Surfing Equipment 101 (Must Have Gear For Surfers)

We love the idea of just rolling up to your beach with a surfboard and surfing for hours.

But the reality is if you want to surf on a regular basis there are some essential bits of surfing equipment you can’t go without.

First, let’s look at all of the surfing gear you can’t live without followed by some optional extras to make your surfing life just that little bit easier.

surfing equipment 101

Surfing Equipment (Essential)

What at the exact items you’ll need to get your surfing fix?

Whether it’s Billabong, Rip Curl or any of the other surf brands, this essential apparel is a must-have for any surfer heading out to catch some waves.

Surfboard

You can’t surf without a surfboard! No matter what your chosen surfing craft you’re going to need to get your hands on a PU (fibreglass) or Epoxy surfboard to help you glide along the face of waves.

Surfboards aren’t all made equal, you’ll find them in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Some of the most common types of surfboards include:

  • Shortboards
  • Longboards
  • Fish
  • Mini mals
  • Twinnies
  • Eggs
  • Mini Simmons
  • Foam boards

If you’re just starting out on your surfing journey then you want to try and find a surfboard with lots of buoyancy. This will be very beneficial when you need all the help you can get to paddle, catch waves and try to balance on the board.

Leash

A surfboard leash is an absolute necessity when you paddle out to surf. It attaches permanently to the rear of your surfboard with a velcro grip that you can fasten to your leg every time you surf.

Ranging from 6-9ft a surfboard leash will limit the distance your surfboard can travel after you fall while surfing a wave.

The benefit of a surfboard leash is two-fold, it helps you recover your board without having to swim to the beach and it reduces the risk of stray boards colliding with other surfers further toward the beach.

Fins

Surfboard fins attach to the bottom of your surfboard and act as keels to help you move and steer through the face of the wave.

They either attach using grub screws and plastic plugs embedded in the board called fin plugs, or in older boards surfboard fins were glassed onto the bottom of the board while it was being shaped.

Some boards will have the option for one, two, three or four fins depending on their design and what the surfer wants to achieve in terms of performance ie more speed, more manoeuvrability etc

While you can surf a board without fins you’ll have little to no drive and your board will slide on the surface of the water rather than cutting through the water.

Fin key

A fin key is a small Allen key that allows you to tighten and loosen the grub screws that secure your fins.

Not the sexiest bit of surfing equipment but an essential addition if you snap a fin or need to replace your current set.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen, sun cream, lotion or zinc. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you wear some sort of sun protection.

When you’re out surfing you’re getting a serious dose of sunshine and adding a protective layer to your exposed skin is key to preventing sun damage and other more serious skin issues further down the line.

When you lie and paddle on your board you’re not only getting direct sun but the sun that’s being reflected by the surface of the ocean

This effective double dose of UV rays means that you’re at more risk than someone sunbathing on the beach making effective defence against the sun absolutely mandatory.

Wax or pad

Unless you want to go sliding all over the deck of your surfboard you’re going to need some sort of grip.

This can come in the form of a tail pad/wax, wax only or full traction pad. Head over to our guide on wax vs tail pad to find out the finer details of how surfers stick to their boards.

Boardshorts

Unless you want to get swiftly whisked away by the local authorities you’re going to want at the bare minimum some boardshorts.

Aim for high-quality boardshorts as well, cheap swim shorts can leave you with vicious surf rash on your thighs making you wish you’d spent a bit extra.

Find out more about how to treat surf rash in our helpful guide.

Wetsuit

If you’re blessed enough to surf in cold water for at least some of the year a wetsuit is a necessity for lasting any longer than five minutes out in the ocean.

Coming in various thicknesses wetsuits have come on leaps and bounds since their creation. You can opt for a back zip or a chest zip with the option to include a hood built into some suits.

Surfing Equipment (Optional)

Now you’ve got all the essentials it’s time to look at the desirables.

Board bag

Trips to and from the beach can lead to dings and cracks in the fibreglass of your surfboard and chucking your board in the boot of your car unceremoniously could mean a trip to the repair guy.

A good board bag can keep your stick in prime condition for longer. If you’re willing to drop that new board money you’re going to want to invest in a board bag to match.

You can opt for a day bag which is typically lightweight or a travel bag which is more suited to the rigours of international travel.

Don’t skimp out on your next surf trip abroad, flights are notorious for destroying surfboards but a heavy-duty bag can help protect your favourite sled.

Spare fins

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to snap a fin on the reef or on another board you’ll know your first thought is ‘did I remember to bring that spare set of fins?’.

Having some spare skegs can be a lifesaver if the waves are pumping and you don’t want a missing fin to slow you down.

Chuck a spare set in the boot of your car and you’ll be thanking me next time.

