Surf Equipment for Beginners
6 min read
So you’re hooked on Surfing? You need some gear and you’re really not sure what to buy? Read on...
This is an honest and realistic view of how to go about it - and let’s be honest, it’s not exactly straight forward when you’re just starting out. You’ll need 3 basic items:
- Surf Leash
- Optional: Extra’s depending on you circumstances
Before we go into all the confusing bits like which surfboard you should buy and all the contradicting advice you might be getting from various people, here’s a (short) story about how I got my first surfboard…
How I Chose My First Surfboard (the wrong way)
I got into surfing about 8 years ago. After being persuaded (why I needed to be persuaded I don’t know) by a group of friends who raved about it and had just started learning themselves, I decided that I’d give it a go since I loved everything else outdoorsy like Mountain Biking, Running and Paragliding.
On my first day, I booked a surf lesson at Rest Bay, Porthcawl in South Wales. I may be biased, but Porthcawl Surf School is a fantastic place to learn. The owner, Hugh, got me standing within an hour and after such a good time I went back, hired a wetsuit and surfboard again, and again, and again. 3 months later I caught my first green wave (without being pushed) - the best feeling ever!
"Embarrassingly, I hired the equipment every week for a year."
Now I was hooked, but at what point do you decide to buy surf equipment? Embarrassingly, I hired the equipment every week for a year. Why? Because I kept receiving contradicting advice from people, online reviews and literally couldn’t decide - It was confusing.
After about 40 weeks, I’d spent about £800 hiring. Not economical! If I knew what I know now, I’d have been a lot smarter about it and invested wisely. Eventually, I’d surfed every surfboard available to hire you could imagine, to the point where I knew exactly what I needed to buy (for my level of fitness, capabilities and body weight). Not a bad thing, but pockets somewhat lighter.
So here’s how to find the right equipment and the absolute minimum you need to carry on your addiction to surfing, without the hiring
How to choose your first Surfboard (let’s get the confusing bit out the way)
I’m no surfboard expert so I’ll pass on giving technical specs advice (i’ll leave that to google), but what I can do is share how I believe the best way to go about it is:
Hire until you can confidently catch a green wave
Make sure you catch a green wave on a beginners foam board by yourself (not being pushed by someone).
Go on a Surf Holiday
If you can, go on a surf holiday abroad (7-11 days should do it) where it’s good weather, warm and has consistent waves. This will give you the opportunity to get much better in a short period and also try different surfboards. Your fitness levels will also improve rapidly than going on intermittent weekend trips.
Try every Surfboard you can
Spend some time trying different types of surfboards (and take it to the extreme). Surf super small ones, pop-up on longboards, paddle a short thick surfboard and everything in-between. Tune in to how you feel on each board and take notes of brand and size. You can usually hire non foam boards and you may be able to try other peoples boards if you ask nicely.
A Surfboard for Small Waves
Buy a surfboard which you know you will DEFINITELY be able to catch waves on even on small wave days. I can’t stress this enough. Almost all surfers I have met buy surfboards that are way too advanced for their ability and end up catching nothing. Where’s the fun of that? Don’t be that person that has all the gear and no idea just to have that cool shortboard - you will regret it. At the end of the day, you can keep your larger surfboard for small days and take it out if you want a fun session. You’ll also find your fitness will vary greatly as life gets in the way so always have that fallback board you can rely on.
Buy a second hand surfboard
You can pick one up for around £100-£150. Ebay is usually a good place, or there are some really good second hand surfboard facebook groups purely to buy and sell. You’ll pay much less. Be wary of damage though so make sure you do your research - no one wants a cracked surfboard that’s been repaired unprofessionally and has water in it.
Find one you fall in love with
Beggars can’t be choosers, but if you can, getting hold of a surfboard that you love the look of and is right for you will be one you keep for a very long time. That is value.
How to Choose a Wetsuit
Finding a wetsuit depends on the location you surf and the temperatures that you surf in, so to keep it simple I’ll split this into 2:
1. You surf all year round or during the Winter and it can get seriously cold!
Buy a 5/4MM wetsuit (Zipless is ideal). This can be used all year round in the UK, you may be a little hot at the height of summer but it’s not so bad. It’s worth investing in a quality wetsuit for the winter as it will keep you warm. Read our article about Surfing in the Winter for more tips. Compliment your new wetsuit with an attachable hood (one which can be replaced by the neck attachment), and a pair of split toe boots. I swear by O’Neil.
2. You only surf in the Summer/ Autumn (fair weather)
Buy a 3MM wetsuit. This should be fine for both Summer and Autumn. Don’t be caught out by sea temperatures that are 3 months behind air temperature (Spring is still freezing!). You can usually buy a value wetsuit for the summer as warmth and quality might not be as important to you.
How to Choose a Surf Leash
Surf Leashes tend to be fairly inexpensive and most generally do the job if you’re just getting into surfing. Always use a leash longer than your surfboard to avoid the board springing back and hitting you or others around you. Don't use a leash that's too long (you risk injuring others). For example, if your surfboard is 8ft3”, buy a 9ft leash.
And if you struggle to carry your surfboard to the beach, Inspirit has a leash that helps you carry in comfort without the need for help or buying other equipment. Find out more here.
And that's it….almost…. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to buy a few extras:
- Board Wax - so you don’t slip off your board. We love Sex Wax, it smells awesome
- Roof Rack - To get your surfboard to the beach on top of your car. Soft racks are usually inexpensive and you can get hold of them second hand - be wary though, some damage your paintwork
- Wax Comb - To scrape more grip into the wax that may have been sitting on your board for a while and gone flat
- Waterproof Key Bag - That moment when you drive up to the beach with nowhere to put your car key. Go prepared. Don’t get caught out by thieves who spot you hiding your keys somewhere else. Usually a Surf School will keep them safe for you
- Board Bag/ Sock - Protection for your surfboard on long journeys.
"We hope that this is useful and if you have any questions please send us a message on Instagram - @inspiritadventure."
Jonny, Founder Inspirit, October 2020
On Instagram with @inspiritadventure