Compared to skiing (water and snow), surfing doesn’t have that many requirements and financial obstacles to get started. But there are a handful of things that you will need and, for the most part, you won’t be able to do without them.
Surfboard: If you know nothing else about surfing, you probably know that it’s done on a board. There are three basic types of surfboards. 1) Softboards, also known as foamies. 2) Longboards, typically measuring 8-12 ft. in length and 3) Shortboards, typically between 6-8 feet long and available in a variety of styles and names (fish board, fun board, etc.)
Your very first time out, it’s typically best to stick to a softboard, or at least an easy-to-use longboard. There are many paths to choosing and owning a surfboard. Maybe you rent or borrow a foamie your first time or first couple times out. Maybe you buy a foamie for yourself at first and which can be saved and used later to show others how to surf. Many people get introduced to surfing through a friend or family member, but you’ll be able to pay it forward if you have your own softboard. From there, you can also buy a longboard and eventually a shortboard, or you can try to go straight from a foamie to a shortboard.
Surfboard Accessories: A leash and surfboard wax are the two big ones. The leash is an absolute must and will keep you from swimming all over the place trying to track down your board. Without a leash, it won’t take long before your board is either lost or rudely smacking into other people. Once you’ve graduated to a hardboard, the wax is no longer optional, either. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself hopelessly sliding off the board.
Another common surfboard accessory is a car rack. The longer boards are easier to balance on and especially important for larger surfers, but a twelve-foot surfboard can also be a challenge to transport. Naturally, the size of your vehicle and its storage compartment/seat configuration will also matter a great deal. If you can’t safely fit your surfboard inside the vehicle, you’ll need to invest in a car rack. They’re not terribly expensive or difficult to install.
Rashguard and/or Wetsuit: You’re also going to need some kind of protective covering. If you’ve never thought about it, you may never have noticed, but you don’t really ever see a surfer, even men, ride their surfboard with nothing but swimming trunks on. And there’s a reason for that. The chafing would be a huge problem that would make surfing no fun in the short-term and a health hazard in the long-term. There are two basic types: A rashguard, or rashie, is meant to cover primarily torso and protect against abrasions and sunburn. It does not provide significant insulation to help keep you warm in cold ocean waters. That’s what a wetsuit is for. A wetsuit is made from special materials, most commonly neoprene, which do act to keep you warm and make you slightly more buoyant. These wetsuits typically come down to mid-thigh or all the way down to the ankles. Likewise, various brands, models, and sizes are available for better fit and personal comfort.
Personal Accessories: There are watches that give conditions at hundreds of different locations. There are shark repellant bracelets. There are hats and gloves. There are backpacks with customized compartments. There are balance training materials. Most of these are optional, if nifty, items. Once you’ve gotten into surfing, you’ll be able to explore what, if any, additional items are right for you.