Surfing kit and training

Essential surfing gear and training explained

Before you jump in to buying the first surfboard you see, it′s important to shop around and get the right surfing kit for your needs. Here′s our guide to buying that all-important first set of surfing kit and surfboard.

The surfboard

Every surfer remembers his or her first surfboard. It is the most essential piece of surfing kir so it is important to make the right decision.

Surfing kit

Julian Matthews, the co-owner of Gulf Stream surfboards, emphasizes that while the correct board will depend on an individual's height and weight, there are a few basic rules worth considering ...

Stability and buoyancy are vital in a beginner's board. If you are after beginner surfing kit, look for something in the range of 7 to 8ft long (2.1 to 2.4m), 20 to 23in (50 to 58cm) wide and 2.5 to 3in (6.35 to 7.6cm) thick. A board with these dimensions together with a wide, rounded nose at the front will provide a board that catches waves easily and also ensures stability. This is the type of board most beginners and intermediates use and is commonly known as a mini-mal.

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 have a range of custom boards on their racks, both new and second hand, 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.

What to wear for surfing?

If you have an image of yourself strolling down the beach this summer, surfboard underarm and clad in just a pair of baggy shorts Baywatch-style, think again. The advanced technology of wetsuits is the main factor behind the huge growth of surfing in the chilly waters of the UK.

Without the warming properties of a wetsuit, your time in the sea will be severely limited, as will your enjoyment. They are available in different degrees of thickness offering varying amounts of warmth and flexibility. Tim Heyland of Tiki Wetsuits points out that there are two main considerations when choosing the correct thickness: where you will be surfing and for how many months of the year.

For surfers concentrating their efforts to the southern regions of Britain, Tim recommends surfing kit comprised of a 3mm thick body with 2mm arms and legs between the months of June and October. Outside of these warmer months, a 5/4mm combination is advised together with boots, gloves and a hood to survive the depths of winter.

For the cooler surfing regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and North East England, a 5/4mm wetsuit is the surfing kit choice for serious surfers all year round. “It is important to remember that thickness is not the only consideration — the manner in which it is constructed and ensuring a good fit are equally vital” adds Tim. The sweaty and sometimes embarrassing ritual of trying on a variety of wetsuits in the confines of a cramped surf shop changing room is essential in order to find a good fit. If you are unable to find a suit that fits, don′t despair as most manufacturers offer a made-to-measure service, which should guarantee a warm, comfortable time in the sea.


The start up costs of surfing can be high with new surfboards retailing from £300 to £400, and wetsuits costing £80 upwards. But after this initial expense these two simple pieces of kit are all you′ll need.

Surfing training

Most surfing areas have surf schools offering 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.

Ensure the surf school is approved by the British Surfing Association (BSA), this shows that the school is independently monitored to comply with all safety and coaching regulations.

The BSA is the official body that looks after surfing in Britain. It places particular emphasis on ensuring high standards of safety in the sport and only approves a training school if it meets certain standards. In 2003, the BSA introduced a new bronze, silver and gold certification scheme that you can work towards as your skills improve and you gain the required experience.

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