Learning to Surf the Virtual Waves in Second Life

How to Surf in Second Life for Absolute Beginners

Not a great video, but I had fun making it!

Aloha! Being a beach lover, one of the first things I did in Second Life® was to check out some of the many beach locations. Surfing virtual waves is an activity offered at many of those beaches. I was intrigued, yet intimidated at the idea of trying it. I need not have been! Beginning surfing in SL is a piece of cake; the surf board does all the work for you. A basic beginner surfboard will not let you wipe out; no sand facials, no broken necks! Here is a brief tutorial on how to surf in Second Life.

These beginner surfboards are really simple to use. In SL the surf board actually contains all the animations and is what makes you surf. Fancy boards for more advanced surfers have lots of features and allow you to do tricks! But simple beginner boards are just the opposite, they don’t let you wipe out, and they pretty much do all the work for you. Your avatar will stand up on the board automatically when the wave hits you, and won’t wipe out even if you flip the board upside down!

Note: On a beginner board whenever you come into contact with a wave you will start surfing on it! Even if you paddle headfirst into it or it runs into you from behind.

Get Ready!
Paddling toward a wave.

Dude! Get a Suit!  First get yourself to a SL store or Marketplace and get some swimwear for your avatar. No kidding, today a guy was surfing next to me in combat boots and a Gothic overcoat! Huh? You don’t have to spend any money to look like you belong on the waves. There are lots of reasonable quality, free board shorts and bikini’s on SL Marketplace. Do a search, then have it sort low to high price. Then grab some great beach wear!  Once you're hooked you can upgrade!

Surf Rules:

There are a few simple unwritten rules for surfers.

  • First and foremost, be considerate of others, including non surfers. 
  • If someone is already riding a wave, don’t “drop in” on them, wait for the next wave. 
  • If there are lots of surfers don’t paddle straight out through the waves, where you will get in the way of others trying to surf, go around the edges of the waves. Normally when there are multiple surfers you “line up” near the start of the waves and wait for your turn. 

Let's Go Surfin' Now!

Find a Wave!  Head to someplace with beginner loaner boards and good waves.  If you search Second Life for “surfing” you will come up with lots.

After arriving at the surf spot look around for the waves on the water, the waves may take a while to rez. Yep, often they look big, don’t panic, you can ride them easily with a beginner board! 

Beginner friendly place to surf:

Solace Dreams
Nice waves, low lag, not crowded. Often friendly folks willing to help out with advice. Where the photos above where taken. Look around for the black & white SLSA loaner board, it has a better script than most beginner boards, and can duck dive.

Find a Loaner Board!  Now look around for a loaner surf board. Typically if there is one it will be a beginner board. Often they are floating by the beach, or you may need to click a sign to rez one. Be careful you don’t accidentally grab an advanced demo surfboard. A lot of beginner boards contain “SSi” in the name. Also look for a “SLSA Freebies and Information” dispenser, usually a sign you click on. This will give you a notecard by the Second Life Surfing Association with some helpful information, as well as a couple of freebie SLSA shirts.
Standing coming out of the curl

Turn off your AO!  Important: If you have an AO on your avatar, turn it off, or detach it, so it won’t conflict with the board’s animation. Also take off any jewelry or other items with scripts that might interfere or cause lag. Lag will seriously mess up your surfing experience as well as anyone else surfing nearby. 

Set Your Graphics to Something Reasonable.  A mid level graphics setting gives a reasonably decent experience but you can’t always see other surfers on the far side of a large wave, so be careful not to drop in unwelcome on someone (use your mini-map if needed to spot other surfers.) High level graphics gives more distance and perspective, if your computer can handle it. The photos and video on this page were shot at a high graphic setting.  (OK, high quality for the time it was made.  Not so much anymore!)

Everybody's Learning How...

Beginner Surf Board Commands:

Here are the typical keyboard commands for controlling a beginner surfboard. There are some minor variations between makes of surfboard, but this should get you started.
When not riding on a wave:
  • Up Arrow – makes your avatar paddle forward.
  • Down Arrow – stop paddling, on some boards you paddle backwards.
  • Right Arrow – turn right.
  • Left Arrow – turn left.
  • Page Down – duck dive (some boards) or the board just lowers slightly in the water.
  • Page Up – lifts the front of the board slightly (some boards) or does nothing.

When riding a wave:
  • Up Arrow – most beginner boards no effect.
  • Down Arrow – most beginner boards no effect.
  • Right Arrow – turn right.
  • Left Arrow – turn left.
  • Page Down – crouch (your avatar squats down on the board.)
  • Page Up – stand on board (re-stand after crouching.)

When just sitting on your board:Anytime you are not riding a wave and you not paddling, your avatar will sit up on the board.
  • Page Up – on some boards the avatar waves his or her hand (presumably to beach babes or dudes on shore.)
  • Getting Started Surfing

Surf's Up!

Sit on the Board!  Right click on the surfboard and select “ride” or “surf”. Your avatar will lay on the board. After a few seconds of inactivity, the avatar will sit up on the board. Check your camera position. For a better view move it back (try the scroll wheel on your mouse if you have one) so you can see your entire surfboard and avatar.

Start Paddling!
 OK, now that you are on the board press the arrow up key and you will start paddling, paddle along the shoreline, and practice turning right and left using the arrow keys, just like walking in Second Life.

Dive!  Dive!  Now while paddling, press the Page Down key. If the surf board has the “duck dive” feature you will go underwater. You use this to go under a wave when you don’t want to surf on it. Surfers call this a duck dive. If you don’t dive below the wave it will catch you and you will start surfing on it. Most of the beginner boards I’ve come across do not have the duck dive feature. If your board doesn’t duck dive you will have to be careful to not accidentally get caught by waves, especially if another surfer is on the wave. That is called “dropping in” and will not make friends. Fortunately you can paddle around the waves reasonably easily.  You'll catch on quickly!

Ducking into the curl.

Catch a Wave, You'll be Sitting on Top of the World!  It’s easy, just paddle in front of a wave and let it run into you. Shortly after the wave hits you, your avatar will stand up on the board and start surfing. Use the arrow keys to control your direction and carve turns. Try pressing Page Down and Page Up to crouch and stand on the board. Crouching allows you to carve the waves using sharper turns.

If there is a lot of lag it will really diminish the surfing experience. Sometimes you need to try a few different surfing locations to find one that is less “busy” or has recently rebooted and doesn’t have as much lag.

Now just practice a little. Soon you’ll have it mastered and be ready for a more advanced surfboard with more features!