SURF TECHNIQUE: SURF EQUIPMENT
In this episode of “Surf Technique” we explain surf equipment (surfboard and the surf accessories) for people who have never surfed before, and are not familiar with the surf jargon.
Elements of the surfboards:
This is the front part of the surfboard.
There are a couple of different variations, from pointy (generally a shortboard) to a very round nose, which are found on fish shortboards, mini-mals and longboards.
As a general rule of thumb, a more Pointy Nose means more manoeuvrable but less paddle flotation, versus the Round Nose, which is less manoeuvrable, but provides better flotation and wave catching ability.
You will see the rocker of a surfboard when you hold the board sideways; it’s the curve of the board from front to back. More curve on the Rocker means a slower board, but this gives more manoeuvrability. A straighter rocker means more speed but, you’ve guessed it, less manoeuvrability.
The concave is the shape of the bottom of the board from side to side.
There are numerous variations: Some boards are completely flat (no concave), others have a bit of a ‘belly’ and others are shaped as if you were holding in your belly (a curve inwards).
Many have a double concave. Concaves control the water flow and amount of air which moves under your surfboard when riding, so it follows that the different concaves will cause the surfboard to act slightly differently.
Your surfboard shaper or local surfboard shop will explain more to you.
This is the stretchy plastic cord that keeps your board from running away, using a Velcro strap. The surfboard leash gets attached to your leg which is on the back of the surfboard: Goofy footers (= right foot in front) put their leash on their left foot.
Natural or regular footed surfers put their leash on the right ankle.
5. Leash plug.
This is found on the back part. It’s used to attach the leash to the board and is an integral part of the surfboard (unlike the leash, which is detachable).
These are the ‘rudders’ which allow you to steer and remain stable (providing the ‘grip’ on the wave). They are either fixed or removable. There are various different fin options available in surfboards.
You can have a large single fin, 2 medium size side fins, the thruster (the most popular) has 3 fins and some boards are quad (4) fins.
The performance of the board is heavily influenced by your fin set up. Again, your surfboard shaper or local surfboard shop will explain more to you.
This is the back part. This is where you place your back foot. For extra grip, most shortboards have a deck pad made of grippy rubber on the tail.
8. Rail. (the ‘edge’ of the board if you like). Pay attention and you’ll see that rails can vary over the length of the board (in the middle of the board they will be fatter, tailing off towards the nose and tail).
Rounded rails help your board stick to the wave better, sharp ones cut into the wave and give you more speed, also giving you better manoeuvrability.
This is the bottom part of the board (with the aforementioned concaves).
This is the general shape of the board. Over the last 4 decades surfers and surfboard shapers have come up with 1000’s of different designs with varying degrees of success. See some of the most common shapes and designs on this webpage: Choosing the right surfboard.
Volume: In the last decade, more and more manufacturers are placing the volume (in litres) on the board as a way to tell the customer on the amount of ‘flotation’ the board will give. The following websites provide handy volume calculators for their boards.
–BoardFormula (opens in a new window)
The surfboard calculators will give you a good reference on whether a surfboard is suitable for you or not. Taking your weight, fitness and surf level into consideration as well as the type of waves you are expecting to be surfing with the board. As a general rule, the better a surfer you are, the less volume you want in your board.
Surf wear (not the pseudo-fashionable kind you find in stores like Hollister, but the functional kind that you need for actual surfing.
Not everyone is blessed with year round warm water conditions as we are in the Caribbean (all we need is board shorts, a bikini and a Lycra) so here’s a list of what you might need.
Come in various thicknesses, usually indicated by numbers separated by a forward slash, a 5/4 for example, where the first number indicates the thickness (in mm.) of rubber on your core (torso) and the second number indicates the thickness of the neoprene rubber on your arms and legs. Thicker wetsuits means less flexibility, but thinner wetsuits are not as warm.
Very cold water wetsuits are generally in the 5/4 range.
Medium wetsuits are 4/3
Spring wetsuits are in the 3/2 range.
Summer wetsuits either have short arms, or short legs or both and are referred to as a shorty. These are usually a 2/1.
An alternatives to a summer wetsuit is a neoprene top with long sleeves or short arms. For women, many surf brands now produce great all in one bathing suits for women made out of neoprene, which not only look great but are also super-functional in the water.
If the water is warm enough you’ll want to ditch wearing any kind of neoprene wetsuits and just surf in a Lycra. A Lycra (sometimes called a rash-guard) serves 2 purposes: It provides a 30 to 50 SPF sun protection and also serves to prevent a skin rash from rubbing your bare skin on the surfboard. Surfboard wax and sand can easily give you a rash.
Not only for guys, girls often wear a pair of long board shorts to protect their legs from getting a rash and even worse, losing a flimsy bikini in the waves.
Surf booties serve 1 or 2 purposes:
They keep your feet warm when surfing in very cold water, and/or they protect you when you hit the coral or any other sharp reef.
Other surfboard accessories which might be useful when you are buying your first surfboard:
A surf boardbag protects your board when you load it on top of your car, when storing at home, or during air travel. It also provides good sun protection so your surf wax doesn’t melt off, as well as preventing your lovely white surfboard from turning yellow after prolonged exposure to UV sun light.
Thin knitted board bags (called socks) provide little protection from damage, but are good for day to day use to and from the beach.
Goes on top(!!) of the surfboard, where you will place your feet, not on the bottom, as with skis and snowboards. Tip: Don’t leave wax in your car on the dashboard in the hot sun, it will melt and will take you hours to clean up (yes, we’ve done that). Don’t leave your surfboard in the sun at any time, but especially when it is waxed, as the wax melts quickly on your board too.
A small Allen key you use to lock in surfboard fins which use an FCS or Future Fin system.
Other useful accessories:
Most surfing destinations around the world are heavily affected by the tides, so check online or ask for a tidal chart at your local surf shop. Global Tide is a great phone app which gives very accurate local tides and times when location detection is on.
These days all surfing equipment and accessories can be bought online, however supporting your local surf shop is a much better choice, especially when you are new to the sport of surfing. The (local) knowledge these folks can give you is worth much more than the $20 dollar discount you might get when you buy online. The same goes for a local shaper, they can see you surf or listen to your surf experience and where you struggle.
Honestly and correctly assessing your level of surfing is absolutely crucial in buying the right surfboard, or having one shaped that really suits your ability. Surfing with a board which is not right for you will either stop your progression, or at least stall it. A classic example of that would be buying a board which is too small because, well, they look cool and those pro’s sure make them look like an easy ride. They are not; quite the opposite in fact.
THEORY SURF LESSONS AT SWELL
The above is a small part of the theory surf lessons we give at Swell as part of the learn how to surf courses we give here in the Caribbean. If you are interested in joining us in the Caribbean this winter (or any other time of the year) send us a message.