So, you want to learn to surf, eh? Well, before you can get out in the lineup with the big boys, you’re gonna have to get some equipment and learn the basics.
Beginners often start out on longboards (8+ feet). They offer stability and help you catch waves easier, but they do have a tendency to pearl (the nose goes under the water, flipping you off the board).
Short boards (under 6.5 feet) offer more maneuverability, but they are a lot harder to catch waves on, and if you do manage to catch one, they have a tendency to get a bit squirrely, similarly bucking you off.
If you have a spot in mind with decent shape, you could try out a funboard (6.5 to 8 feet), which combines the stability of a longboard with the maneuverability of a shortboard.
Get a leash about the length of your board or a bit shorter to help you keep track of it in the water. Don’t worry about what type of tail or how many skegs (fins) you have; you aren’t there yet. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t rent a neon-colored foam board: you will look like an idiot, and everyone will know you are a noob…actually, maybe you should rent one.
There are a number of brands of surf wax on the market today, from the standard Sticky Bumps or Sex Wax to wax that contains organic ingredients and is sustainably sourced, or whatever. When you buy wax, don’t forget to get a basecoat; colder, a.k.a. harder, waxes can also serve as basecoat.
Whichever brand you choose, make sure it is compatible with the water temperature where you’ll be surfing. For example, if you are surfing in Florida, where the water is often over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you will want to buy warm water wax. If you are surfing in more Northern latitudes, you might want cool water wax, and the frigid north calls for cold water wax.
When you wax your board for the first time (it should be clean; if it isn’t, leave it out in the sun or pour hot water on it and gently scrape and wipe all the old wax off), go ahead and wax it (basecoat first) nose to tail, because why the hell not, and don’t forget to wax the rails (sides).
Not all locales call will require a wetsuit. If you are surfing in water over about 65 degrees, a wetsuit is just ridiculous. You will overheat; don’t even consider it. The cooler the water, the more a wetsuit becomes necessary, and the thicker the wetsuit you want to buy.
There are a number of options to make sure you’re nice and cozy. Evo.com offers a comprehensive guide to all of your options, from rash guards (so your poor little nipples don’t get irritated) to full suits (for the super hardcore).
Whatever you do, don’t be a kook. If you aren’t sure what you are doing, just stay out of everyone’s way, and never steal a wave from a more advanced surfer. Look around you, and if you see someone else paddling for a wave, sit back on your board to pull out and wait for the next one. Depending on where you surf, being rude or ruining other people’s rides can get you yelled at…or worse.
Building up general strength, balance, and endurance are key before you get in the water. And this should go without saying, but you are gonna need to know how to swim. Once you have your board, you know you can get into and move around in your wetsuit, and your swimming skills are top shape, try practicing some popups on shore.
Next, feel free to paddle around in still water. When you feel ready, try to catch some waves. If you can’t catch a wave on your own, have a friend, or your mom, push you. And for the love of god, if you lose track of your board when you go under, cover your head and face with your arms until you find it; let someone else get the bloody nose or concussion.