How To: Choose the right gear for surfing
© Zak Noyle
A full recap of all the gear you need to go surfing, in the next episode of Red Bull's Surfing with Wings series.
Over the last couple of sessions we’ve tackled gear: wetsuits, boards and everything about them, from how they’re made to how to size yourself up properly for the perfect ride.
Today, we’re cleaning up the ‘gear’ section of Surfing With Wings with a little look at some of the other tricks, bits and pieces you might want to think about getting your hands on before you take your next ride.
The full gear lowdown with the Surfing Sage...
As our Surfing Sage, Mornington Peninsula surf maven Craig Regan will tell you, you don’t need a whole lot of stuff to surf:
“You just need the right board, you need to go out in waves that are right for you, and develop your surfing knowledge by watching waves, watching how they break, and understanding how that process works.”
“Getting the right board is really the key to it,” says Regan, “and having a lot of persistence.”
That’s the long and short of it. However, if you’re planning on upping your game for a smooth ride, there are a few other staple pieces of surf merch that’ll come in handy.
If you happened to have grown up as a surfer, near surfers, or amongst a family of surfers, the unmistakable smell of surfboard wax is one of those things that never leaves you – one tropical coconutty whiff of Mr Zog’s Sex Wax, for example, still takes me back to when I was eight-years-old driving to Point Leo in my Dad’s old Suburu.
Surf wax is an indispensible ingredient for a stable ride. It comes in little soap- or hockey puck-shaped cakes, and is applied to the deck of a surfboard to keep you from slipping off its surface while you’re paddling, or standing up to ride. Particular if you’re a bit of an aerialist, you need that extra grip.
As Surfing Sage Regan attests, not all waxes are the same: “Some waxes are harder: you get warm water wax and cold water wax. Warm water wax is harder when it gets hot, so it doesn’t get too sticky, whereas cold water wax is more viscous, it’s more putty like, so in the cold water it doesn't get so frozen that you cant get any grip off it.”
A cake of the stuff costs between 1 and 5 bucks, and these days you can find brands that are totally eco-friendly: non-toxic, biodegradable, and free of nasty petrochemicals. (Better still, if you’re game, try perfecting your own stash out of a DIY homeblend of beeswax, coconut oil, and tree resin).
2. Leg Ropes
Just as the right board is crucial to your surfability, it ought to be added that it’s equally essential to have a good leg rope too.
In essence, leg ropes mean you don’t have to go chasing your board all over the ocean each time you fall, or drop out of a wave; they also keep the board under control, preventing it from being drilled and possibly destroyed by rocks, while help prevent injuring other surfers in the vicinity.
Leg ropes are cords or leashes made of polyurethane that you attach to the tail of your board on one end, and fasten around your ankle with a Velcro cuff on the other. A swivel mechanism on the Velcro end prevents twists and tangles, while a rail saver protects your board’s rails (aka: your board’s ‘edges’ from top to tail), from potentially destructive cord tension.
Created in the ‘70s, folks initially thought leg ropes were kind of dangerous – that having the board tied to you if you fell off a wave might mean copping a body blow and result in a serious injury of your own. Riders kept using them, which they still do, convinced that they’re actually more of a safety tool than a safety risk.
“They come in different lengths; some have a longer rope if they’re riding big waves,” says Regan.
Helmets: daggy accoutrement, or vital safety addition? Given that at least 40% of surfing injuries are related to the head (51% if you ask Inertia), it makes sense to sport a little protective headgear if you're putting yourself in testing surf, no matter how uncool you think they look.
“It’s sensible to use one,” says Regan. “Especially if you’re surfing a reef break, and there’s a rock you can’t see that’s only two feet under the water and you come off, well, that’s a dangerous situation.”
As well as riding a reef break, if you happen to be a youngster, if you’re in a crowded lineup, or you’re tackling intense weather conditions, a helmet can be a good choice.
Slip, slop, slap, people. Sunscreen is the business.
“Get it without PBAs and nasty petrochemicals,” adds Regan.
Nothing ruins a good day out on the waves more than coming home a lobster!