September 04, 2020 / by Danny Mavis

Surfing can seem like an intimidating sport at first, and you might even think you’re not cut out for it. But it’s important to not give up early on. The truth of the matter is that surfing, like everything else, has its own learning curve you need to follow in order to reach mastery.

Like with any new skill, it helps to start slow and steady, like for instance, by acquiring your first surfing gear. But even choosing gear can be difficult when you’re a beginner. How can you know what kind of board you need if you have only been surfing once or twice? To make sure you’re properly prepared to hit the waves, here’s what you need to consider.

Start Soft

guy bodysurf
source: APB Tour

Common surfing wisdom says soft surfboards are for beginners and fibreglass boards are for intermediate level surfers. A softboard should have lots of foam around the rails, nose and tail to absorb the shock in case the board hits someone. It can be you, it can be another surfer – it is best to mitigate such accidents. These boards are generally lighter, so it is easier to carry and throw them, and they float more comfortably on the water. But it gets more complicated than that before you can go and buy soft surfboard.

A Lot of Parts in a Bodyboard

guy cruising through waves
source: Welcome Tahiti

Have you spent some time around surfers? All those terms that get thrown around: template, rails, deck, rocker, tail, channels, stringers, … not done yet .., core, contouring, fins. You are probably checking your toenails while they effortlessly breakdown their boards to the most minute details. Don’t worry, if you are just starting out, you don’t have to know every single piece that goes into your board.

To begin with, you need a soft board with a high degree of buoyancy. The size (length and width) should be appropriate to your height and weight. And you need to be able to carry the board around without much hassle.

Buoyant Like a Log

close up picture of bodyboarder
source: Araucaria

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: volume is the key for keeping the board afloat. So, even if it is quite short, the softboard can offer more stability. Why? Because more volume means more water displacement. A voluminous foamie is the best way to learn proper technique.

When it comes to materials, a thick soft-topped board is most buoyant if made from EPS. That is short for Expanded Polystyrene Core – the foam found in most beginner bodyboards. It’s practically a lightweight polystyrene compressed at a high rate. They are 100% water-resistant and rigid enough to learn on.

The Right Fit for Your Body

guy bodyboarding
source: Surfer Today

Size is probably the trickiest part of shopping for soft surfboards. Without getting into numbers and measurements, you need to remember that your surfboard should fit in the area between the bottom of your chin and the middle of your knees.

This is particularly hard when buying soft surfboards for children. Some of them are fast growers and can outgrow their board fast. At the same time, they need a good board to learn how to surf, so, you will probably need to make a compromise. But if you’re buying a board for yourself, you can conveniently find the right-sized soft surfboard online. All you need to do is measure the area from your chin to your knees and compare the dimensions listed on the site.

Easy to Carry Around

guy carrying his bodyboard
source: Bodyboarder Asturias

Don’t forget to take into account transportation options. If you do not live by the ocean, you will need to take the board from your home to the beach every time. When using a vehicle, you should be extra cautious not to damage the board. For those of you that use a bicycle, there are ways to attach your surfboard on a bike rack.

Additional Gear – Never Ending Story

source: Ivan Monagas

There a lot of ways to improve and upgrade your equipment over time. Besides the board, another piece that is essential at the beginning is a wetsuit. While you may be able to use any swimsuit as long as the weather is warm, when spending extended periods of time in the water, it’s smart to invest in a good wetsuit.

When choosing your wetsuit, the main things to look for are fit, warmth, durability and flexibility. This choice here is far more subjective than when choosing a board. People have different levels of tolerance and prefer different levels of comfort so the best way to go here would be to start with a basic neoprene model. Once you get a sense of how it feels to wear one for hours on end, you will know what works best for you.

Some also go for fins. They are not essential gear per se, however, they can save you a lot of energy that is carelessly wasted on seemingly pointless paddling while waiting for a wave.

Mental Attitude: Keep Your Mind Focused on the End Goal

source: wikiHow

Granted, the surfing community is harsh on newcomers. The experienced surfers with an attitude will direct unfamiliar lingo at you and might make you the target of a few laughs. There is not a way around it – you will have to take it. They have all been like you when they started, however, it is easy to forget that. Once you go past your own fear of failure and the incessant ridicule of pros, success will be within sight. Just remember – time on the water is irreplaceable to advance your technique. Falls are inevitable. Unwilling drinking of saltwater also. When you fall, just get back in the water and try again.