me standing over a foam surfboard with leash and wetsuit

The REAL Cost of Starting Surfing (Even on a Budget)

Surfing is a great activity to get involved in as it is lots of fun and also great for your fitness and even wellbeing.

However, there are a few things that you will need to buy before you can properly start surfing, each with their own costs.

As such, below is a guide to how much it will cost for you to start surfing, as well as a price guide for each item of surf gear that you will need.

Remember that some of them have caveats that you need to be aware of before buying (look for the asterisk symbol in the section headings below for these).

How much does it cost to start surfing?

In all, you can expect it to cost you around $750 to buy all the surf gear you need to start new, but you can halve that amount if you are willing to buy used or second-hand equipment, as well as looking at other cost-saving tips, as we’ll cover in detail below!

What do you need to start surfing?

Before discussing what you need here, there are a couple of things to consider as these will affect exactly what you need, or not!

Firstly, are you planning just to try out surfing for the first time? If so, then my strong advice is to have a surf lesson first. This is because surf lessons are not too expensive and will provide you with all the necessary equipment and surf gear for your first time, a great option to get a feel for surfing.

You will also see exactly all the gear that you need, giving you an idea of all the items for surfing.

However, you can start surfing without having a surf lesson, but you can still look to save on costs and only buy what you need when you need it.

For instance, if starting in the summer in a warm area, you might only need to get a surfboard to start, or even just hire a board. You can probably swim in boardshorts and have a go in the waves; if so, a wetsuit is something that you will only need later on and can save up for it.

Otherwise, the main items of surf gear you need to get started are:

a learner surfboard, a wetsuit, a leash, fins, wax and a waterproof key holder if you drive to the beach.

Having all of the above will mean that you are ready to take on the waves and get started with surfing.

We’ll now have a look in more detail at the different items mentioned here and how much to pay for them, as well as how to save money on each if you are learning to surf on a budget.

Learner Surfboard: New – $400~, used – $150-200

A decent learner surfboard should not cost much more than $400 new, with used surfboards for learners being about half the price, at $150-250 on sites like Craigslist.

By learner surfboard, I mean one that is 2 feet longer than you are tall and is both wide in the nose and the tail, ideally made of a soft-foam construction for added safety.

In terms of soft-foam surfboards for learning on, look at how many ‘stringers’ it has; these are usually a piece of wood that run the length of the board to give it strength and stop it from snapping.

In the case of soft-foam surfboards, there are usually two (twin/dual) or three (triple) stringers made from wood; expect to pay more for surfboards with triple stringers as these are stronger and better to ride.

If buying a used surfboard, make sure that the board has no obvious holes and does not weigh a lot more than you’d expect; if it has either holes or feels really heavy, then it might be waterlogged and literally rotting from the inside out, so avoid like the plague!

For more on buying your first surfboard, be sure to check out my video below from the Surf Learner YouTube channel (remember to subscribe for lots more great tips there, too!)

Wetsuit: New: $300, Used* – $100 max.

As mentioned above, you might be able to start surfing in the summer and get a lot of hours in the surf without needing a wetsuit, so only buy one of these when you are absolutely ready for it.

When you are ready to buy a wetsuit, I’d strongly recommend buying your first one in a local store as opposed to online. This is because wetsuits require an almost perfect fit and are heavy and a hassle to send back, even with free postage.

Once you find a brand that you are comfortable with, then you can buy the same or similar ones online in the future, knowing that they fit you well.

You can see more tips on buying your first surf wetsuit in the video below from the Surf Learner YouTube channel (remember to subscribe for lots more great tips there, too!)

Surf Wax: $3*

Surf wax is cheap but essential when learning to surf. This keeps you from slipping off your surfboard, which will feel like an oil slick as soon as it gets wet without any wax on it!

You can use one bar of wax for up to a year in most locations, although you might like to apply a different coat of wax according to the temperature changes in your region.

The reason for the exception here is that you might be able to get wax free when you buy a surfboard either online or in a store.

Lots of surf stores will happily throw in a bar or two of wax with a surfboard, so that could save you a few bucks. Even if they don’t mention it, ask them in-store if they have any wax and they might well say ‘it’s on us!’.

If you are wondering how to wax your surfboard, add wax in a grid-like pattern first using the corner of the wax, then rub over this grid gently with the flat side of the wax in a circular motion. This has always been the best way I’ve found to apply wax and is exactly how I do it.

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You can see my wife waxing her surfboard here: first add the grid lines, then rub over softly.

Surfboard Fins: $50*

Surfboard fins are essential as they will allow you to control your board and go straight through the waves and in the water.

There are hundreds of different types of surfboard fins but, generally speaking, most learner surfboards will come with fins included, so you may not even have to buy these.

Just be sure to check that the product description for each learner surfboard you look at says ‘includes fins’ or ‘fins included’ since these make those boards make for a great surfing starter pack.

If buying used, look at the ad listing to see if fins are included and ask the buyer if you see nothing. This can at least then be a reason to get a discount if they are not included, although be careful about buying learner surfboards without fins as many of the soft-top boards you see will need specific fins by that same brand.

Otherwise, the main fin options are FCS or Futures Fins, although these will usually be on more advanced surfboards so don’t expect all the boards you look at to mention these.

Leash: $30*

To go with your surfboard, you’ll need to get a leash to keep you attached to your surfboard at all times.

This keeps you connected to your board when you fall, meaning it won’t wash in to shore each time. This is essential since you won’t need to swim in after it won’t be a danger to others on the way in.

When buying a first surf leash, again check that it is from a reputable surf hardware brand like FCS, DaKine, Ocean&Earth.

This is because a leash is safety equipment, so buying a cheap one will only cause you more  problems later on!

Further to that, avoid a ‘comp leash’ as these are designed for professional surfers in competitions who want to use a lighter leash that drags less in the water.

This might sound appealing but comp leashes are cheaper for a reason: they are thinner and not as strong as standard leashes, so they can break easily when used with a  big learner surfboard, for example.

Tip: do not buy a used surf leash as these can easily break when you are out in the surf, making it dangerous for you if a wave washes your board back in to shore.

On top of that, the Velcro straps used there can also easily wear out on old leashes, making it easy for waves to pull your leash off your leg and again be another possible danger in the surf.

Waterproof Key Holder (Essential for Drivers): $20

If you are driving to the beach, you will also need to get a waterproof key holder.

This is because lots of thieves know that surfers stash their keys under/around their cars, meaning that they might well be watching you when you stash it!

Added to that is the fact that almost all car keys these days have electronics inside, meaning that they will probably break after one use without a fully waterproof cover/holder

I have used this Aquapac key holder (Amazon affiliate link) for the last 8 years and would recommend it since it is reliable and fits snugly down the back of a wetsuit.

It takes a little bit of getting used to surfing with one but you will soon not notice it.

Related Question

Is it hard to learn surfing? It’s not hard to stand up on a learner surfboard in white water, but it is hard to ride along an unbroken wave. You can expect to stand up on the right board in your first session or two, but to ride waves will take a lot longer.

For this reason, I’d always recommend taking a surf lesson as a way to try out surfing for the first time and then see how you get on. This can save you time and makes it an easy way to start surfing.

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