Surfer stretching on beach
By Amy Kenny

Shortboard vs. longboard:

Most people imagine themselves carving up whitecaps on a little fish, but your enjoyment of surfing will increase exponentially if you start on a longboard. The width, length and buoyancy will likely see you standing after your first session and give you a solid base from which to polish your skill set. Soft tops (rather than fibreglass) reduce the risk of a broken nose or black eye. Prices range from $400 to $1,200.

Essential accessories:

(1) Fins: Fins can snap off if you hit a rocky bottom, bump a reef or catch a door frame carrying your board out to the car. Since missing fins can impact stability, have an extra set (and a fin key) on hand. (2) Ding kit: No matter how careful you are, dings happen. Keep your board watertight with a good repair kit to fill minor chips, cracks and scratches. (3) Surfboard wax: Boards and bodies are slippery when wet. Wax provides necessary traction. Be sure to match your wax to water temperatures as different waxes are better suited to cold or warm-water conditions. (4) Wax comb: Use the jagged edges of a comb to create bumps in your wax. It’ll give you better grip. (5) Leash: A board-mounted cord that velcros around your ankle, the leash makes your life easier and ensures the safety of other surfers. Some boards come with one, but bring an extra in case it breaks.

The uniform:

Boardshorts and bikinis are not always an option in Canada. Cold-water conditions mean you sometimes have to suit up in head-to-toe neoprene including booties and mitts. Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimetres, with higher numbers indicating increased insulation. A hooded winter wetsuit measuring 6/5/4 is thickest in the torso (6), then the extremities (5), with a thinner neoprene at the flex points (4) for ease of motion. In the summer, you can get away with a 3/2 or a 4/3 shorty.

Safe surfing:

1) Know your abilities and stay within your comfort zone. If you’re a beginner, don’t try 10-foot swells.
2) Scout your location. Is the bottom reef, rock or sand? Where are the currents and how bad are they?
3) Keep your distance from other surfers. Waves are wild and it’s best to have a buffer.


1) Never drop in on another surfer’s wave. The surfer closest to the peak has ownership.
2) Don’t bail on your board. Ditching it could injure another surfer
3) Don’t hog the action. No one will be impressed that you can catch every wave on the water.