Here is a list of essential gear you will need when you start learning how to surf.
Board: You can rent or buy from many surf shops (starting at $15 an hour for rentals, $100 for used boards and several hundred to several thousand dollars for new boards). Longer, wider boards are more stable, so they’re a good choice for beginners. Once you’re more advanced, you can experiment with narrower, shorter boards, which pros favor for their better maneuverability.
Wet suit: It’s not necessary in warm water, but if the water temperature’s below 68 degrees, says Jeff Phillips, you’ll need one. The colder the water, the thicker the suit should be.
Nose tips: These silicone objects cover the point of the board to help prevent it from cutting you. If you’re renting a board, check that it comes with a nose tip; if you’re buying, shell out the cash to get a tip.
Ear plugs: Wear ear plugs every time you get in the water to prevent surfer’s ear (a bony growth in the inner ear, caused by exposure to wind and salt water, that can lead to deafness). While many surfers don’t use ear plugs, Dr. Oates thinks it’s better to be on the safe side.
Leash: This piece of rope goes around your ankle and attaches to your surfboard. It keeps the board from colliding with other people or going astray when you fall off. A leash comes with a board rental or purchase.
Wax: Waxing the top of the board keeps your feet from slipping. Just remember not to wax the bottom of the board, which would interfere with a smooth ride.
Sunblock: Look for sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and a “broad spectrum” label, which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Check the ingredients list for zinc oxide or avobezone (Parsol 1789), the only sunblocks that protect against the whole range of UVA rays (the kind that age the skin and raise your risk of skin cancer).
Green room: The area inside the curve of the wave whose top has curled over, forming a hollow tube. A very cool place to be — only top surfers can ride a wave big enough to form a tube.
Grommet: A young surfer, or a kid who’s just learning to surf.
Kook: Someone who can’t surf well and gets in the way.
Regular or goofy foot: In surfing, you stand sideways on the board. If you stand with your left foot closer to the nose of the board, you ride “regular”; if you put your right foot in front, you ride “goofy.”