Q. What do I need to begin surfing?
A. One of the nicest things about surfing is that you need relatively little equipment to get started. The essentials: a board. Important but not crucial items: camera, for pics of how cool you look riding the waves; a friend, to take those pics of you looking cool on the waves; and a computer, so you can upload the cool pics and email them to everyone you know. Lastly, the frivolous accessories: swimming suit, wetsuit, rashguard, gloves, booties, wax, and leash. Although not essentials, it can be VEEEERY nice to have these last items.
Q. Short board or long board?
A. Most people prefer to start with a long board, catching smaller waves and working up to Waimea Bay. Longboards are usually 9′ and over in length and are easier to paddle and get into the waves sooner. Because of their size, however, they are less maneuverable than shortboards which usually range from 5′ to 7′.
Longboards are not just for newbies though. After you’ve done a bit of bonding with your longboard, you may decide you like the surfing style that accompanies it. That is, longboarding is all about grace. (Think arctic tern gliding over the ocean on a light puff of air, billowy cotton ball clouds in the distance.) Shortboarding, on the other hand, is more about slashing, since the boards are much more maneuverable. It’s easy to see why some people consider longboarding and shortboarding to be two different sports.
Q. What is goofy foot? How do I know if I’m regular or goofy?
A. Goofy foot means right foot forward on your board. Most people are regular foot (left foot forward), but many are goofy foot. There are a couple of great ways to find out if you are regular or goofy. You can have someone push you from behind and see which foot you automatically put forward to catch yourself. (This is generally more fun for the pusher.) Or you can slide around the house in your socks and note your stance after a good running start.
Q. Who has the right of way?
A. The standard rule is that the person closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way. Be a nice surfer and obey this rule.
Q. What is ‘pearling’?
A. Pearling is when the nose of your board goes underwater and takes a deep dive downward. Often, you flip head first over the front of the board. Although this sounds exciting, it is very rarely fun. It is best to try to roll off the board sideways and cover your head with your arms, rather than hold on tight and ride it like a dolphin.
Q. How do I wax my board?
A. Even if you’re a beginner, go ahead and wax from nose to tail. Sooner or later you’ll be using the whole board, so why not get it ready now? For the first coat, rub the wax back and forth over the board in one direction and then go over the same area back and forth in the other direction. After you have a decent base coat, rub the wax on the board using a circular motion, giving a little extra love to the barest spots. Whatever you do, DO NOT wax the bottom of your board. This will surely make the surf gods frown upon thee and severe punishment will most likely ensue.
Q. How often do I need to wax my board?
A. That depends on how much you enjoy sliding off like a rocket. Like ‘pearling’, most people don’t like this so much and, therefore, try to keep a good coat of wax on their board at all times. Ideally, you will give your precious board at least a quick once-over before every time you go out on the water. Remember, wax is cheap, be liberal with it.
Q. What are some nice, easy, ways to make sure my surfing experience is also environmentally friendly?
A. Weeeell, firstly, use common sense and don’t throw trash in the water. Duh. And please give a good tongue lashing to those morons that you DO see throwing trash into the water. Other than that, do your best to respect your friendly ocean flora and fauna by using eco-friendly sunscreen and eco-friendly wax (Matunas surf wax is a great way to go). There are also a small handful of companies that insist on using only organic cotton in their clothing. They clearly deserve our support. Finally, keep your eyes and ears open for new developments on biodegradable boards!
Q. What is a riptide?
A. A riptide, or rip current, is a strong, narrow, surface current that flows outwards from a shore, returning the water carried landward by waves. This fast moving water can quickly take you way out past the surf zone if you’re not careful. Although drowning out at sea may seem like an incredibly romantic death, think about all the stellar surfing you will miss if you go. So, what do you do if you get caught by a rip current? Swim parallel to shore until you are clear of the flow going out, and then swim in towards shore. Don’t fight the current, it will win. You will get exhausted and drown. But most importantly, don’t panic. The current may pull you out, but it will not pull you under.
That said, catching a riptide on your surfboard can be a very quick and efficient way to get back out past the breaking waves. It will save you paddling time and energy so you can spend more time riding those mad waves back into shore.
Q. What is the best way to avoid a shark attack?
A. Surf the Great Lakes.
More (and important!) safety tips:
- Do your best to swim with a buddy. If you go out alone, be smart enough to surf where there are at least one or two other surfers out there so you can keep an eye on each other.
- Stretch before you go out. No, you won’t look like a dork. You’ll look like a SMART dork. Stretching can save you from many an injury, especially if the water is on the cooler side when your muscles tend to cramp up more easily.
- Wear a leash. This will help save you and your friends, and even possibly your enemies, from getting whacked in the head by a runaway board (painful, I promise). A leash is not uncomfortable and it is inexpensive, so you have no excuse for not wearing one.
- Save the beer for after your surf session. If this one needs an explanation, sober up and then reread.