Surf equipment: 5 essentials everything you need (besides the board) for beginners

By now you have probably found many ways to expand your surf gear and figure out the proper board to use.

Depending on whether you have a longboard or a short board, you will require slightly different surf equipment to take your surfing to the next level.

Some of this will sound familiar if you’ve read some of HOKALI’s other blog posts, but some things on this list are new, but can help elevate your quiver and make you all the more prepared.

Read on!

1. Wetsuit

Surf essentials: wetsuit

In our articles on how to stay warm in winter, we discuss finding the proper wetsuit for location, water temperature, and how to find the right size. We also have gone over some basic routine wetsuit care to keep your clothing in great shape.

It is helpful to note that even if you live in a warm climate, like Hawaii, for example, you will likely still benefit from owning a 1-2 millimeter wetsuit top. This can be a great option for evening and early morning sessions where the wind can knock down the perceived temperature by a few degrees.

Wetsuits are great for staying out for long sessions, particularly when the waves are great. You don’t want your only limiting factor to be the cold and keep you from taking advantage of a great surf session!

Look for high quality, reliable surf brands when choosing your wetsuit, like Billabong or Ripcurl; even if you have to spend a little more, it is worth it for something that will last.

2. Traction pad

Surf Equipment

A traction pad or a stomp pad is made of textured, grippy, water resistant foam that you can adhere to the tail of your board.

Traction pads appeared in the surfing scene in the 1980’s and offered the benefit of helping you to have more grip and stability as you push through turns. Prior to the innovation of traction pads, surfers would simply use wax.

When you buy traction pads, they usually come in three or four peel off sticker pieces, so just make sure you are positioning the pads in the right place. Traction pads have a raised lip at the back that you can push your back foot against as you are carving on the wave or doing a turn.

Another added benefit of traction pads, especially for beginners, is that they can help with your foot placement. Ideally, you want your back foot pushed up against the end of the stomp pad to allow for best fin control.

If you are popping up and your back foot is too far forward or off the pad completely, this is a good indication that you will have more power and control by moving your foot back. Traction pads are most commonly seen on short boards, where your back foot placement doesn’t change much, unlike on a longboard.

Surf essentials for beginners

3. Leash

What to look for in a leash? The length of a leash should be the same size or slightly longer than the length of your board. So if you have a 8’ board you could have a 9’ leash. If your board is 6’6”, opt for a 7’ leash, etc.

For beginners, leash thickness is not a huge factor to consider. Thicker leashes are stronger but do cause more drag in the water. However, as you start pushing yourself into bigger, heavier waves, you’ll eventually want a thicker leash that’s appropriate for the conditions.

For smaller waves, a 5-6 mm. thick leash is adequate. In bigger waves—head high to overhead—you may want a 7mm thick leash if you think you will be falling often. That way, if you bail or lose your board, there’s less of a chance of the leash snapping from the pull of strong waves.

Calf leash vs. ankle leash?

As you can probably guess, a calf leash has a longer Velcro portion since it wraps around your back leg calf, right under the knee, when you surf. Calf leashes are preferred by many longboarders, since an ankle leash is much more likely to get tangled under you as you are moving around on the board or walking to the nose.

4. Wax and comb

If you’ve gone surfing even once you know the most important, key piece of equipment you need to surf is a bar of wax (though it does stretch pretty far!).

It can also be helpful to have a wax comb, however, you help you scrape off excess and add more traction. When wax melts, it forms big melted globs on the surface that are less helpful for grip and also less aesthetically pleasing.

Use the toothed size of the comb to scrape diagonal lines across your board’s surface after applying wax, or use the flat size to lift wax off.

5. Car door key with key ring

In our article, 5 ways to keep your keys safe during a surf session, we go into depth about the different ways of storing keys.

The two most common ways are to keep your keys in a lockbox on your car or to keep your key on you in the water. Sadly, lockboxes can still get broken into, and hiding your key in your car tire is not recommended!

If your key is also not properly secured on you in the water it slips off and is lost forever. And battery-operated car keys can also be damaged by water.

The best, simplest, and most secure way to surf with a key is to purchase or make a copy of a key that only opens the car door—thus, not battery operated. Lock your key to start the car in the glovebox and use a key ring to secure your car door key to your top or board shorts.

This way, you won’t have to worry about someone breaking your lock box, and if, worse case scenario, you still lose the key, it is cost effective to replace.


So, take another look. Do you have all the items on the list? If so, you’re ready to hit the waves!

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