Surfing Equipment

One of the good things about surfing is that once you have invested in a surfboard and wet-suit, expenses are minimal. The bare necessities are a surfboard, some decent wax to avoid slipping and, in most of the world, a wet-suit. Prices of surfboards and wet-suits vary greatly but, as is true of most things, you usually get what you pay for. If you plan to take up surfing as a permanent hobby, it is definitely worth paying a little extra for high quality products. Wax can be purchased cheaply from surfing shops, usually for less than £10. Many suppliers will throw in wax for free if you are buying a surf-board or other relatively expensive item.

Surfboards

Choosing a surfboard is an important decision for a surfer. Enthusiasts often choose to invest in a custom-made board, designed especially for them and taking into account such factors as the surfer’s weight, ability and what type of board they are looking for. Those looking for something cheaper will generally choose to buy a board which has already been made in a surf shop. The best thing a newcomer can do is go to a reputable surfing shop (some suggestions are listed below) and explain to the sales people what they are looking for. Taking into account your ability and build, a competent sales person will be able to help you find something suitable. If the sales people appear disinterested, or do not ask you questions about your abilities and what you want to get out of your board, take your business elsewhere.

Long Board

Long Board

Choosing a surfboard is like choosing a new pair of shoes; you’re going to spend a lot of time using it, so make sure you choose something comfortable. Newcomers should start out with a longer board, which is easier to handle in the water. You can progress to a mid-length or short board when you have had the opportunity to practice manoeuvres with a longer board. Prices vary but, as a very rough guide, you should expect to pay anything between £400 and £500 for your first long board.

If the prospect of spending so much makes you baulk, consider the cheaper alternative of a "pop-out" board. These are made from foam covered with fibre-glass and are designed to remain unscathed, even after a thorough pummelling. They are sturdy and easy to balance on, making them perfect to learn on, but they are also relatively heavy. This shouldn’t be a problem for beginners who are getting to grips with basic manoeuvres, so long as you take care to avoid being hit by the board after those inevitable early wipe-outs. Sadly, long and pop-out boards are unlikely to result in admiring glances from other surfers, as they are considered profoundly ‘uncool’ in surfing circles. The best advice beginner’s can take, however, is to put aside concerns about their image and choose a sensible board until they have mastered the basics.

Short Board

Short Board

Once you begin to improve, you can graduate to a shorter, thinner board designed for larger waves and more advanced manoeuvres. You can also begin to think about features such as rails and edges (which can affect the board’s turning capacity) and fins (which direct the flow of water beneath the board). When you have enough experience to do more complicated manoeuvres, you will begin to learn for yourself what you like in a surfboard, and can buy something which suits your needs.

If you ever progress to big wave surfing, you will need to move on to a specialist board. Big wave surfing boards need to be long in order to allow the surfer to keep his/her balance on large waves, but they are also very thin and have a round tail to facilitate manoeuvres.

Wet-suits

Wetsuit

Wetsuit

If you are planning to take up surfing, you will definitely need a wet-suit. While there are some areas of the world where the water is pleasantly warm, you will need a wet-suit in most locations. You should consider a wet-suit to be a necessity, rather than an added extra, as the danger of developing hypothermia whilst surfing in cold waters is very real. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you will not need your wet-suit on warm days, as the water can still be cold enough to make you ill.

Don’t be tempted to skimp when it comes to protecting yourself from cold water. A poor quality suit is always a bad investment. You will only have to replace your suit frequently and will probably end up spending more than if you had just bought a good one to begin with. Wet-suits should be made of good quality, durable material which is more likely to survive a brush against a rock and will not be eroded by constant contact with your board. You should also make sure that your suit fits well. A wet-suit which is too large is of little use, and one which is too tight is likely to impede your ability to move when you are surfing. If possible, take the time to try different suits on until you find a perfect fit. If you have to buy a suit online or by telephone order, ask if an exchange would be possible should the suit not fit properly. A good wet-suit will probably set you back at least £100.

Other accessories

You shouldn’t need to buy many more things in order to get started, but you might want to consider:

  • Board wax: Board wax is important because, without it, balancing on your board whilst standing up will be next to impossible. The good news is that it is relatively cheap. One tube should cost you less than £10 and will last for a good length of time.
  • Board leash: Surfboards should come with a leash attached to them. The purpose of leashes is to ensure that you do not lose your board if you wipe-out and are forced to let go of your board. Before leashes were used, it was not uncommon for a surfer to lose his/her board and be forced to swim back to shore without it. Loose boards were also hazardous for other surfers in the area. If your original leash becomes detached and you lose it, you can buy a replacement from surfing suppliers (N.B. You should be aware that leashes are designed as safety nets, and you should surf as though you are not wearing one. You should never let go of your board and rely on your leash unless absolutely necessary because of the danger this can pose to other surfers and swimmers).
  • Surfboard repair kit: These usually cost around £15 and include instructions and tools designed to help you fix minor ‘dings’ on your board yourself.
  • Suncream: This is an essential! It is very easy to burn whilst surfing, so plenty of suncream should be applied at the first sign of the Sun.
  • Ear-plugs: If you find that your ears often become filled with sea water after wipe-outs, a cheap and easy answer is to buy some ear-plugs. There is no need to go to a surf shop for these. They can be bought at chemists or supermarkets for as little as a couple of pounds.
  • Surfboard bags: If you have to travel to the beach to surf, it might be worth investing in a surf bag to protect your board when you are out of the water. Prices vary according to the length of your board, but a bag will probably set you back somewhere in the region of £30.

Below is a list of reputable surfing suppliers based in the UK or Europe:

  • Northcore is a British company which sells surfboards and surfing accessories.
  • Balsaboards Europeis a company based in the Canary Island which specialises in manufacturing good quality surfboards made from balsawood.
  • BeachBeat Surfboards is a British supplier of surfboards. The company offers short, mid-length and long boards with a variety of designs. The website has some excellent advice about factors you ought to consider when buying a surfboard.
  • O’Neill Europe is a well-known supplier of surfing accessories.
  • The Freakfish Surf Shop is based in Cornwall and sells surfing accessories. Orders can be placed online, and also by phone (+44 (0)845 2608448).