Surf Gear Guide for Beginners

Bodhi Surf + Yoga / Surf + Yoga Camp Blog / Surf Gear Guide for Beginners

If you are a beginner surfer, selecting the ideal surfboard for your skill level can be a daunting task, and with hundreds of options to choose from, you may not even know where to start.

Don’t stress! As an award-winning surf & yoga camp in operation for over a decade, we know a thing or two about picking the right surf equipment and have compiled our personal favorite surf gear options into a nifty guide just for you.

We have also included a handy video to help you visualize what you need.

And since sustainability is baked into our company’s ethos, this guide will highlight some of the more eco-friendly surf equipment options available on the market today. We also have an entire blog on the sustainable surf brands.

All of our options on this Surf Gear for Beginners list are chosen to support businesses that protect people and the planet, especially our most important resource for surfing — the ocean.

Whether you are traveling to visit us here in Costa Rica, or heading off to some other warm-water surf destination, this blog (and video) are “geared” for you!

Best surfboards for beginners

As a beginner surfer, you will want to start with a bigger board — somewhere between 8 and 9 feet. Bigger boards have greater volume, making it easy for you to paddle, catch waves, and ultimately stand to your feet.

To get started, we recommend using a soft-top surfboard (covered in padded foam) to prevent damaging the board and injuring yourself when wiping out. If you fall and get hit by the board, it won’t hurt nearly as bad as getting hit by a hard-top board.

That being said, we have also included one of our favorite hard-top beginner/intermediate surfboards on the market.

When looking for a hard board, make sure to prioritize volume — you want a board that will provide you with a nice combination of float, stability, and paddle power.

Surf gear for beginners

NSP P2 Soft Longboard (beginner)

The vast majority of Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s surfboard quiver consists of P2 Soft Longboards made by NSP. Not only are these surfboards some of the most popular rental boards in the world, but they are also Ecoboard Level One verified.

NSP Ecoboards have a measurably reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional surfboards.

In order to earn Sustainable Surf’s Level One Ecoboard verification, NSP constructs their P2 Soft Longboards using renewable, recycled and/or up-cycled material inputs, as well as materials and processes that reduce toxicity during manufacturing.

Furthermore, these boards are extremely durable and long-lasting. Finding products that stand the test of time is one of the best ways to mitigate environmental impact, as durability and sustainability go hand in hand.

NSP Coco Flax Surfboards

NSP Cocoflax (beginner/intermediate)

In addition to its large stock of P2 Soft Longboards, Bodhi Surf + Yoga will also add a number of NSP Cocoflax surfboards to the quiver for our beginner and intermediate surf students.

NSP manufactures several different surfboard models using its award-winning Cocoflax technology (made from raw coconut husk fibers), including the Dream Rider, Hooligan, and Endless.

Recognized as some of the most eco-friendly surfboards on the market, NSP Cocoflax boards are manufactured using significantly less fiberglass than conventional surfboards, earning them the Gold Level Ecoboard verification from Sustainable Surf.

FYI: Surfboard anatomy

The front of the surfboard is called the nose, while the back of the board is called the tail. You can tell the difference between the nose and the tail by where the fins are.

The fin boxes are located underneath the tail on the bottom side of the board. When plugging fins into the fin boxes, make sure the pointed end of the fins are facing toward the tail.

The leash plug and string are also located at the tail of the board. This is where you will attach your ankle leash.

The top side of the board is called the deck. This is where you will apply surf wax for added traction and grip.

The sides of the board are called the rails.

Most surfboards will have dimensions along the stringer (or center line) on the bottom side of the board. The dimensions of the board should include length, width, rail thickness, and total volume.

Ecofriendly surf wax

Our favorite organic surf wax

When you do eventually decide to buy a hard-top board, you’re also going to need to get some surf wax to apply to the deck of the board for added traction.

Unfortunately, nearly all conventional surf wax brands contain toxic, non-biodegradable petrochemicals that eventually end up polluting our oceans and beaches.

According to Surfing Green, it is estimated that 6 million bars of surf wax are used and discarded annually across the globe.

