Some people are fashion-conscious – others, not so much. Fashion and style count, but with surfing gear what really matters is performance, comfort, warmth and durability. These elements trump fashion for anyone who is serious about riding waves. Fortunately, surfing clothing comes in all shapes, colors and styles, so you can look as cool or as kooky as you wish.
SURF GEAR GUIDE FOR WARM WATER
Generally speaking, men and women wear the same thing for a day at the beach as they would for a day of surfing in warm water. The big difference – rarely is anyone trying to rip your swimsuit off on the beach. Unfortunately, waves don’t respect societal norms, so it’s important to wear surfing clothing that is designed to stay on. This means baggies (boardshorts or surf trunks) for men, and secure, supportive swimsuits for women that stay firmly in place during the pushing and pulling of your average surf session. A quick overview of the different surfing gear options will help you select practical attire that helps you focus on the waves…instead of annoyances created by sporting the wrong surf apparel.
Boardshorts for Men
Boardshorts, or baggies, are preferred by male surfers of all levels. A high-quality pair of boardshorts is recommended for anyone interested in riding waves. They are designed with flexibility and comfort in mind. Roughly knee length and loose-fitting (baggy), they usually include a pocket for your wax. Along with this freedom and flexibility comes security in the form of a reliable drawstring around the waist. Avoid suits with netting or inner lining, as they are not designed for the rigors of surfing. They are prone to balloon up with water, making you a candidate for a stripped-off swimsuit or, at the least, an irritating surf experience.
Surfwear for Women
While men are limited to baggies, women have a variety of choices. Bikinis, one-pieces, and tankinis are all good options, and all boast strong points.
Tankinis and one-piece swimsuits are solid surf gear options for women for the same reasons baggies are good choices for men. They give you the confidence to surf to the best of your ability without the worry of a wardrobe malfunction. The one-piece is the most reliable surf apparel in that it is guaranteed to stay put. A bikini with a secure fitting tank-top, the tankini combines the look of the bikini with the security of the one-piece, allowing you to wear a two-piece suit without the worry. The tankini is a good marriage of fashion and function, which explains its popularity.
While the tankini and one-piece are practical options, let’s not forget the omnipresent bikini. Experienced surfers often wear bikinis because they are skilled and comfortable enough to pull it off. In other words, they don’t wipe out as much, and, when they do, they can exercise enough control to keep their suit in place. In the spirit of playing it safe, novices should focus on the business at hand – learning how to surf – and opt for a tankini or one-piece.
For both sexes, it is wise to try on your suit in the store before hitting the surf. Since a comfortable fit is subjective… you get to be the expert. If the material feels good and fits well, you probably have a winner. Thankfully, a lot of options await your discerning eye. High-quality board short and surf bikini manufacturers are as plentiful as the designs and prints they offer. Take your time: a good swimsuit is the linchpin in any surfer’s sartorial lineup.
Rash guards protect you from the sun and, as the name implies, a potentially nasty rash! They are typically made of Lycra and act as a short- or long-sleeve barrier between you and the elements.
Because they don’t wash off or need to be reapplied every few hours, they are superior to topical sunscreens. If sun protection is your primary concern, lean towards darker colored rash guards as they offer more defense against the sun than lighter colors.
Rash guards also form a reliable barrier against your board’s wax, ensuring you a rash-free session. The constant motion of lying on your board – skin against wax – can cause a nasty reaction. For those men who don’t surf every day, wax can do cruel things to your nipples and stomach if left unprotected. A willing ally, the rash guard, will protect you from this painful fate.
When it comes time to buy one, remember that rash guards are designed to fit snuggly so they run small – typically one to two sizes smaller than what you are accustomed to. It is also important to note that rash guards will not guard against the cold. Only a wetsuit can do that.
SURF GEAR FOR COLD WATER: WETSUITS
Not all surf breaks are located in Hawaii and Costa Rica, so it reasons that many of us must make a go of it in nippy water. There are as many cold water quality waves as there are warm ones, but it essential that you plan well and cover yourself adequately for these sessions. Learn how to buy a wetsuit.