When we go camping we like nothing more than dunking our tired and stressed out bodies in the sea. Taking part in surfing makes that experience even more satisfying as we enjoy something that makes us fit at the same time.
A few weeks ago we published a great interview by a beach and surf lover Rhiannon Thomas, as an introduction to our series on Surfing For Beginners, celebrating one of the most popular holiday sports of modern times. The series is as follows:
- Equipment, Safety and Surf Law;
- First Steps and Surf Manoeuvres;
- Waves, Weather and helpful links;
- The Eco-Surfer, Surf-speak and Surf-world.
So we commence our little surf celebration with Part 1 of our series courtesy of Purivida Boardriders.[hr]
Equipment, Safety and Surf Law
Nothing beats the feeling of catching a wave and cruising along on your own surf board. So what’s surfing all about and why is it so popular?
Well surfing is quite simply food for the soul, total escapism, being at one with nature, an enjoyable form of exercise, its addictive and once you have your surf gear, its FREE! But before you become an expert you need to learn the skills and do so you must try to select the right equipment that suits your size and experience.
It’s important to mention that this doesn’t mean spending a fortune to feel good and look the part. There are lots of reputable companies out there offering all sorts of products in all shapes and sizes to suit a variety of budgets. Here is an introduction to the ideal beginners surf kit:
Wetsuit Or Boardies For Summer Climates
This is one piece of kit that you want to get right. There is nothing worse than an ill-fitting wet suit. You certainly wont be able to concentrate on learning to surf and have fun when you have a suit that is too lose and lets in water or too tight and restricts you from moving naturally.
There are an endless selection of brands and styles of suit. Obviously, there are the popular high street brands such as Animal, O’Neil and Roxy to name a few. However, there are wetsuit specialist brands such as Rhino, ION, Simmer and Tiki that are precise in the cut and selection of top quality neoprene (wetsuit material)
Rash Vest, Boots, Gloves And Helmet
A rash vest is another key staple and one that comes in all styles and designs. They can be short or long-sleeved and are a really useful piece of kit. Basically they help keep you warm and stop the chaffing on the body, in particular, the neck area, from the wetsuit, but can also be worn with board shorts if you get lucky enough to learn to surf in warmer climates.
Booties are always recommended if you are learning to surf near a pebble or rocky beach. Most surf school are based on a very sandy beach. As you become more experienced you may find that some surf trips end up close to reefs where there are quality waves. These neoprene feet protectors will become an essential part of your surf kit. Who wants cut feet, no thank you!
Gloves are an acquired taste, some people love to feel as warm as possible especially in British waters but then some do find wearing them quite restrictive. It sometimes feels better to be able grip the board with bare hands and not through a glove.
A helmet is recommended especially when learning to surf around a group of surfers. Boards and people can sometimes be catapulted in your direction; the last thing you want is a bump on the head! It can be a danger zone if you are not prepared.
Nothing is more satisfying to the surfer than choosing the right first board. Those thin, narrow rockets the stars are riding sure look exciting, but they are a disaster for surfers learning initial techniques. Therefore, keep these tips in mind when choosing your first surfboard.
Budget: While learning how to surf, you’re going to ding and scratch a board if you really put it to use, so don’t spend too much cash.
Size Does Matter: Your first surfboard should be quite big and buoyant. All the experienced surfers tend to have small, narrow surfboards, right? Not the best choice for a beginner! Get a board that will give flotation and allow for easy paddling.
A good average size board for a beginner should be around 7 feet long and 19-21 inches wide and at least 2-3 inches thick. However, this all depends on your size, so be sure you can comfortably carry and manoeuvre the surfboard in the water.
Just make sure your surfboard stands at least a foot taller than you. The colours or designs for learner boards are getting really radical. Enjoy the purchase; it’s an exciting start to your surfing experience!
Shape: Don’t worry about the tail shape or number of fins on your surfboard. For the first 3-6 months, you really shouldn’t worry about turning or doing manoeuvres any way, so whether your surfboard is a swallowtail or a pintail or even if your surfboard only has one fin is really pointless. Be assured that these are all the ones you will graduate onto as you progress in your surfing ability.
Surf Wax: It’s all about Zoggs SEX WAX! Yes you did read it correctly; Sex Wax is THE most original and longest standing brands of surf wax around.
This little gem is an essential for all surfers. If you don’t use it you would feel like you were surfing a bar of soap!
Check out the Sex Wax cool website for an introduction on why sex wax will give you the grip you need.
- The Robie surf towel is the ideal piece of kit to keep you all toasty and warm when getting out of the British ocean; Rubber bucket to dump all your wet kit into;
- Key lock box always good if you have driven to a surf spot to meet others and can’t leave your car keys with anyone. There are some great locks on the market you can attach to your vehicle and other waterproof ones you can keep around your neck and tuck into your suit;
- Beanie to keep cosy and reduce the chances of catching a cold, plus most do look super cool!
Surf Safety And Law
Surf Safety: This is definitely all about using loads of common sense, with a good healthy dose of local knowledge from wherever you decide to surf.
When you are a beginner it’s always wise to take a few surf lessons to help you get the surf technique right. You can learn all you like from books and the Internet but there’s nothing better than getting out there with someone who can show you what to do and where you might be going wrong. Also make sure you check out the beach and the waves before you venture into the water.
Always watch other surfers to see what they are doing and what areas they are avoiding. Investigate if there are any rip tides that might take you out to sea and check the conditions observing any flags and warnings put out by the Coastguard. If you don’t know the beach well or haven’t seen what’s under the waves when the tide is out, make sure you speak to other surfers about where the rocks are. You don’t want to meet one of those when you fall off your surfboard… which you will do! Obviously depending on how strong a swimmer you are, you should always be aware about how far out you are going and how deep the water is getting. This should also be varied depending on the conditions and how calm or rough the sea is. Our biggest safety tip however, is to always go surfing with someone else and tell your friends when to expect you back so they will know if something is wrong and put out an alert. It always pays to be prepared for anything.
Surf Law: What can I say other than leave it to the experts to tell you about the surf law. Here’s the famous Surf Code by Shaun Tompson.
I tell people that I didn’t develop or create the code. I simply wrote down what was out there all the time in my heart and in the hearts of many surfers, always there but sometimes overlooked. I like to think the code was always there, a part of every surfer’s life, unspoken maybe, but in our hearts, ever since the ancient Polynesians started surfing so many thousands of years ago.
- I will never turn my back on the ocean: Passion
- I will paddle around the impact zone: No short cuts
- I will take the drop with commitment: Courage, focus and determination
- I will never fight a rip tide: The danger of pride and egotism
- I will always paddle back out: Perseverance in the face of challenges
- I will watch out for other surfers after a big set: Responsibility
- I will know that there will always be another wave: Optimism
- I will ride and not paddle into shore: Self-esteem
- I will pass on my stoke to a non-surfer: Sharing knowledge and giving back
- I will catch a wave every day, even in my mind: Imagination
- I will realize that all surfers are joined by one ocean: Empathy
- I will honour the sport of kings: Honour and integrity
By Tanya Brooks-Dowsett
Picture Credits: Roy Riley (featured image), Tanya Brooks-Dowsett