The Beginner’s Guide To Surfing Essentials

The Beginner’s Guide To Surfing Essentials

Image Credit: @qnami
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn PLEIN AIR a commission.

Moving to a new place often comes with its own rites of passage, unspoken or not. In Denver, it’s getting stuck in I‑70 traffic for a Saturday on the slopes. In New York City, your first dirty water dog or subway trip gone awry. In Southern California, it’s getting your sea legs – surfing, that is. 

Growing up, any knowledge I had about surfing came from movies like Johnny Tsunami and Blue Crush. It’s safe to say I didn’t know much, but I knew it looked exhilarating. So, when I moved to Los Angeles, learning how to surf made it to the top of my bucket list. 

My first surfing attempt was riddled with nerves. But those fears quickly melted away the minute I got into the water. To be clear, I didn’t get up once on my first day surfing. I actually got rocked by many a wave, but I still had the best time. Surfing is an amazing way to get outside, enjoy nature, and move your body. The thrill of catching your first wave comes with a serious feeling of accomplishment (and burst of dopamine.)

This summer, I’m committed to getting up and staying up. Or at least trying to. To make sure I’m all ready to go for my first surf of the season, I enlisted the help of seasoned surfer, co-founder of Saba Surf, and all-around bada**, Laura Quintana. 


About Laura Quintana


If you think you recognize Laura, you’re probably right. A former track athlete turned fitness model, she’s been photographed for plenty of our favorite athletic wear companies including Adidas, Free People, The North Face, and more. She picked up surfing 5 years ago and fell in love with the sport. Over the years she’s become not only a great surfer, but the co-founder of a surf wax brand and advocate for taking care of, and enjoying, one of mother nature’s greatest gifts: the ocean. 

For all the fellow amateur surfers out there, this one’s for you. Laura’s sharing some tips, tricks, and equipment essentials to help you feel prepared, confident, and ready to ride some waves. 

Since we’re all about helping you get outfitted for your outdoor adventures, we’re starting with a checklist of surfing must-haves. 


A Surfboard You Love

Starting with the obvious: you can’t surf without a surfboard. There’s quite a variety of options. “Some might say that the wave you’re surfing will determine the board you should take out,” Quintana shares, “but I believe that whatever board you feel most confident on is the best one.” 

A longer, thicker, soft-top surfboard provides buoyancy and stability, making it easier to paddle out and stand on, which is very helpful for us beginners. The Catch Surf Odysea Log ($400) is a long, widefoam option that totally delivers on style too. It comes in three different lengths, so you can be sure there’s one right for your height, plus  a bunch of vibrant  colors and patterns that will get you excited to get to the water in the morning. A Wavestorm ($250)  is another great option for beginners—and is a bit more affordable than most of its competitors. 


A Leash To Stay Attached


A surf leash ensures you stay attached to your board and maybe more importantly, your board stays attached to you. By this, we mean when you fall off the board it doesn’t get lost or hit another surfer in the water. While there are many places to buy leashes from, Quintana’s favorites come from Sympl Supply. The brands ECO-Leashes ($36-$44) come in a variety of lengths to accommodate different boards and a great range of shades so you can be sure to find one that matches your vibe. Even better, these leashes are made from recycled post-consumer plastic bottles and packaged in biodegradable materials. We love a brand that talks the talk and walks the walk. 


Surf Wax To Stay Sticky


As with anything, to have the best surfing experience you’ll want to put some effort into making sure your equipment is in prime condition. Surf wax is an easy way to do so. Quintana’s brand Saba Surf makes wax that’s hand-poured in Venice, California from organic, locally-sourced ingredients. It’s made to deliver the most reliable grip and traction, Quintana shares. While we haven’t tried it ourselves just yet, we’re obsessed with the branding and the brand’s commitment to getting involved in the surf community they love so much, whether that’s through environmental activism or throwing lively  local events. 


A Cute Wetsuit


When you you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you do good.  Per my philosophy, finding a wetsuit you adore should be top of mind when it comes to getting geared up for your surf sessions. 

For spring and summer, you don’t need a full-body wetsuit. Depending on where you live and how you tolerate temperature, you’ll probably be perfect in a shortie or even a regular swimsuit. I’m eyeing pretty much everything at Abysse this season. 

If you’re looking to splurge, Cynthia Rowley has a slew of funky, colorful, patterned surfsuits that are all beyond chic. This one is at the top of my list right now. 

Looking for more inspo? Check out our newly-updated swimwear guide


A Trusty SPF


Protecting your skin is a no-brainer, especially for those long days out on the water. Supergoop! is a favorite for many, including Quintana. We know that finding a sunscreen you genuinely love can be an arduous process, but we’ve got you covered. Our sunscreen guide has eight amazing options—and they are all reef-safe too.



Your Favorite Leave-In Conditioner


Getting thrashed around by the waves can leave your hair pretty unruly, but it’s nothing a little leave-in conditioner can’t fix. Conditioner detangles, smooths, and protects your strands from the saltwater, which can be very drying. Quintana suggests putting some of your favorite conditioner through your hair before you paddle out. She recommends anything from sustainable beauty brand Davines. If you want to exit the water with some beachy waves instead of tangled locks, don’t skip this step. 

Now that you have the gear and accessories for your surf session, all you have to do is get out there. But, make sure you’re going to surf spots that are beginner-friendly. “If you don’t feel safe, get out of the water and find someplace more your speed that day,” Quintana says. 

Reading next

10 Swimsuits That Will Stay Put While You Surf, Waterski, or Wakeboard This Summer (Yes, Even if You Have a Bigger Bust)
7 Items You’re Forgetting to Pack for Your Hawai’i Trip from Someone Who Lives There

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.