Advice on how to make the right choices when buying surfing gear- it’s not all about funky colours and looking cool on the beach!
Surfboards are kinda like people- they come in all different shapes, sizes and colours… and choosing the right board at the start of your surfing career is essential. Here we’ve put together some info to help you find a board that you can really fall in love with.
A bit of history
The first surfers were Polynesian and their surfboards were made of solid wood. These boards were big, very heavy, had no rocker or fins and could only be surfed in a straight line.
With the advent of plywood and waterproof glues, hollow surfboards were developed. Although the hollow boards were lighter and easier to handle, the board shape remained basic and performance was poor.
The fiberglass surfboard emerged in the 1940s and totally modernised surfing. Initially balsa wood was used for the core but with time this was superseded by polyurethane foam. Since then boards have become shorter and lighter and fins and rocker have been incorporated into the design.
Choosing the perfect surfboard
Take your time to find the right surfboard. If you’re buying from a shop or shaper, ask for advice on what type of board is most suitable for you. If you’re buying second hand, ask to try the board before you buy, or take an experienced surfer with you when looking at second hand boards. It’s important to get good reliable advice when buying a surfboard, too many surfers struggle with unsuitable equipment as a result of poor advice.
Points to consider:
·Generally the bigger and wider the board, the easier it is to ride.
·When buying a surfboard it’s vital to consider the surfer’s ability and style, their height and weight and the type of waves they intend to ride. Make sure that shapers and surfshops take this into account when helping you choose a board.
·If you’ve been taking surf lessons, ask your instructor about the best board to buy.
·If possible, try out friends’ boards and get a feel for what shapes and sizes work for you.
·The design considerations a surfer should take into account when choosing a board include template, length, width, thickness, rails, rocker and fins.
·You should be able to catch waves and stand up on a new surfboard, if you change boards and suddenly find that you can’t catch waves any more or it’s difficult to stay on your feet- then you’re using the wrong surfboard.
·Don’t be tempted to buy a flashy shortboard if you’ve been learning on a foamie or longboard and can just about get to your feet! Surfing’s about having fun not looking cool- if you’re unable to catch waves on a new board, you won’t last long in the water.
·Remember, a new board should make you feel stoked and ready to rip not sinking and frustrated.
Types of Surfboard
Custom- A custom surfboard is handmade and usually shaped from a polyurethane foam blank to specifications requested by the costumer. Once shaped the blank can be spray-painted, then glassed, meaning that fiberglass cloth is spread over the blank, resin is poured on top and squeegeed over the cloth until it is completely saturated. When the new board has cured, the fins/ fin boxes/ leash plugs are installed and the board is given a coat of glass. It is then sanded before being given its final finishing coat. A custom board can be any shape or size and is suitable for both beginners and more advanced surfers.
Moulded- Made from tough plastics, these are strong, durable and less expensive than a custom board. Often referred to as pop-outs they are usually the next step after a foam surfboard for a beginner surfer.
Soft-Soft surfboards or foamies are made from a semi-rigid inner core covered with soft foam. They are generally used in surf schools and clubs for introducing a beginner to surfing. They are very safe, floaty and easy to use but really only suitable for acquiring basic surfing skills.
A good wetsuit is essential in Ireland and there is a huge choice on the market today. This skintight garment keeps you cosy by letting water enter the wetsuit, the water is then warmed up by body heat and acts as an insulating layer.
Wetsuits are made from neoprene, a rubber-based material lined with nylon that was invented in the 1940s. They are usually made from neoprene of different thicknesses, cut into various panels then stitched and glued together. For example a 5/4/3mm probably describes a wetsuit that has 5mm thick neoprene in the body, 4mm in the legs and arms and possibly 3mm in the underarms and back of knees.
This construction ensures you stay warm without loss of flexibility. During the Irish winter months a 5/4/3mm wetsuit is necessary. In summer a 3/2mm is sufficient.
Buying a wetsuit
The most important consideration when buying a suit is whether the fit is perfect. It should be skin-tight all over but not restrictive. Always try on a few different wetsuits and sizes before making your choice.
A leash or leg rope is an essential piece of equipment. It’s used to attach you to your surfboard and means that you won’t be forced to swim back to shore everytime you come off your board.
Most leashes are made from urethane (a stretchy plastic) and include a velco ankle strap and velco rail saver. Your leash should be regularly checked for nicks, fraying or other damage and replaced annually. Also remember to check the quality and condition of the string that attached the leash to your surfboard. Make sure to buy a good quality leash- it’s your lifeline. There are lots of different lengths of leash available- choose one that is longer than your surfboard and ask for advice if you don’t know which to pick.
Walk into any surf shop and you can choose from a mind boogling range of surf accessories and fashion. Once you have the essential board, wetsuit and leash you can spend your last few pennies wisely by getting the following accessories:
·In Ireland boots, gloves and a hood are practical accessories that will keep you wrapped up like a ninja and protect you from freezing winter winds and rocky shores. Helmets can also keep you warm and are a useful safety accessory.
·You can choose from loads of brands of surf wax to apply to the deck of your surfboard for traction. Ask at the surfshop for someone to give you a quick lesson on how to apply wax properly. Alternatively deck grip can be applied or a combination of both.
·If your wetsuits rubs, get a lycra vest. This is worn under your wetsuit to prevent rash and can also be used to protect you from the sun on those rare days that you want to surf in a bikini!
·A rubber nose guard for your board is a useful safety measure. The guard is glued to the tip of your board and helps protect against injuries.
Taking Care of Your Surf Equipment
Surfing equipment is expensive, however if you care for your gear correctly, it should last for years:
·Surfboards are easy to damage. It’s worth investing in a good board bag or board sock to protect your board when it’s not in the water. Treat your board with care, don’t drop it, knock it off hard or sharp objects, or leave heavy objects on top of it. Always protect it from the sun and excessive heat. If your board does get dings (when the board is damaged), get it repaired immediately. Otherwise water will leak into your surfboard causing even more damage.
·Wetsuits and other neoprene equipment should be rinsed in cold, fresh water after use and dried before storing. Always hang your wetsuit on a plastic hanger as this helps it keep its shape. Don’t lend your wetsuit gear to friends, stick it in the tumble drier or leave it in a wet, stinky bag for ages. Whilst peeing in your wetsuit is great for a quick warm up, it leaves your suit stinky and should be avoided…unless it’s REALLY cold!