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What Should I Wear First Time Surfing

Going surfing for the first time is both exciting and a little daunting. 

As well as thinking about how the waves will be and when is the best time to go, you will also be wondering about the clothing and accessories you will need. 

Specifically, many people ask what to wear for the first time surfing.

Wear trunks or swimming costume under the wetsuit that will come with your surf lesson if going to a surf school. If learning solo, check the water temperature and wear a wetsuit if it’s below 66°F (19°C), or board shorts, bikini and wetsuit above this temperature. 

Now let’s explain a bit more in detail about the different types of temperatures and what you need to wear each for your first time surfing.

What to Wear First Time Surfing With a Surf School

First of all, if you have paid for wetsuit hire as part of your surf lesson, which is very common, wear swimming trunks or swimming costume for girls underneath a wetsuit.

This just provides a barrier to stop the wetsuit rubbing too much. These don’t do much for warmth because, in warmer temperatures, the wetsuit just does the main bulk of it

However, if you’re going in really cold water, which is unusual for surf schools anyway, then you can ask them about thermal layers, but that’s in extreme temperatures. And you will know if they’re extreme, below 50 degrees.

If you’ve chosen not to hire a wetsuit for part of your surf lesson, and you’re surfing in temperatures between 50 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit, then you’ll need to get a wet suit that matches the thickness. 

So, if we go from between 50 to 60 degrees, you should wear a five by four millimeter thickness wetsuit on the bottom end of that range, and a four by three millimeter wetsuit on the upper end of that range. 

And in fact, the four by three millimeter wetsuit can go over up to about 60 degrees.

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Girl looking for surf spot
Photo Credit : Miguel a Amutio on Unsplash

If you’re surfing in water that is 60 to 65 degrees, then get a three, two millimeter wetsuit, as this will be fine for you. Above 65 to about 68, then you can get a short arm or short leg wetsuit in a two millimeters only thickness.

If you are planning to buy a wetsuit rather than hire one, then check out my wetsuit buyer’s guide to get more info on the type of wetsuit you need, depending on what kind of level of surfing commitment you’ve got and how much you think you’re going to surf in the future.

What to Wear Under Your Wetsuit First Time

As mentioned above, wear swimming trunks for men and a swimming costume or bikini for women. 

This is a standard thing you can wear, but it also makes changing in and out of your wetsuit that much easier because it is quite tricky to get changed in and out to a wetsuit for the first time. 

You might end up tripping and giving people a display that you don’t really want them to see in the car park. So think about that too.

What to Wear for the First Time Surfing for Girls

For girls, a swimming costume is much easier than a bikini when surfing because the movement it allows you to do when you are putting on a suit.

And also, thinking about some of the perverts in the parking lot. I know this from talking to my wife, who’s felt this for a long time. And she always says, “Wear a costume.”

If warm enough, a bikini is fine for surfing alone, but it must be tight fitting. You often see professional women surfing wearing bikinis, but they’re not the most practical. 

And they often do it probably because of marketing reasons. However, if you wear a bikini, make sure it’s tight fitting, otherwise the risk of it coming off and again, exposing yourself to anyone there on the beach, is very high because waves are powerful.

A one millimeter long sleeve shorty wetsuit is also nice for women. This can keep you in the water longer and is a more discreet option because it’s like wearing leggings. 

Or it’s just, yeah, a wetsuit that doesn’t show off your curves and body as much, but also adds a bit of warmth in warmer temperatures.

As per my wife’s recommendation, bikini top and surf leggings are a good option in the summer because the leggings are quite discrete. And the bikini top then has the security of not coming off as much, but also is nice and comfortable and easy to put on and off.

What to Wear for the First Time Surfing for Men

You can wear board shorts or swimming trunks under your wetsuit. Although I would recommend trunks because board shorts get rolled and folded under your wetsuit and can be quite uncomfortable. 

Although, I never wear swimming trunks myself. The alternative option is to wear swimming shorts. So, an in-between, so they are shorts. 

They’re not the budgie smuggler type trunks, but they also cling to you so they don’t roll up in the same way that loose board shorts do.

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Waiting for big waves Photo Credit : Nick Duell on Unsplash

When I was younger, I used to wear board shorts under my wetsuit, and it was always uncomfortable. And they don’t do anything for warmth anyway. 

It’s more just like wearing underwear under your trousers, just for that comfort factor, rather than warmth. And if they’re not comfortable, then what is the point in this case?

On the top half, you can wear a rash guard to prevent any kind of rub. And also again, just for a bit of extra comfort of having that base layer. 

This is an optional one and you can get these very cheaply on Amazon. And they’re really good items to wear for sun protection on the beach as well. 

So, a rash guard is a nice investment all round.

If you’re in water that’s above 66 degree Fahrenheit, you can get away with just rash guard and trunks, first time surfing for men. 

This would be warm enough for most people, but if you think you’re going to go a lot, then a wetsuit top is a good option as well.

I used to wear a wetsuit top all the time in Bali, through the dry season when things got a little bit cooler. And they give you that little bit extra warmth when it’s not quite warm enough to stay in the surf for very long in trunks alone. 

So that’s at the bottom end, 66 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Or even 66 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A wetsuit top is a really good option. And you can check out my dedicated article on that as well if you think you want to get one.

Other things to take with you first time surfing. Make sure you have some good sunblock. And zinc-based is by far the best for surfing because it lasts for hours and it protects your skin.

When you’re in the surf, much like being on a ski slope, the sun is really intense on your face because that’s the most exposed part of you. And you will catch the sun very strongly, very quickly.

So, if like me, you have sensitive skin, get yourself some zinc-based sunblock that is waterproof and ideally made for surfers, like the brands on Amazon, like Headhunter and others. 

You can get these in skin color to make it a bit more discreet, but you really do want to layer that block on to avoid having any kind of nasty burn. And you will thank me for it later because surfing can give you some serious sunburn if you’re not careful.

Another thing is to keep the sun off as much as possible since it is so intense in the sea. So, if you’re only wearing a rash guard that makes sure it is SPF 50 plus protected, and it states that in the product description.

Some of the cheaper rash guards, the sun will just get right through them and they will offer almost no protection from the sun. So you can easily get burnt that way because they cling to your skin and the UV rays just get right through them.

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