However, there is one wax brand based out of California that has gone above and beyond to develop an eco-friendly surf wax that has minimal impact on the planet, and that is Matunas.

Matunas surf wax

Matunas surf wax contains a variety of natural ingredients like jasmine, aloe, clay, and tree sap, which are locally sourced from an organic farm in Santa Cruz, California.

Not only is Matunas surf wax made using organic, biodegradable, and non-toxic ingredients, but each bar is also wrapped in 100% recycled paper labels printed with soy ink.

FYI: How to wax a surfboard

Picking the right surf leash

Along with your surfboard, the ankle leash is a must-have piece of equipment for the beginner surfer.

When it comes to picking the right surf leash, strength and durability are the most important factors to consider if you don’t want to find yourself swimming back to the beach with a broken leash post-wipeout!

And what about surf leash length? As a general rule of thumb, your ankle leash should be about one foot longer than your surfboard. If you are surfing an eight-foot surfboard, for example, then you should be using a nine-foot surf leash.

Best ecofriendly surf leash

Wave Tribe eco leash

Here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we carry a large supply of Wave Tribe eco leashes — the world’s first 100% recycled surfboard leash made from plastic bottles.

As a surf school teaching hundreds of surf lessons per year, we encounter broken surf leashes on a pretty regular basis. Thankfully, the Wave Tribe eco leash comes with a one-year unbreakable guarantee.

Attaching your leg rope

FYI: How to attach the surf leash

At one end of the leash we have a thin velcro strap called the rail saver. This is the end that you will attach to the leash string loop at the back of your board.

To attach the surf leash to the board, completely un-velcro the three small sections of the rail saver and pull one end through the string loop at the back of the board. Make sure to line up the string with the non-velcro section of the rail saver (pictured above) and then velcro the three sections closed.

On the other end of the leg rope is a thick velcro strap that you will attach to your back ankle.

When attaching the surf leash to your ankle, the swivel should be facing out over your ankle bone or behind your heel. Velcro the strap on nice and tight so that the swivel doesn’t migrate to the inside of your ankle where it will trip you when popping up.

Surf bikini Sensi Graves

Best bathing suits for surfing

There are many factors to consider when shopping for the ideal bathing suit for surfing, and no one knows this topic better than Bodhi Surf + Yoga co-founder, Adrianne.

In her ultimate guide, How to Choose the Best Swimsuit for Surfing, Adrianne provides a detailed list of what you should be looking for in a surf swimsuit and offers a number of different eco-friendly surf bathing suit brands for both men and women.

Sensi Graves eco-friendly bikini

Designed for women by professional kiteboarder Sensi Graves, this eco-friendly bikini prioritizes functionality — meaning it will actually stay on (and cover all the essential parts) in big surf.

What is more, Sensi Graves Swim products are made from Repreve recycled plastics, and 1% of sales are donated to environmental non-profits.

Vissla ecolastic boardshorts

Made from a combination of Cocotex upcycled coconut husk yarn and Repreve recycled polyester, Vissla’s ecolastic boardshorts offer a nice blend of style and sustainability.

And although Vissla still has a long way to go in the realm of sustainability, their commitment to creating products that are better for the environment may inspire other mainstream surf brands to pivot in the right direction.

All Good Coconut Sport Stick

Facial sunscreen

Here in Bahia-Uvita, Costa Rica, we sit just nine degrees north of the equator, which means the mid-day sun can be incredibly unforgiving!

As a surfer, it is always best to use mineral sunscreen that sits on top of your skin, rather than your typical chemical sunscreen that rubs in (and eventually rubs off into the ocean). The main ingredient in mineral sunscreen is zinc oxide, which acts as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Not only is zinc-based mineral sunscreen better for your skin, but it’s also better for the ocean, as it doesn’t contain chemical additives like oxybenzone and octinoxate. These harmful chemicals are found in most generic sunscreen brands and are toxic to both humans and coral reefs.

