing career with a message of hope and solidarity with those who have respiratory illnesses. People who have the genetic disease Alpha 1 lack an important blood protein that protects the lungs from inflammation and infection. Here’s what Strong, 22, had to say about his sport and his rare disease advocacy.

How are surfing and your advocacy work connected?

When in the water, I feel connected to something very special  – in this case nature and the ocean. Surfing for me is a reflection of who you are and how you express yourself. It has made me who I am and I have had amazing experiences, which have made me more aware of my role as an ambassador and the importance of encouraging physical activity. I want to inspire others to be the best version of themselves and follow a healthy lifestyle.

What should beginners know about staying safe when you are learning to surf?

As a professional surfer, I recommend that you are honest with yourself about what level you are actually at (beginner, intermediate, advanced), as the ocean is not a controlled environment. It’s essential to either have experience or be accompanied by an instructor that has knowledge of the safety procedures and understands the risks while in the water. 

How is surfing going for you this summer?

As a Portuguese resident, I have been able to compete nationally in Portugal at a very high level of surfing and I’m gaining experience for the future events in 2021. This year, I have connected with a surf coach who is helping me develop as a professional surfer in and out the water, working on some more technical aspects of my performance and applying it to surf competition.

If you’re looking for more surfing inspiration, the sport will be part of the postponed Tokyo Olympics now set to begin in July 2021. The world’s best surfers will compete at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach.