The beauty of the sport of surfing is that it requires very little. Really, the only surfing equipment you need is a surfboard, wetsuit, and some waves. While the start-up costs of surfing can be high depending on the surfing equipment you decide to buy, once you have what you need, surfing is essentially free!
Surfing isn’t like other sports where you need to pay for access to a gym, golf course, pool, etc. The ocean is free, and belongs to everyone, which is one of my favorite things about surfing.
Once you dive into the nitty gritty of surfing, you’ll realize that there are some more pieces of surfing equipment, and surf accessories that you never would have thought imagined. While not all are entirely necessary, some pieces of surfing equipment can make your surfing experience super comfortable.
This list covers all different types of surfing equipment, including the bare minimum essentials, and other useful pieces of surfing equipment.
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Surfing Equipment: The Essentials
If you’re considering surfing for the first time, congrats! Here’s exactly what you need to get going:
Unless you’re body surfing, you can’t surf without a surfboard! Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from 5 foot zippy shortboards to 10 foot + paddleboards, guns, longboards, and more!
If you’re trying surfing for the first time, you’ll do best with a longboard of 8-9 feet, ideally a soft top. Taking out a large foam board when you’re surfing for the first time is one of the best ways to have success as a beginner surfer.
If you live somewhere with water below 75 degrees, you’ll want a wetsuit. Wetsuits come in all shapes and thicknesses, from 1mm jackets to ultra thick, 6mm+ dive suits for REAL cold water.
Board shorts or surf suit
If you’re surfing somewhere tropical, you’ll need board shorts or a good surf suit. For men, a good pair of board shorts for surfing stay on, have zipper pockets for your keys, and are comfortable enough to maneuver in the water. A drawstring is a necessity.
For women, you can rock either a surf bikini or a one piece, whatever is your preference. However, you ideally want a surf suit that is specifically designed for surfing. Bikinis or one pieces made for lounging around the pool simply will not cut it for surfing- before you know it your top might end up at the bottom of the ocean if you don’t wear the right suit!
Jolyn is always a safe bet for women’s surf bikinis and one-pieces.
While not all surfers use leashes, for 99% of the surf population, surf leashes are an essential piece of surfing equipment that is crucial for surf safety. A surf leash is usually the same length as your surfboard, wraps around the ankle of your back foot, and attaches to a plug on the tail end of your surfboard.
Fins are an essential component of a surfboard, as they provide stability, control, maneuverability, and drive in the water. Fins are sometimes glassed onto a surfboard, but usually you pop them into the fin box of a surfboard. The main two different types of fin systems: Futures and FCS. Future fins screw in, and FCS fins pop in and are supposed to stay in without screws. I know several people that have lost an FCS fin or two out in the surf, so I HIGHLY recommend adding a screw to keep your FCS fins in. Surf fins are way too expensive to simply lose out in the surf.
A fin key is like a little screwdriver to take the screws out, so you can take your fins out of the fin box.
Surf wax is one of the most important pieces of surfing equipment. Surf wax transforms an otherwise slippery, slidey surfboard deck into a gribbable surface you securely sit, lay, and paddle on. If you’re curious about how surf wax works, check out my guide to why surfers wax their boards.
Traction pads are typically made from EVA foam, and are used by surfers to provide grip, traction, and keep their feet from sliding off the board. Typically, traction pads are used by shortboarders on the tail end of their board, and they’re also known as a stomp pad, tail pad, or deck grip. Longboarders typically don’t use traction pads, and simply wax their whole board.
Some surfers even elect to use traction pads on the front of their surfboard, or on the entire deck instead of wax.
Although not per se necessary for surfing, sunscreen is super important for surfers to use while out in the water to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Not just any old sunscreen will do though- it’s best to use reef safe sunscreen. If you’re not sure about what exactly makes a sunscreen reef safe, check out my guide to the best reef safe sunscreens for surfers.
Other useful pieces of surfing equipment
Everything listed above is the most necessary surfing equipment. Everything below isn’t exactly necessary, but can make your surfing experience go a bit more smoothly.
Surfboard bags are an important piece of surfing equipment that are designed to protect surfboards during transportation and storage. These bags are made from durable materials like nylon or polyester and are typically padded to absorb shocks and prevent dings, scratches, and other damage to the surfboard. Surfboard bags also come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different board lengths and shapes, and some feature additional pockets for storing fins, wax, and other accessories. Whether you’re traveling to a far-off surf destination or just heading to the local beach, a good surfboard bag can help ensure that your board stays in top condition, making it last longer and perform better in the water. Additionally, a surfboard bag can also help protect your car or other belongings from the wax and sand that often accompany a day of surfing.
Surfboard nose guards are another important piece of surfing equipment that can help protect the nose of a surfboard from dings and other types of damage. More importantly, surfboard nose guards protect surfers themselves from accidental collisions with the nose of their surfboard- which can be pretty sharm, and cause some serious damage.
Surfing booties help keep surfers’ feet warm and protected in cold water or rocky conditions. These booties are typically made from neoprene or other flexible materials and come in a range of thicknesses to suit different water temperatures.
They can also protect the feet from cuts, scrapes, and other injuries that can occur from walking on rocks or other sharp surfaces in and out of the water. Even when surfing at a tropical break, surfing booties can be nice if you’re surfing on a reef, and don’t want to cut your feet on the reef.
Surf gloves are an essential surfing accessory that helps surfers to keep their hands protected and warm in harsh or cold water conditions. These gloves are generally made from flexible materials such as neoprene and are available in different thicknesses to suit varying water temperatures.
Surf gloves also come in different styles- like 5 finger gloves, mittens, and lobster-claw styles.
Surf hats are a very practical piece of surfing equipment that will not only protect your skin from the sun, but will also shield your eyes from the sun! Surf hats are great for late afternoon surf sessions on the west coast when you have the sun right in your eyes.
There are all different types of surf hats too- once like a ball cap, bucket hat styles, and more. Typically, surf hats clip under your chin so they stay on in the surf.
Rash guards are worn to not only protect your skin from surf rash, and chafing against the board, but they also protect your skin from the sun.
Surfboard soft top racks
Unless you have a big truck or van that your surfboards fit inside, you’re going to need to be able to transport them on the roof of your car.
You can either invest in a proper surfboard rack for your car, or you can go a little simpler and get a pair of padded soft racks. Soft racks are awesome because they’re portable, so you can use them on different cars, or take them with you when you go on a surf trip so you can slap them on your rental car.
Ear plugs are one of the most underrated, yet important pieces of surfing equipment out there. After hours and hours of surfing in cold water, you can start to develop surfer’s ear. A good pair of surfing ear plugs will help protect your ears in the surf and help prevent surfer’s ear. The best surfing ear plugs still allow sound while blocking the water, so you can still hear while you’re out in the lineup.
Having a portable shower is perfect for when you’re surfing at a beach that doesn’t have a shower for you to rinse the salt and sand off of yourself and your gear. Rowan and I spent three months surfing in Portugal, and took this Sea to Summit portable shower everywhere we went. It was a lifesaver!
If you’re trying to squeeze a quick surf in before work, a watch is an essential piece of surfing equipment. As long as it’s waterproof, you can go as simple or as extravagant as you want when it comes to surfing watches. Some simply tell you the time, while others have a myriad of features including counting your calories burned, wave count, paddle distance, and more! If you’re curious about surf watches, check out my guide to the best surf watches on the market.
If you’re into surf photography, or simply like taking pictures, it’s nice to have a good camera for surfing. Go Pros are awesome for taking in the water with you, and getting sweet action shots and surfing videos.
A dry bag is one of my favorite pieces of surfing equipment. It’s so nice to be able to throw all your wet stuff in after, and not have to worry about it dripping water everywhere. They’re also essential for boat trips- you can stash your phone, wallet, and other essentials in there without worrying about them getting wet.
Wetsuit changing mats
If you surf somewhere where a wetsuit is a necessity, consider using a wetsuit changing pad. This can be anything from a towel, old rug, to a piece of turf- a wetsuit changing pad keeps your wetsuit from either getting all sandy, or ripping on the asphalt. I like this wetsuit changing pad, and it also folds up to keep all your wet stuff together.
A surfing poncho is a really nice piece of surfing equipment for when you’re changing out of your wetsuit, surf shorts, or swimsuit- especially when it’s cold! You can definitely do it old-school with a towel, or you can buy a nice fuzzy surf poncho.
Ding repair kit
For small repairs, a dink repair kit is an essential piece of surfing equipment. All you do is put a little solarez on your board, let it dry in the sun for 5 minutes, and you’re ready to go. For bigger dings though, you’ll want to go get it professionally repaired.
Wax combs may seem like a small and simple piece of surfing equipment, but they play a crucial role in helping surfers maintain the optimal traction and grip on their boards. These combs typically feature a combination of straight and curved edges that allow surfers to remove old wax and apply new wax evenly and effectively to the board’s surface.
When I’m surfing in tropical water without a wetsuit, I don’t like to use a wax comb on my board because it makes the wax too grippy, to the point where it really tugs on my skin and causes surf rash.
However, when I’m wearing a wetsuit, I do like to use a wax comb from time to time.
If you get a sunburn, aloe vera is essential for soothing your skin and providing relief.
If you get surf rash, a little bit of diaper rash cream is the best way to cure it right up. I remember on my first surf trip to Tamarindo, my legs got absolutely covered in surf rash, so I went over to the farmacia, bought some “pañalitio” (diaper rash cream in Spanish) and it healed within the day!
Surfing Equipment Final Thoughts
While surfing requires relatively little equipment, there are plenty of pieces of surfing equipment that can really make your life easier, and many of these pieces of surfing equipment also serve as great gifts for surfers.
If there is any surfing equipment that you use and love that I didn’t add to this list, drop a comment below and let me!