Hood, boots and gloves

Additional rubber and neoprene are key surfing equipment if you’re surfing in cold water.

You can pull on gloves and hoods and roll the cuffs of your wetsuits over the entry holes to create a water-tight seal that will keep you toasty for hours.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a hood attached to your winter wetsuit you can get a standalone hood that fits under your wetsuit and keeps your head from freezing on those frigid duck dives.

Ear plugs

Ear plugs act as a line of defence between your ear canal and the ocean.

While they don’t need to be completely watertight they do need to reduce cold water flushing through your ear.

When the ear canal is exposed to cold water the bones within the ear can start to grow and act as a defence of barrier to more water ingress.

While this natural defence does work it can lead to lots of other problems on land. Often referred to as ‘surfers ear’ this condition leads to surgery and extensive time out of the water.

With this in mind, the addition of some earplugs to your surf gear could be a very wise decision in the long run.

GoPro

We all love telling our mates about that epic barrel we got earlier in the morning. But what if you could actually prove it?

A GoPro lets you do just that. With various attachments including the mouth, chest or nose of your board, you can take your surfing onto the big screen with a crystal clear HD display.

Surf poncho

Originally created for children playing on the beach the towel poncho was quickly adopted by surfers and rebranded as the ‘surf poncho’.

Now you can get surf ponchos in all sorts of materials and designs with Dry Robe leading the charge. Their high-tech surf robes are waterproof/windproof and are made with 100% recycled material.

Surfing helmet

If you regularly surf powerful waves or shallow reef breaks then a helmet is a perfectly viable option for safety.

In recent years many of the WSL’s professional surfers have opted to surf in a helmet when taking on challenging waves like Pipeline and Teahupoo.

Owen Wright (pro surfer) famously suffered a severe head injury while out surfing Pipe. Since then he’s sported a helmet for all of the competitions held at waves of consequence.

Surf hat/cap

If you’re heading to tropical waters or you plan on surfing anywhere with a risk of sunburn then a surfing cap is a perfect addition to your surfing equipment stash.

You can opt for a baseball cap or a full-brimmed bucket hat (my personal favourite) and most surf hats will come with a rolling shield for the back of your neck.

These can be incredibly helpful when you start surfing in remote parts of the world. Sun cream or Zinc can be incredibly hard to get find and very expensive when you do, so a good surfing cap could save you a few dollars.

Surfing watch

For all of you who love a bit of technology alongside your surfing experience, a surf watch could be just the thing for you.

They come with various functionality from tide times to actual wave tracking including speed, distance travelled etc

At the bare minimum, I always like to surf with my trusty classic Casio so I can check how long I’ve been/got left in the water.

Wetsuit bag

If space is an issue in the boot of your car or you’re guilty of throwing your wet and sandy suit in a pile after each surf then a wetsuit bag could be for you.

They’re fully waterproof and most will come with additional pockets for all your additional surfing equipment.

First aid kit

Accident happens in surfing just like in any other sport.

Whether it’s colliding with the reef, surfboard or your fins, the risk of injuring yourself is a real possibility.

Having a good first aid kit to hand can help you deal with any minor cuts and grazes and mediate any more serious injuries before you seek professional medical assistance.

Surfboard repair kit

Last but not least, a surfboard repair kit and more specifically a UV-activated surf repair kit is a necessity if you want to carry on surfing after a ding.

As soon as you damage your surfboard the hole will start to let in water and will eventually saturate the foam with your board.

This can lower buoyancy over time so it’s essential you cat fast to block and seal the hole.

Enter the UV-activated surfboard repair kit. It’s a small tube containing resin you can squeeze out into your repair. Wait for anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour (sun-depending) and before you know it the resin will harden to form a new protective layer over your surfboard.

My personal favourite is Solrarez which has been helping surfers stay in the water longer for decades now.

Surfboard storage

Before you know it you can end up with quite the collection of surfboards and nowhere to store them.

This is when a surfboard rack comes in rather handy to reduce the amount of space your boards take up and mediate the chances of dings, bumps and scratches on your precious fibreglass.

Head over to our list of the best surfboard racks with our top picks for storing your surfing equipment.

What’s the cost of essential surfing equipment?

If you’re willing to go second-hand/pre-loved you can get a surfboard, fins, leash and a wetsuit for around $200 or £175.

Brand new, you’ll be looking anywhere from $580 to $1150 or £500 to £1000+ depending on the size of your surfboard and the surf brands you purchase.

Which surfing equipment is purely for safety in the ocean?

Your leash, sunscreen and helmet are all there to make you safer when you surf. Additionally, your wetsuit will provide a light layer of protection against unwanted grazes and reef rash.