Holly Zynda

Holly Zynda is a copy editor, proofreader, and writer with a lifelong passion for the written word. Over the course of her career, she has worked on an array of content for individuals and major companies, including GoPro, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Reputation.com. She also maintains a thriving editing and publishing business, Owl Intermedia. When not working, Holly is an avid amateur photographer, serving as a contributor to Shutterstock and holding dozens of awards on ViewBug. Holly also contributes her free time to environmental protection, animal welfare, and humanist causes.

Top 6 Essentials for the Beginner Surfer

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.

The Board
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.

The Wax
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).

The Wetsuit
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.

Top 6 Essentials for the Beginner Skateboarder

Ideal for the athletic minimalist, skateboarding stands as one of the least gear-heavy sports this side of barefoot running. Once you have the basics, you are ready to go. This list includes everything you will need to get started in the sport.

A Deck
Made of formed laminated wood, skate decks come in a variety of forms, from a half-foot to over four feet, with kicktails, flat noses, and concave shapes, just to name a few of the available options. Depending on whether you intend to cruise, do tricks in a skate park, or shred the sidewalks of your local main street, you will want to select the right board for your needs. Talk to your local skate shop to find out what options they have and which type of deck will work best for you.

Trucks form the foundation of the machinery of your skateboard. This part includes the axle, bushings (for shock absorption), the hangar with pivot cup (for turning), and base plate, which attaches the truck to your board. You can also get risers to get more clearance to make room for larger wheels.

When it comes to wheels, you can select for size, shape, and hardness. Smaller, harder wheels will provide more maneuverability and speed, since they reduce drag, but they will also catch on small objects more easily. Larger, softer wheels are better for cruising, for example, on a longboard, and will help you get over small objects.

Unless you like pushing hard and losing speed fast, you want to invest in good set of bearings. Don’t worry, they are cheap…even the good ones. These bad boys are responsible for reducing drag and keeping your wheels in motion, so the energy you expend propelling yourself forward isn’t lost in drag within your rig.

A Helmet
Helmets are important in any sport that involves speed and terra firma. Yeah, you may look like a dork, but at least skate helmets aren’t as cheesy as bike helmets, so just get one, especially if you are planning on doing trick skating. Trust me, wearing a helmet not as uncool as putting yourself in a coma or causing brain damage. Just do it.

A Spot
This is often the trickiest part of skateboarding. Finding a safe place where skating is allowed is nigh on impossible these days. Fortunately for trick skaters, many towns have skate parks (maintained or unmaintained), and a lot of cities consider skateboarders to be pedestrians, so as long as you don’t bump into anyone or scare any little old ladies or grumpy dogs, you should be good to cruise on any sidewalk. Finding sidewalks not covered in hazards in another matter altogether, but I’m sure you’ll quickly find the suitable locations in your area.

Technically this is the seventh item on the list, but we figured it’s worth mentioning. Once you get all of the essentials to actually get out there, you need something to do it in style, right? Pick up something like a Big Turtle Shell and plop it down in your newfound skateboarding spot and enjoy blasting some music to get you going.

You can optionally get protection, such as elbow, knee, and wrist pads, but breaking bones is ubiquitous in skating, so you may as well get used to it.

Downhill Skateboarding: Not for the Faint of Heart

Downhill skateboarding combines the thrill and danger of speed skating with the style and skills of surfing or skiing. Risking serious road rash, broken bones, or a collision with a car in the case of a misstep, skateboarders who bomb hills, like Zak Maytum, often take their lives into their own hands. Thus, those who undertake this niche sport must build their chops up before pushing off on steep grades.

The Longboard is the Reigning King
Currently viewed as more of a longboarding sport, skaters have been tackling mountainous hills on all kinds of gear, from the standard double kick board with small wheels to the more surfboard-like carving boards. However, longer boards with bigger wheels tend to make the job a bit easier and more safe, since they can overcome small obstacles in the road, like potholes and rocks, more easily (there is no way in hell you are doing an ollie over palm fodder while flying down a hill at 30 to 70 miles per hour). The longer body also keeps it from getting squirrelly and allows for more fluid motion that lends itself well to the downhill style, providing maneuverability while keeping all four wheels on the road and your feet on the deck.

San Fran: the Home of Downhill
The birthplace of downhill skating, San Francisco stands as one of the most popular, and dangerous, graded skateboarding spots. It offers copious hills and lots of options for various grades and street styles, but it also has a lot of foot and vehicle traffic around the clock. Local skaters like Tommy Guerrero have rolled over this challenging terrain for decades.

As the sport becomes more popular, government bodies, like Santa Barbara County, have started banning downhill skateboarding due to the high degree of danger for skaters and the public at large. However, in response to the bans and the danger, groups like the IGSA and the IDF  have begun organizing formal downhill events, providing safe designated tracks for skaters.

The How-To
If you are interested in pursuing this niche extreme sport, you can find a surprisingly good step-by-step guide on wikiHow, and you will definitely want to start out on bunny hills. Don’t forgt to practice your stopping and bailouts, including the good ol’ tuck-and-roll. You can also check out buying guides online to pick the right board for the type of downhill skating you want to do (carving or speed skating). Getting the right equipment is imperative, because there are few feelings as bad as the one you get in the pit of your stomach when the speed wobbles start.

Who knows, you may develop the need for speed and end up like Mischo Erban who topped 80 miles per hour on his skateboard in 2010. But, whatever you do, this is one skateboarding activity where you have got to wear a friggin’ helmet. I’m not kidding. I don’t care if you think it makes you look like a dork. I will tell you mom if I see you out there without one.