Surfers are a low maintenance bunch. In terms of equipment required to pursue the surfing lifestyle we require only a board, swimwear and a nearby beach. That’s it. Compared to snowboarding or windsurfing we are free. We have no strings attached (I’m referencing the tangle of cords connecting every kitesurfer to his body rig) and no engine but the ocean (unlike waterskiers). Wakeboarding and bodyboarding are similar but, let’s be honest, not quite as cool. Now skating, it’s as simple as surfing (some might say simpler if you are shoeless) and that’s probably why we recommend every surfer use it as cross-training.
So here’s the list. If the surfer in your life (that may be yourself) doesn’t have one of these items you might use this as a gift guide. Print it out and leave it in their undies drawer. But don’t be creepy.
Mals, mini-mals, guns, fish, hybrids, shortboards, single fins, twin fins, thrusters, quads and eggs – they’re what make the surfing experience possible. If we could walk on water most of us probably would. But until the requisite nanotechnology is developed, having a slice of glass, epoxy or timber beneath your feet is the best thing you can do with your spare time. Choosing the right board can be daunting, even for experienced surfers. So experiment, try new things and look for surfboards that have been made locally or with environmental sustainability in mind. It’s a shame that surfing, which is such a natural experience, has a disastrous impact on the environment. So try out options that use less toxic materials and cleaner manufacturing processes.
2. Boardshorts or bikini
Ah, the complexities involved in choosing the right action surf apparel. It’s no longer a case of finding a lightweight, quick dry pair of shorts, maybe in a nice colour. Now you have to deal with construction techniques, materials and high tech jargon that sounds like you’re buying a spacecraft. Then you need to pick a style: uber short, knee length, over the knee, plastered with logos, Indian-style, sexy girl stroking a tiger.
It’s mostly nonsense although the performance factor of modern boardies does exceed their predecessors. Nasty rashes and perpetually soggy groins seem to be a thing of the past. But, be prepared, because your shiny new hydrofoil spaceflex futurestitch sackprotect stubbies will only last you a season. The Chinese don’t make things like they used to.
Ah the smell of fresh wax. Sure beats a board covered with Gorilla Grip. The perfect wax job is almost as exciting as the perfect storm. If you were stranded on a desert island for a year with only a firing point break and an unwaxed 6’2″ would you choose:
a) twelve blocks of sex wax
b) twelve sexy girls (or boys)
c) Tom Hanks
Be happy you’ll never have to make this decision. And wax well, brothers and sisters. It’s all in the wrist.
4. A sun protection strategy
Sunscreen damages reefs. It also injects chemicals almost as damaging as solar radiation directly into your precious epidermis. You could use a physical barrier such as a face mask or water hat but most surfers find this impractical as well as detrimental to their sense of style.
So back to sunscreen. Avoid spray sunscreens (dangerous to inhale), super-high SPFs (over 50+ gives a false sense of security, encouraging overexposure to UVA rays which they do not protect you from), Oxybenzone and similar chemicals (they act like estrogen in your body, making you more feminine) or anything else that sounds too good to be true. Think about it this way, it’s not just skin, it is a membrane connecting you to the world – and when it shrivels you’ll be sad. We recommend using a quality zinc for harsh climates which you should remove gently with a mild cleanser and face cloth. Moderate unfiltered sun exposure is beneficial for your body’s vitamin D production, so soak it up in small doses, especially if you live in cooler climes.
The right level of sun protection is different for everyone. If you feel prickly and hot you’ve had too much. If your skin is burnt take more care next time.
Once branded “kook cords” legropes were ridiculed as safety harnesses for surfers who were not skilled enough to hang onto their boards after kicking off a wave. Or surfers who were too scared to have a swim. How times have changed. Get yourself a good kook cord, rinse it occasionally and enjoy catching more waves than you would otherwise. Unless you enjoy swimming or sending missiles at other water users.
If you want to get fancy, you could always try the Modom shark repellent leash. It’s pricey, but if you’re gonna wear a kook cord you may as well reduce your chances of getting eaten by a shark at the same time.
Even if you live in a temperate zone a wetsuit can add a welcome layer on windy evenings or when surfing over razorblades at low tide. If you live on the fringes of surfing possibility then you’ll know how recent wetsuit advancements have enabled a new frontier of cold water exploration.
Companies like Patagonia are making some excellent advancements in wetsuit technology by replacing neoprene with environmentally friendly alternatives.
Shop around, try out lots of wetsuits in your local surf shop, and see what works for you. Yep, it is a hot, clammy and frustrating ordeal but you’ll leave red-faced and happy that you chose the right fit.
Ah, were you not expecting that? A skateboard gives surfers the opportunity to ride land waves, roads, rails, pipes, bowls and whatever else you fancy. Skateboarding is our child and gliding the beachfront on your cruiser is a natural cross-training activity that will keep you in shape and on your toes when the ocean is at rest. We love Z-Flex skateboards for their back-to-roots designs and philosophy.
What? You protest that man’s best friend beats, like, a GoPro with mouthpiece attachment! Yes. Nothing gets me as jealous as those surfers who have a furry best friend waiting for them on the sand when they return from Neptune’s embrace. That wagging tail, those big brown eyes. Or blue eyes if you have a dire wolf. A friend to ride home with. A happy companion. A mate who’ll never laugh at your cutback. A loyal pal who’ll lap up even your lamest jokes.
But how about a dog with a GoPro mouthpiece. Puppycam, now there’s an idea.
Yes, every surfer should own a van once in their life. The freedom of the road, the ability to sleep anywhere. The possibilities inherent in every road trip. A warm bed on wheels (to share if you like), a place to call home wherever the waves are. The spirit of surfing is adventure and adventure resides… just around the next headland.
That’s our list. What do you think?