Last Updated on March 12, 2022

So you want to get into surfing. There’s no better feeling than chasing waves and basking in the tranquillity of the ocean. The tussle between surfer and wave is a timeless battle, and one that never gets old. Whether you’re heading out on your own, or wanting to join friends and family, surfing is the ultimate pastime.

Surfing equipment beginners guide

But to help you enjoy your time chasing waves, you’ll need to start off with the right gear.

While you’ll need more than just a surfboard, as a beginner you should keep things simple and purchase only integral gear.

To help you do just that, here is our guide to essential surfing equipment and gear.

1. Surfboard

It may sound like an obvious requirement. After all, there’s no surfing without a surfboard.

However, the most important decision that you’ll make in this process is picking the right board for you.

The more you surf, the more likely it’ll be that you spot a rookie trying to catch a wave on an expert shortboard.

Sure, if you want to go in blind and wipe out often, then the world’s your oyster.

But as a beginner surfer, your eyes and wallet should be firmly focused on a long foam or soft-top surfboard.

The strength of soft top and foam is their durability.

Regardless of your sense of balance, you’re going to whiff on a few waves and these boards can withstand some serious punishment.

Not to mention, they’ll be kinder to you if you crash into it below the surface.

As a beginner surfer, you should look at getting a board that’s somewhere between 8 and 9 feet tall (2.4m-2.7m).

The larger size may limit your moves on the waves, but its sturdiness will help you find your footing and gain experience.

Because the more waves you’re able to catch, the sooner you can upgrade to something more nimble.

2. Fins

Most soft top boards will come with their own set of fins, so it’s likely you won’t have to worry about this, to begin with.

But if you need a set of fins, then it’s one piece of gear you can’t do without.

Fins act like a keel on a yacht. They grant surfers stability as the board shifts under your weight and the movement of the waves.

The centre fin is vital, as it allows for traction and the ability for you to steer your board.

A surfboard fin
A surfboard fin

Whether you need to purchase a set of fins or not, it’s always handy to have a spare set. Keep in mind that fins aren’t “one size fits all”, each one will have its own compatibility.

So, when picking up your backup fins, make sure it works for your board.

3. Surfboard Leash

Surf board leash
A surfboard leash

As a beginner surfer, you’ll quickly learn how fast the waves can take away your board.

A simple slip, even in the whitewash, can see your surfboard carried away by the waves to the distant shore, or worse, into someone else.

A surfboard leash is a simple solution to keeping your board within reach at all times.

So, even when you’re tumbling underwater, you won’t have to return to the beach to retrieve it.

The rule of thumb for surfboard leashes is that they should be at least the same length as the board.

So somewhere between 2.5 and 3 metres should do the trick.

This will give you plenty of slack when walking with the board or paddling out into the ocean.

Each surfboard leash will have a cuffing. It’s important that it comfortably fits around your ankle, and preferably with a double wrap-around for extra help.

There are several additional features to surfboard leashes to keep in mind as you search.

The thickness of the leash will vary and, as a beginner rider, it helps to have a thicker cord. This lowers the chance of it snapping.

Secondly, some leashes will have a swivel that mitigates the risk of the leash tangling around your leg.

4. Wetsuit

Surfer wearing a wetsuit

The type of wetsuit you buy will have a lot to do with the conditions you are surfing in.

Sometimes, you may not even need a wetsuit at all. If you are surfing in tropical weather, for example, a rash vest should do the trick.

Not only will this protect you from the sun, but also protect your chest from constantly rubbing against the board.

Nonetheless, as a surfer you will be out in the water a long time, chasing that perfect wave and that’s long enough to get cold in even the most beautiful of conditions.

So, if you’re after a wetsuit, here’s what you need to know.

i) Cold weather wetsuits

When people picture surfing, they think of blue skies, white sand and distant palm trees.

But where there are waves, there is surf regardless of the climate.

For those in cooler climates, or who even wish to surf in the dead of winter, technology has you covered.

A great wetty for the cooler months is what’s called a 3/2mm wetsuit.

A three-two suit has a 3mm thickness around the core and 2mm around the arms and legs.

This not only keeps your vitals warm but also provides ample flexibility.

For genuine winter conditions, chase the stoke with a thicker 4/3mm wetsuit.

You may even want to upgrade to wetsuit boots and a hoodie.

ii) Shortie wetsuits

Beginner surfers starting off in warmer conditions may still want the help of a wetsuit.

This is especially true for those that get cold easily or those surfing in windy spots.

A shortie wetsuit doesn’t have full sleeves and the pants stop above the knees.

The suit mostly comes with 1mm and 2mm thickness, allowing you to stay fresh and protected from the sun while mitigating the wind chill factor.

5. Board Bags

A surfboard bag

With all the investments you are making on this adventure, spend a little extra to protect the most important thing, your board.

The most important aspect of a board bag is that it will mitigate damage to your board as you go to and from the beach, while the bag’s handle will make it much easier to transport.

A board bag is also vital for those travelling from afar.

A regular bag will be fine for a road trip, but, if you’re flying, it will help to have a bag with extra padding.

Although less of a problem for soft top surfboards, a bag will also protect your board from direct sunlight which will melt the wax causing sand to stick.

If you’ve got a small journey from home to the beach, a surfboard sock is a budget-friendly alternative.

6. Surf Wax

If you’ve gone the way of the foam board, it’s unlikely that you’ll need surf wax, as the board will have adequate grip. But if you have a PU or epoxy board, then surf wax will be vital.

The surf wax market is vast and you’ll wax with a wide variety of colours and smells. Keep in mind that some wax is better for warm or cold conditions.

After choosing your wax, you’ll want to lather up at the beach before getting out for a surf.

After a while, you’ll notice the grip beginning to fade.

This occurs faster in warmer climates, which cause the wax to melt.

Once you’ve applied wax a few times, it will be necessary to clean the board to eliminate old wax that no longer sticks.  

7. Sunscreen

Being out under the sun, often for hours on end, will leave you exposed to the sun. Rather than spending all your time worrying about getting burnt, enjoy your surf by applying adequate sunscreen before you venture out.

But, as you’ll be in the water, you’ll want an SPF 50 sunscreen that won’t wash away the minute you duck dive under the first wave.

There are many surfer-friendly sunscreens on the market that will stick around. These include SurfDurt Original and Sun Bum.

8. Lessons and Surf Etiquette

Although not a piece of gear, both are essential for beginner surfers.

Unless you’ve got a buddy ready to show you the ropes, you’ll speed up your progression greatly by taking part in a surf lesson or two before heading out on your own.

Once you’re out among seasoned riders trying to catch your first wave, it’s also important to understand surfing etiquette.

The unspoken rules of the waves govern how things run. Some of the most important rules will keep you out of the doghouse.

The first rule is to choose a beach that suits your ability. There’s nothing worse than wiping out constantly. Not only will it discourage you, but you’ll get in the way of others.

Other important rules are don’t drop in, i.e. don’t cut in front of someone who has already caught the wave.

Don’t snake, this is when a surfer paddles around another to gain a front position.

It’s important to respect the locals that ride the waves every day, do this and you’ll soon be considered one yourself.