Every surfer remembers his or her first surfboard. It is the most essential piece of surfing kit so it is vital to make the right decision.
For beginners, a ‘soft’ board made out of foam material is usually the most popular choice. This is because the material makes the board buoyant and stable. Look for something in the range of 8 to 9 foot long (2.4 to 2.7 meters), 20 to 23 inches (50 to 58 cm) wide and 2.5 to 3 inches (6.35 to 7.6 cm) thick. A board with these dimensions together with a wide, rounded nose at the front will provide a board with a relatively large surface area, which is easier to stand on, paddle and ride for beginners in the water.
However, if you plan on surfing regularly, then a ‘soft’ board would not be ideal. More advanced surfers should look at investing in types such as the: minimal, shortboard (or thruster), longboard (or malibu), magic carpet, or fish boards. These boards are thinner than the ‘soft’ foam board mentioned above, allowing for quick manoeuvres in the water - perfect for the more advanced surfer.
If you go to a specialist surf shop then a board manufacturer will take into account your experience, the locations you surf and your height and weight. This should ensure that the resulting custom board is specifically suited to your size and ability. Alternatively, surf shops often have a range of custom boards on their racks, both new and secondhand, where searching and patience can reward the newcomer with a good beginner's board. Avoid the impulse buy and shop around for the best deal.
You could also choose to shop online for a second hand surfboard. However, if you think you have picked up a bargain then chances are, the board is not in a good way. Much like second hand cars, the more the board has done, the lower its value. Where possible, try to see the board in person before buying it, don’t make the easy mistake of assuming it is fine just from looking at a photograph over the internet as this can hide a multitude of problems.
Similarly keep an eye out for a board which has been waxed, as this can appear fine on the surface but again can hide more serious structural problems. A second hand board will likely have some minor scratches and dings to it - this is fine as long as there are no heavy cracks. Alternatively, you could also choose to rent a surfboard initially until you have found the type of board you want to invest in yourself.
What to wear for surfing?
What you choose to wear when surfing generally depends on the temperature of the water you will be in. The kit you wear when surfing in warmer waters will differ greatly from your surfing outfit in colder waters.
In warm waters particularly, a pair of boardshorts are the go to outfit for most surfers. For women, this is accompanied by a sporty bikini top. The most important things to consider is that the the kit you are wearing is comfortable, allows for flexible movement and stays in place. The last thing you want to be thinking about when trying to catch a wave is whether your swim suit is going to slip!
A rash guard made from synthetic blend, to protect your skin from the wax or any sand on the surface of the board, as well as cover you from the sun is a sound investment. The synthetic materials will be quick drying, flexible and breathable.
If you are surfing in colder waters, then a wetsuit would be a wise investment. Without the warming properties of a wetsuit, your time in the sea will be severely limited. They are available in different degrees of thickness, offering varying amounts of warmth and flexibility.
Generally speaking, most surfers choose wetsuits which are between 3mm and 5mm. If the waters you will be surfing in stay cold all year round then you would likely choose a 5mm thick suit to ensure you can get out in the water in most temperatures. Some wetsuits even have hoods to keep in body heat from the head (where an average of 40 per cent of body heat is lost). Additionally, some surfers choose to go out in really cold waters in gloves and boots.
Consider the temperature of the waters you will be spending the most time in, to ensure you will be comfortable and prepared for whatever temperature you will be facing.
Most surfing areas have surf schools offering anything from a two-hour introduction to a week-long course of surfing training. The advantage of starting with a surf school is that they provide a taste of the sport without the expense of buying your own surfboard and wetsuit. All the gear is provided and, under the guidance of a qualified instructor, most beginners find themselves standing up and surfing during the course of a day's tuition.