The Top 10 Things You Need to Start Surfing

If you’ve always wanted to surf but don’t know where to start then this article is for you. The following is an overview of the essential things (and things to know) that you’ll need to go surfing.


1. Know how to swim

Safety first. The first thing you will need to go surfing is the ability to swim. Although a surfboard can act as a large floatation device, a portion of time surfing is spent paddling, often through breaking waves which can knock you off your board. Do not attempt surfing for the first time unless you are a strong swimmer or are accompanied by a surf instructor.


2. Surfboard

If you don’t own a surfboard, consider borrowing one from a friend or renting from a surf shop. Longer, thicker boards will more easily catch waves and therefore are ideal for a beginner. Brands such as the ubiquitous Wavestorm are popular with beginners and increasingly with experienced surfers. Their soft foam construction makes them extremely buoyant, stable, and safe.


3. Wetsuit

Depending on air and water temperature, as well as personal preference, a wetsuit is generally required for comfort and safety. Wetsuits did not become widely available until the 1960s and today some surfers go year-round without one. But on the beaches of Southern California most surfers wear a wetsuit year-round. Wetsuits are available in all sizes and come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses according to the season. In warmer weather, a rash guard may be sufficient.


4. Sunscreen

Purchase a reef-safe sunscreen or sunblock. You probably already wear sunscreen when you go to the beach and surfing is no different. You’ll be exposed to the sun’s rays for an hour or two, so protect yourself with a strong SPF-50 sunblock.


5. Towel or surf poncho

Since you will typically need to change into your wetsuit after you’ve arrived at the beach, a towel will come in handy for covering up while changing. A large towel works best, while a surf poncho offers similar functionality and additional privacy and warmth.


6. A surf spot

Of course you’re going to need some water and beach access for your first surf outing. A simple Google search for “surf spots near me” or “best beaches for surfing near me” are good places to start. Check the weather and the surf forecast on before you head out to understand the conditions. Wave heights between 1 and 3 feet are ideal for beginners. Every surf spot has its own unique characteristics and nuances which can shift season-to-season, day-to-day, and with the tide.


7. How to surf

Teaching someone how to surf isn’t the aim of this article, but you’re going to want at least a basic understanding of how to catch a wave before you head out. Fortunately, it's not hard to get started. Google and YouTube will be some of your best resources and will provide hours of practical, usable tips and advice. In addition to your own research, every new surfer should have the next item on this list.


8. A surf buddy

Buddying-up with someone who already knows the ropes is your best bet to learn fast, have a good time, and stay safe. Although learning to surf isn’t difficult, surfing with a friend who is just a little more experienced than you will accelerate your ability to start catching waves. Many times the biggest benefit of surf buddies is the motivation and confidence that the pair provides each other.


9. Accessories

If you’ve already acquired a surf board and wetsuit or surf trunks, you have the essential gear covered. There are a few other items you need to consider:
  • Surf wax. Without some wax on your board, you will lose your footing and likely slide right off.
  • Ear plugs. Especially when the water is cool. Ear plugs will keep cold and contaminated water out, helping to reduce ear infections.
  • Surf gear bag. Popular styles come in the form of waterproof duffle bags or backpacks. Great for keeping sand and water contained and out of your car.
  • Surf rack. Although a small to medium length surfboard will often fit in a sedan with the seats folded down, if your board doesn’t fit inside your car then you’ll need a surf rack to transport your board.
  • Key lock box. Once you’ve parked and locked your car, you can either hide your key nearby, or bring it to the beach. Alternatively, you can lock your key in a lock box and attach it to your car.


10. Have fun

As with most things in life, surfing is what you make it. For many, surfing offers solitude and a way to connect with the environment, similar to hiking or other non-competitive outdoor activities. It also happens to provide a great cardiovascular workout. Above all, make sure to soak it all in and enjoy yourself.

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