Surfing basics: what surfing gear do you need to get started?
Surfing is an exciting sport that can appear mysterious to non-surfers, but new surfers can get started with a few pieces of equipment and a little practical advice. So, you want to enter the world of surfing, but you?re not sure where to start? First of all, it?s important to note that surfers are the members of a global "club" that has its own rules, rituals, music, clothing, and even vocabulary. For an outsider, all of this can appear quite mysterious, but once you join the club and love it, you?ll catch on quickly. But, if you don't want to feel or look like a "kook" (an inexperienced and goofy new surfer), get your hands (and your feet) on this basic surfing gear.
When it comes to surfboards, size matters. The most important aspect of any surfboard you will own will be its ability to keep you afloat. A bigger person needs a bigger board. You should not be taller than your board stood on end. Surfboard companies now make what they call a ?fun shape? board, which is a more stable board for beginners and infrequent surfers. This is a medium length board (somewhere in between a shorter, high performance board and a bulkier long board) with a rounded nose. Expect to pay $300- $400 for a new board, and less for a used board. If you have never surfed, try to find a used board to get started. As you learn, you?ll be better able to choose a new board that will be right for your body and your surfing style.
Taking care of your board will help it last to see many years in the water. Purchase a ding repair kit at your local surf shop. Dings are nasty little cracks and holes in the fiberglass of your board that let destructive moisture into the board's foam interior. The foam will suck up the moisture and damage the interior foam. In addition to repairing dings as soon as they occur, be sure to rinse your board with fresh water after each use, and store the board away from sunlight to avoid discoloration.
To remain attached to your board (so that you don?t have to chase it to the beach after your first ?wipe out? and so it doesn?t interfere with other surfers) attach a leash from the back of the board to your ankle. The leash should be as long as your surfboard and will be attached to the foot you have in the back when standing on your board. Normal footing is left foot forward, and "goofy footed" is a stance with the right foot forward. Both stances are acceptable, and you should use whichever is most comfortable for you.
You will need to apply surfboard wax to your board anywhere where your feet are going to touch. The wax gives you traction as water glides across your board and around your bare feet. When you are starting, apply wax to the entire top of the board. As you improve, you may only need to wax the sections of the board where your feet normally are. Choose a wax suited for the temperature of water in which you will be surfing. Colder water requires softer wax that will not get too slippery as it hardens. Warmer water calls for harder wax that won?t melt in the heat. Your surf shop will be able to sell you the wax appropriate for your area.
In warmer water, all you will need to wear is a pair of surf shorts or a bathing suit. Surf shorts are known for their flashy prints, but you might want to stick to something a little more conservative at first. If you are surfing in colder water, you may need a wetsuit. Wetsuits come in a variety of styles and weights. Again, a visit to your local surf shop should be all you need to find a wetsuit that works for you. If you buy a wetsuit, you will want a rash guard, which is a thin shirt used to protect your skin. Even in warmer waters, a rash guard worn alone can be a welcome addition to your surfing wardrobe as it acts as a sunscreen to your torso.
Speaking of sunscreen, wear it! Surfing is no time to try to get a tan. The sun from above and the glare off the water give you a double-dose of damaging rays. Apply a heavy-duty, waterproof sunscreen before entering the water, and remember to reapply throughout the day.
Be informed before hitting the beach. Most surfing areas have a local surf report, which you can find on the web or through a surf shop. Lifeguards are also good resources for surfing information. They are often surfers too, and they can tell you where to, and more importantly, where not to hit the water. Pay attention to surf warnings and remember that in surfing, as in any sport, if you put safety first, you'll avoid many unforeseen problems. Don't ever go out in the water if you feel uncomfortable about the situation. It is not worth it. You can surf another day. There will always be waves.
Surf?s Up, Dude!
Most seasoned surfers are welcoming to newcomers because they remember what it was like when they caught their first ride. They love the sport, and they will be happy to share their surfing tips with you. Drop by your local surf shop and talk to some people. If a surfer takes you under his or her wing, pay attention, and be grateful that you?re gaining membership into one of the most exciting clubs in the world.
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