All Good mineral sunscreen

One of our favorite mineral sunscreen brands is All Good. A fellow B Corp and 1% for the Planet member, All Good is also certified Reef Friendly and Climate Neutral.

In addition to zinc oxide, All Good mineral sunscreen contains beneficial natural ingredients such as aloe, calendula, coconut oil, green tea, and cacao.

Badger Balm mineral sunscreen

In addition to being a family-owned business, Badger Balm has been voted a “Best for the World” B Corporation every year since 2015.

This is primarily because of Badger Balm’s high standards when it comes to sourcing ingredients for their products, which are organic and fair trade certified.

Long-sleeve rash guard

Many surfers in Costa Rica prefer to enjoy the 80-degree warm water sans rash guard, but only during sunrise and sunset sessions when the sun’s harmful UV rays are minimal. But if you are going to surf here between the hours of 9am and 4pm, then the long-sleeve rash guard is a key-buy.

Not only does the long-sleeve rash guard prevent your upper body from getting burned, but it also protects your chest and stomach from getting scraped up by the deck of the surfboard when paddling, hence the name “rash” guard.

Patagonia long-sleeve hooded top

Patagonia’s mission statement says it all: “We are in business to save our home planet.”

Patagonia is both a Certified B Corp and a founding member of 1% for the Planet — donating one percent of sales to environmental conservation for the past 35 years.

One of the key ways Patagonia has been able to reduce the carbon footprint of its products is by shifting its global supply chain to support organically grown or recycled materials.

Patagonia’s Men’s RØ® Hoody long-sleeve rash guard contains 84% post-consumer recycled nylon made from recycled fishing nets to help reduce ocean plastic pollution.

Ecofriendly Surf Hat

Surf hat

Sometimes sunscreen just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re gonna be out surfing under the sun for an extended period of time. That’s when having a surf hat really comes in handy!

Although surf hats rarely look “cool” when worn by surfers in the lineup, they are highly functional when it comes to preventing skin cancer — well worth the trade-off.

Patagonia surf brim bucket hat

Patagonia’s Surf Brim Bucket Hat (pictured above) is made from 100% post-consumer recycled nylon made from discarded fishing nets.

What is more, all of Patagonia’s products come with an “ironclad guarantee” that holds true for the entire lifetime of the product. Patagonia’s products are built to last, but if they don’t, then the company will either repair, replace, or refund the product for you.

Polarized sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses

As a surf instructor and ocean lifeguard, I have learned a lot about the importance of shielding my eyes from the sun’s damaging rays, especially when these UV rays are magnified by the reflection off the ocean’s surface.

When heading to the beach, make sure to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses with you to protect your eyes pre and post-surf.

Sunski polarized sunglasses

Yet another 1% for the Planet member and Climate Neutral company, Sunski produces post-consumer recycled plastic sunglass frames delivered in plastic-free packaging.

Not only are their sunglasses some of the most sustainable on the market, they’re also quite stylish!

Reusable Water Bottles

Reusable water bottles

When surfing, the combination of sun, salt water, and physical exertion can lead to dehydration very quickly, so make sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you to the beach!

Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle

In 2004, Klean Kanteen introduced the first BPA-free stainless steel and reusable water bottles to the market, with the ultimate goals of providing an alternative to single-use plastic bottles.

Today, Klean Kanteen remains a family and employee-owned B Corporation, 1% for the Planet member, and Carbon Neutral company working to prevent large swaths of plastic from entering our waterways, and ultimately, our oceans.

We are eternally grateful to Klean Kanteen for helping us establish a reusable bottle “loaner program” for our surf students by donating a number of their stainless steel bottles to Bodhi Surf + Yoga.

And that’s a wrap. We hope that, with this information, you can feel confident to go out know what you need in terms of beginner surf gear! Happy surfing!

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About the author

Spencer Dunlap

Spencer is a former Division I college baseball player, San Diego lifeguard, ISA certified surf instructor, bodysurf retreat leader, and published writer at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. Spencer is passionate about surfing, bodysurfing, music, reading, writing, and playing with his dog Nefta.