Tofino surfing: Surf Equipment for Beginners
by Jay Bowers, Tofino
Surfing-as many other sports in this world of ours-has a ton of different equipment options. This can be very confusing for the beginner and very hard on the old pocketbook.
The first thing you should look at is your choice of rubber. There are many different brands of wetsuits, booties, gloves etc. and they all fill different individual needs. Without going into details about different styles and fits, I suggest you try on at least 2-3 different brands of suits and you will see for yourself which brand works for you. A wetsuit must fit very tight and with the new materials that suits are made of this is particularly important. The new neoprene is very stretchy and will shape to the contours of your body in time, but if the wetsuit is to big to start with you will run into some very chilly days down the road! The suit should fit snug around your shoulders, armpits and down your lats at your side. The next most important area is the small of your back (your lower back). If your suit does not fit snug, you end up with gaps of empty space between your skin and the suit, and this is where bits of the cold Pacific will sit and send a chill through your bones! If you are lucky and have that special body, a certain wet suit will fit perfectly, nice and snug all around, but if you are like me, you get it as close as you can to snug.
If money is an issue (and to most of us it is) I suggest you put the better part of your budget towards new rubber as opposed to a new surfboard. Sure, boards are pretty in and out of the water, but in the early stages it is not the most important thing (more on that later). A new or used suit you ask? Well that is up to you and your budget. If it were my choice, I would spend all I could afford on a new suit and booties. After all- if you drive all the way to the beach and only last an hour in the water, learning to surf will take you that much longer. This doesn't mean that a used suit is the wrong way to go. There is a huge selection of used suits out there and the more this sport grows, the bigger the selection will get. Just make sure you get the suit that fits the best-not the cheapest relic you can find from 1982!
Now to surfboards...
Ahh the beautiful surfboard... I would love to tell all of you to go out and drop $700 on that sexy new board, but the truth is-a new board is not what you really need to start out with! Learning to surf takes a huge toll on your surfboard. Knees, elbows etc. are constantly slamming and sticking into the deck of the board, drastically reducing the life of your best friend in the water. A new board would look like some thing out of a war movie in a few weeks, so I suggest a used surfboard, and there is a heap of them out there. Your first board should have a lot of foam in it, it should be thick and it should be no shorter than 7ft long.
A long board (minimal or a fun shape) is what you are looking for. There are many boards out there that are 7ft long but many are what we call 'gun shapes'. A gun shape has a very pointy nose and in most cases a pointy tail (pin tail). These boards are for big-wave riding-definitely not for learning to surf. You want a lot of foam in your board so it floats well and makes paddling as easy as it can be. You need the length to get you into waves, so in the early stages of surfing, we say at Pacific Surf School: "When it comes to your board: The bigger the better!"
I hope this gives you some heads up when you are shopping for some new or newish gear.
Jay Bowers runs Pacific Surf School in Tofino. Visit his website at www.pacificsurfschool.com.
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- Surf Sister Surf Trip Apr. 2004
- Surfgear for Beginners Feb.2003
- Surfing Etiquette Jun.2002
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- Tofino Surf Gear: Pump up the Volume Feb 2011
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- Tofino Surfing Backside Straight up Aug. 2009
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- Tofino Surfing: Frontside off the lip Jan. 2005
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- Tofino Surfing: Frontside Floaters Dec. 2003
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Tofino surfing guide to surf equipment for beginners by Jayson Bowers of Pacific Surf School in Tofino.