There is something great about actually owning your own surfboard (and wetsuit!).
All those hours spent surfing, are soon going to be spent on the same surfboard, and this will help your surfing no end. Surfing has so many variables in surfing already, that by using your own equipment you get rid of at least one!
1.CHOOSING YOUR FIRST SURFBOARD: Buy a second hand surfboard, or ask at your local shop for a good minimal package which should include a board, bag and a leash. Surfboards that are suitable for beginners are always in demand, they will hold their value if kept in reasonable condition. Generally you’ll want it for about 6-8 months before you are reday to upgrade to something a bit more suited to your surfing ability. The point is keep the budget in check. Don’t be too concerned over condition at this point. It’s not a fashion accessory; it’s a tool.
2. LENGTH: Choosing you first surfboards length can be determined sometimes by what’s available in a budget price. Try and go for something in the range of 16- 20 inches longer than yourself. It’s a strange thing but the more length of board you have in the water, the easier it is to paddle. When starting your surfing lessons you don’t want to be hindered by a lack of flotation, you want to be catching as many waves as you can, and until your arms develop their paddling strength, you need all the flotation you can get to keep you motivated.
3. THICKNESS: Like the length and width, thickness means flotation. By now I think you’ll be getting the picture that when buying your first surfboard, choose a board that will be easy to paddle, maximising your chances of catching waves. For thickness this means a surfboard with about 2 and a half inches of foam. Its thickest point should be near the halfway point of your surfboard.
4. WIDTH: Most modern surfboard widths these days are around the 18 to 19 inches. Choose something more towards 19 inches. It’ll give more stability and will be a lot easier to sit on while waiting for a wave. The waves you’ll be practicing in will be fairly small most likely in the one to three foot range, and as a beginner you’ll stand heavy on your board, so a bit of width will give you a more feeling under foot, and the chance of ‘bogging down’ will be reduced.
5. OUTLINE: The widest point of a surfboard is usually found just forward of the centre point and then running back towards the tail for about 3 inches. By increasing the width of the nose of a surfboard you will aid it in paddling. Shapers use this trick to hide a little extra foam in a surfboard. This has the effect of drawing the plan shape or outline out, so the widest point will be a little longer. Measure back from the tip of the nose 12 inches or 300 mm and if the measurement is around eleven and a half inces to twelve inches then this is quite a good width nose, and should paddle easy. For the beginner surfer a board whose nose seems a little wide is better. Now measure 12 inches back up from the tail along the stringer. Measure across the surfboard at right angles. If it reads something around 14 inches that’ll be good. At this stage I wouldn’t be too worried about the actual shape of the tail, but a rounded square or round tail is probably the most suitable.
SUMMARY: Buy a used surfboard your height plus 16 to 20 inches, around two and a half inches thick by 19 inches wide, a fullish nose and a nice rounded tail shape. This spells smoothness and ease of paddle. Just what the doctor ordered.
6. ACCESSORIES: choose a good legrope with swivel. The waves you are riding are small so just a light weight, small surf leggie will do. The swivel helps keep the legrope itself from twisting up after wiping out. Also a legrope that can detach easily from your surfboard plug via the velcro is better than having to thread the whole leggie through the anchor rope. Deck grips and nose gaurds are not necessary. They don’t offer much, especially for the beginner. Save the money.
7. WAX: Surf board wax easily collects sand and dirt and can make it soapy and lose its traction. Never over wax your board as this just creates more weight and more dirt. Buy a wax comb to clean off excess wax and to roughen up the existing wax on your board, so as to give it more traction. To help avoid getting rash use a soft wax, but board rash is something even the veteran surfer gets. If you wear a rash vest or wetsuit or even just a ‘t’shirt with a knot tied in its back, you will find it will help prevent getting a rash in the first place. I like a wax that seems a bit chewy, but don’t eat it, it tastes bad. A summer wax is good all year round in most places. Only wax the areas you need, a light wax on the nose area is ok, but if you wax to far down along the rails it will create drag. Start your waxing from the legrope plug and go through to the chest area..
8. WETSUITS: There are so many wetsuits and brands on the market these days, and what you wear depends so much on your location, what seaon you are in and what is your preference. Your local surf shops are the best to guide you here, they are unlikely to stock inappropriate styles for your area. Wetsuits come in a range of styles. The ‘Short John’, sleeveless but with short pants. The ‘Spring suit’, which come in long or short sleeves, both with short pants. The ‘Steamer’, comes in sleeveless, short sleeved and long sleeved, and for some you can get an attatchable hood. Also there are booties, gloves, rash vests and just wetsuit pants. So much. So when choosing have a look around at what others are wearing. Never buy on price alone, quality can vary and what you want is quality and fit. If looked after it will last many years, so it’s a good investment and will give you more surf time in the water. Always try and rinse it in fresh water after every surf. When trying on a wetsuit it should fit firm but not too tight. Move your arms and squat up and down a few times and feel how stiff or loose it feels. It’s true that once wet it will loosen up a bit more, but never buy one that feels a bit too tight; it’ll only give you a rash. Make sure when you trying a wetsuit on there are no gaping air pockets in it. It should fit your body nicely and not allow the cold water to be caught inside. Also wetsuits that have seams cutting under your arm sockets should also be avoided.