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Surf Gear: A Beginner’s Guide to Surfing Essentials


Summer has officially hit the Southern California coast and that means more new surfers in the water soaking up the sunshine. But it doesn’t need to be 75º and sunny to enjoy the ocean’s waves. If you’re wondering what suit to wear and what board to pack in various conditions, look no further. We’ve provided a summary of surf gear for new surfers ready to get out and shred.

Basic Surf Gear


First things first, you’re going to have to choose a surfboard. While you may be tempted to grab a shortboard like the pros, it’s highly suggested to start training on a soft-top foamboard or a longboard. High-performance boards are much more difficult to maneuver and keep your balance on. A common favorite for a beginner is the how to pop up and ride waves with ease. As you become more experienced, you can try out different designs of boards to help you achieve different styles of riding.



Another essential piece of surf gear is the leash. You’ll most definitely want a leash to keep your board at your side in the water. Keeping your board close to your body makes for a safer experience for you and everyone around you, especially when you’re just learning. A leash prevents you from having to swim out to collect your board when you release it. It also reduces the risk of your board hitting other surfers. Your leash should at least be the size of your surfboard and staps onto your back ankle. That can be your right or left, depending on whether you’re goofy footed or regular


Fins function as steering devices for your surfboard. They can be set up as a single fin, twin fins, and tri fins. Some boards even have four or five fins. Much like your board itself, the fin setup you choose depends on what kind of waves you’ll be surfing and your surfing needs. In some cases, removable fins can help you change the setup to accommodate your needs. Glass on fins, on the other hand, are built onto the board as it is shaped and are non-removable. This provides for sturdier fins but also makes for more difficult repairs.

Traction Pad

Usually paired with shorter boards, traction pads are slapped on the back of a surfboard to keep the surfer more stable standing up in the water. It’s not a totally necessary piece of surf gear but it definitely helps with traction and being able to maneuver your surfboard. As a beginner, it’s totally optional. 

Surf Gear Based On Water Conditions

Warmer Water Clothing

In warmer conditions, surfers are fortunate enough to paddle out in bikinis and boardshorts. However, to prevent belly rashes and cuts, it’s a good idea to invest in a rashguard or a neoprene vest/jacket. Rashguards are spandex and polyester, allowing for a skin-tight, but breathable fit. We suggest that you buy a rashguard with a UPF50+ sun protection rating. Check out Aqua Design’s six tips for surfers looking to buy a rashguard for a better guideline.


Neoprene vests or jackets are good for days when you need a little more protection and core warmth but don’t want to break out the full-suit. They’re thicker than rashguards and allow for comfort and maneuverability.

Cool Water Clothing

When it’s not quite summer temperatures, your new best friend will be the spring-suit. Spring-suits are thinner versions of full-suits. They’re usually 2mm of neoprene in the chest and 1mm in the arms, often noted as 2:1mm. The arms of the spring suit can vary from elbow-length to shoulder-length, to bare-shouldered. The legs of the spring-suit are commonly cut off at the knees. Some female spring-suits even come in neoprene versions of fashionable bathing suits, like Billabong’s suit found here.

Cold Water Clothing

While winter calls for killer waves, it brings with it chilly conditions. To keep warm, surfers paddle out in a full-suit. These are usually 3:2mm or 4:2mm thick, depending on the water temperature. Full-suits have full coverage of arms and legs, locking in body heat. For especially cold conditions, investing in a hood can protect your head from a brain freeze. Booties are neoprene and polyester surf shoes that keep those toesies warm! An added bonus of wearing booties is that they protect your feet from sharp rocks and reefs.


To provide necessary traction, you should apply surf wax to the surface of the surfboard before paddling out. Without wax, boards are incredibly slippery. Keep in mind that the type of wax you buy should be in accordance with the temperature of the water. 

Surf Gear For Transportation

Board Sock

The surfboard sock is a lightweight cloth that fits around the board to reduce the risk of sun damage, minor scratches, and wax and sand messes. While it serves its purpose of protecting the board against slight dings, for more reliable protection, the day bag exists.


Day Bag

The Day Bag has bonus features like a strap to carry your board on long walks from the car to the surf, reflective outer material to keep your board and the wax from heating up, and padding along the inside to protect against damages.

Travel Bag

We highly suggest using a travel bag for longer trips. Also known as a surfboard coffin, these bags have double the amount of inner padding to ensure your board will stay in one piece in transit. Additionally, these larger bags can often carry multiple boards and any other surf gear you want to keep in the same place. 

Now that you know what to pack depending on water temperatures and conditions, you’re set to paddle out and catch some waves. Be sure to post your epic pics to Instagram with the hashtag #StokeShareWeekend to be @StokeShare feature of the week!


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Hayley Rueger is a StokeShare marketing intern and a Communications student at Loyola Marymount University. A SoCal native, she is passionate about songwriting, social media, and exploring the great outdoors.


  1. thanks for sharing your knowledge with us … i learnt surfing in CA from

    • That’s awesome! They’re a great company.


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