Surfing Equipment for Beginners

If you’re just starting to surf or you’re interested in giving it a try, you might be wonder what sort of equipment you’ll need as a beginner surfer. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A big board with decent volume.
  • A wetsuit.
  • A leash.
  • Some wax.

Check out some of our recommendations for the best surf equipment and surf gear & accessories.

The beauty of surfing is that it’s simple at its core. The basic equipment you’ll need as a beginner surfer is the same basic equipment you’ll use as you progress and get better – surfboards, wetsuits, leashes, etc. are all just tools in your surfing toolkit to connect you to some tasty waves.

If you’ve never surfer before, but you want to get started, you don’t need any “equipment” other than a towel and a tolerance for some abuse.

When you’re surfing for the first time, look to borrow some equipment from a salty friend or rent a board and wetsuit at your local surf shop. This will allow you to get your first taste of surfing for free or at least for cheap.

If you’re ready to start buying your own stuff – i.e. you’re getting tired of wearing wetsuits that have probably seen their fair share of naked people, continue reading for some quick tips.

Getting Your First Surfboard

Your first surfboard will hold a fond place in your memory as you get better and upgrade and experiment with new boards. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be good, but it should meet a few key criteria to help you get off to the best start.

When choosing your first surfboard, you should pick something that:

  • Has a decent amount of volume – think something big, wide, floaty, and long. A soft top surfboard is not a bad idea. You can even upgrade the soft top fins.
  • Falls within the 7’6″ to 9′ range.
  • Is relatively inexpensive, as it’s going to need to stand up to some beginner mistakes and abuse as you’re finding your groove.
  • Is water tight – used boards are a good choice, but avoid anything that’s in real bad shape that’s going to take on water. If that’s all you’ve got to work with, make sure to repair the board before taking it out.

There are no hard and fast rules whether you need to get a foam/soft-top surfboard or whether you can start with a fiberglass board. However, a foam board may be safer when you’re learning – for yourself and others.

If you’re able to do so, test out a few different types of beginner boards before you buy you’re own. You’ll get a feel for what works for you in terms of paddling, float, stability, and catching waves.

Whatever board you choose, you want to make sure that it’s easy to paddle, easy to catch waves, and easy for you to stand on once you’ve caught a wave.

Most beginner boards you’re going to find are probably going to have some sort of fins that come with them. These will be fine as you’re just starting out. If the first board you get comes finless, you’re going to want to find some fins before you start surfing.

Need help? Check out our reviews of the best surfboards for beginners.

Wetsuits, Towels, Etc.

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere where the ocean temperature feels like a swimming pool year-round, you’re going to need a wetsuit.

A wetsuit is something you’re probably not going to want to buy used. Spend a little more for a wetsuit that feels comfortable and that’s going to last you a while.

Be sure to pick something thick enough for the water temperature you’ll be learning to surf in. The colder the water, the thicker the wetsuit you’ll need.

Wetsuit thickness can also come down to personal preference and how warm you like to be in the water, but remember – with more thickness comes more restriction of movement and flexibility.

Different wetsuit brands vary in terms of type of neoprene/material used, type of stitching patters and seals, entry systems, and key stash pockets. You should visit your surf shop to check out some different wetsuits and see what you like the best. Find a size that’s snug, but not so tight that it restricts your motion. Too big a wetsuit, and it won’t do what it’s supposed to.

If it’s real cold where you’re surfing, you might need some wetsuit booties, a hood, and possibly some gloves.

Whatever you choose, be sure to pick a wetsuit that:

  • Will keep you warm long enough to get a decent surf in.
  • Allows for good flexibility and movement for paddling and popping-up.
  • Is comfortable and properly sized for your body.

Other than a wetsuit, you’ll need a towel or two to dry off and change. A surf poncho for changing works too. Some sort of changing mat or changing towel that you can stand on will help keep your wetsuit free from dirt, rocks, sand, and debris.

Other Surfing Necessities

With your board and wetsuit, you’re off to a good start as a beginner surfer. You’ll need just a few more items to complete your kit.

First, you’ll need some surf wax.

Pick up a few bars of a basecoat and a topcoat that matches the water temperature you’ll be surfing it.

Lay down a basecoat followed by a topcoat on the top of your surfboard, and you’re ready to go. Don’t be afraid to wax from nose to tail – you never know where you’ll want to step. Clean off the wax and re-coat every once in a while, and add a little more topcoat wax before you go for a surf.

Next, you’ll need a leash. Find a leash that roughly the same size as your surfboard or just slightly longer.

You’ll strap the leg cuff to the ankle of your back foot. While the leash will help you keep your board, try to get into the habit of not letting it loose on purpose.

Be sure to apply some sunscreen too. UV rays are no joke. Pick a reef-friendly sunscreen that’s not going to run into your eyes and sting – thick mineral-based sunscreens tend to be good choices.

Caring for Your Equipment

With your beginner surfing toolkit complete, you’re officially ready to start getting better.

Stay calm and have fun, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Be sure to care for your equipment to keep it lasting as long as possible. Rinse off your board and wetsuit with fresh water after each surf. Hang your wetsuit by folding it at its waist rather than by its shoulders on a hanger. Inspect your board for dings and damage – repair if necessary. Keep your equipment out of direct sunlight for any extended period of time.

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