You may think that surfing is a simple activity that only requires the ocean, a surfboard and the surfer. Well, that’s not quite accurate. While you may only need a few things to get you off the ground as a surfer, there’s quite a bit that you’ll need in the long run. In the beginning, it can seem overwhelming, all the different things you may need plus just the activity of surfing itself but once you begin to learn the ropes, surfing can be one of the best activities that ever came your way. It’s an activity that not only provides you with a healthy level of exercise but also takes you deep within yourself, connecting to nature, and can be both refreshing and rejuvenating as well.
Before heading out to the shore and into the waves, you have to have a few basic understandings or you may not enjoy the sport of surfing as much.
To get you started, there are a few pieces of equipment that you’ll need and a few first steps to learn. You’ll need to take along with you, a good deal of equipment to facilitate quick learning. Below are some of those. At our Costa Rica surf camp, we provide much of what you’ll need, just check in with us and we’ll let you know what to bring!
Surf gear to get you started
Obviously, a surfboard is an essential component that you must arm yourself with when you go to the sea to learn to surf. There exists a plethora of surfboards, each of which is designed to a different standard of surfing style and the surfer in mind. You have to make sure you have just the right surfboard for the conditions you will be using it as well as the experience level you are in. Beginners may want to start out with a longer, soft type board. More experienced surfers will find the shorter boards suit their needs better.
These factors are paramount and should you get them wrong, you run the risk of impeding your progress and your surfing aspirations! Plus, it’s way more fun when you choose the right board for you and the environment where you’ll be surfing.
As a rule of thumb when you’re beginning to surf waves, be friends with foam style boards. The larger your surfboard, the faster you’re able to paddle it and even catch more waves. This, in turn, translates into better and more fun when learning to surf and so you’ll quickly improve your skills.
The most ideal beginner board is called a mini mal (short for Malibu). It is usually seven to nine feet in length. Any dimensions longer or shorter than this one will is not ideal for you as a learner. Longboards, otherwise known as malls are another group characterized by longer dimensions of more than nine feet. This type of surfboard, compared to its mini mal counterpart, is relatively difficult to maneuver because of their size. They are, thus, suited for gentle and small waves. However, this is not to say there aren’t highly skilled surfers who don’t use them. In fact, some of the most skilled surfers prefer this type of surfboard to its mini mal counterpart. There is another board known as the shortboard. Unlike the mini mal and longboards, they have a far tighter turning arc and a pointed nose. Worth mentioning is that this board is not considerably stable and is, therefore, not suitable for beginners. A short board measures below seven feet.
Just as the sizes and the level of expertise each is meant for, surfboards’ method of construction vary substantially. Most of the beginner surfboards which have a tendency of being used as projectiles have foam as their material. This combination is much safer than the typical hard outer layer boards made of fiberglass for more experienced surfers.
Essential surfboard hardware
A surfboard without fins on the bottom side usually has no capability on the wave face and will often slide uncontrollably. Most fins are usually detachable from the surfboard. The number of fins on each surfboard varies from one board to another. Some have only one fin while others have four but a majority have three.
There a couple of other things you must do to your surfboard before it’s fully ready for surfing. There’s a special surf wax that you should regularly apply to the upper side of your surfboard for traction. This is normally done in combination with a grip pad placed under the tail. Necessary as well, is a leash, sometimes called a leg-rope, which should be strapped to your ankle and the other end attached to the board. The reason for this is not only for your convenience (when you fall, the board won’t drift off too far as it’s attached to you) but also for your general safety as you ride the waves.
In addition to the basics we’ve talked about above, there is a myriad of other accessories available for surfboarding. A few to note: the wax comb, the fin key, and the board bag. You may also want to invest in additional items, including safety gear like ear plugs and helmets to protect your body from the elements you may encounter while surfing.
Equipment for cooler versus summer temperature
Whether you’re riding small or the huge waves in cold and warm conditions, appropriate dressing is vital. Accidents can happen, and you’ll need to stay safe till you’re rescued. Surfing in winter and summer may not record a significant variation considering the type of equipment involved, but all in all the temperatures during these times dictate what you have to carry with you to the ocean.
If you live in areas where the water is cold (or plan to visit a location and surf in cold water), you’ll want to consider putting on a wetsuit that will distance you from the cold water. Have more than one to accommodate for changes in the temperatures of the water you’ll be surfing across different seasons. For example, if you’re a UK resident, the water temperatures can be a debilitating thirteen degrees centigrade, or less during the winter, then it’s prudent to get yourself other gear including a wetsuit hood and wetsuit gloves. These are a necessity for even the hardiest of surfers.
Wetsuits can be of different thickness and lengths. Long arms and legs characterize full suits, better known as steamers. They range in thickness from about 2 mm up to 7mm or there about. Spring suits, conversely, have short arms and legs or one or the other. As well, there are board shorts and bikinis for use when the temperatures are significantly warmer, such as in our tropically warm waters in Costa Rica. They vary not only in their suitability for surfing but also in their cut. You can wear them in combination with a wetsuit top, a rash vest, a t-shirt, or just loads of protective sunscreen.
This garment does not keep water out but works by trapping a thin layer of water right next to your skin where it’s going to be warmed by the heat which your body produces. Neoprene, the material with which the garment is made, reduces evaporative cooling. That means you’ll remain comfortable once you’re out of the water. The suits are available in different thicknesses of neoprene and your choice of thickness, again, depends on several factors as mentioned above.
Dry suits are especially handy when you’re out surfing in cold water. These suits are made of nylon and a waterproof polyurethane coating or breathable Gore-Tex laminate. They have latex gaskets at the ankles, wrists, and the neck. It may also have a special role-up closure which is meant to keep off water from entering and getting into contact with your body. That means, if you have an unexpected sudden swim, you will always remain dry. Since these suits do not provide insulation, there is a need to pair them with special designed fleece liners for warmth.
Challenging yet is when you are required to choose an appropriate clothing when the water is cold, but the weather is hot. This is often common in the northern climates during summer. So you will have to have the prudence to weigh between your desires for surfing comfort against the risk of accidentally getting immersed into cold water. A Gore-Tex suit might be your best bet. It will allow body heat to get away as you surf, otherwise you’ll end up perspiring a lot more than you’d like!
In cooler conditions, bringing along a pair of gloves is an important factor. Ensure the gloves are water resistant and durable or they will not serve their purpose for what you need them for. You can as well opt for hand protectors called ‘pogies’. The neoprene and nylon covers provide some warmth for your hands as you surf and is important for surfing in cold water.
There are many insulating liners and layers made intentionally for water sports. There are tops and bottoms which fit perfectly under wet and dry suits and can also be worn comfortably alone. The fabric is breathable and quick drying which is characterized by an outer surface that is abrasion resistant and offers a soft velour interior for warmth.
As a beginner, you will often find it challenging and maybe a little overwhelming when first learning to surf. However, after just a few sessions at our surf camp in Costa Rica and you’ll be feeling comfortable and ready to go on your own in no time!