Los Angeles is home to some of the most iconic surf breaks and beaches in California. Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu all offer a one of a kind experience for visiting tourists. Instead of sitting on the sidelines under an umbrella, rent a board and join in the fun at a beach that is perfect for first time surfers.

Depending on wave conditions, a rocky or sandy bottom, and surf-turf wars, certain beaches in Los Angeles cater to a more cautious or beginner surfer. The first step is finding the right location for your abilities and whether or not to join a surf school.

If you’ve never surfed before, first decide if you want to join a surf school or rent a board to try it for yourself. There are dozens of surfboard rental companies but consider a private lesson to jump-start your abilities. Surf Lessons with Katie offers set packages to help with basic surf techniques, like how to paddle into a wave, how to align your body on a surfboard and how to stand up to finally catch a wave. Malibu Longboards and Surf School offers private and group lessons, as well as long board, short board and standup paddleboard rentals.

Beginners should start on a sandy bottom beach with slower waves. It will be easier to learn how to paddle, stand up on your board and get the hang part of “hanging-ten” without also having to worry about falling on rocks.

Hermosa Beach, Santa Monica and Venice Beach are three great beginner spots to master the basics. For a morning to night beach experience, stay at Loews Hotel on Santa Monica Beach for the best wake-up surf session with premium service and the perfect location.

Once you feel more comfortable with your surfboard or require a qualified lesson, head North for Topanga Point, Zuma Beach, and Malibu. These beaches and surf breaks are very crowded, both in the water and on the beach. Professional surfers and professional wannabes hit these beaches everyday, so you definitely want to surf to impress or you’ll never get a wave.

Before heading out, take a few minutes to watch how others are behaving in the waves. Following simple and standard wave rules for each location will guarantee a positive experience and help from locals.

Morning sessions in Malibu might be your best bet for less crowded waves. My favorite hotel is the Malibu Beach Inn right on Pacific Coast Highway and after a long day in the sun, I fill up on fish tacos to watch the sun set over the Pacific.

The last little advice would be to always wear sunscreen. The SoCal sun can hide behind the marine layer but you’ll still get super sunburned. While you watch the surfers on the beach, wear a light colored shirt and a hat to protect your face.

Take your time finding the right beach and surfbreak for your abilities and you’re bound to have an amazing time. Within a few short hours, you’ll have the sun kissed glow on your skin and your muscles will be aching from all that exercise.