Get the Goods
Getting outfitted the right way can make a huge difference on your learning curve. Consider the following when getting outfitted for a board and other surf goods:
Boards. Generally, longer is better when learning to surf. Most women will do well to start on an eight- to nine-foot longboard. Your first lessons should be on a foam board until you're able to control the board through the waves (instead of it controlling you).
When you're ready to graduate to a fiberglass or epoxy board, ask your instructor for specific size recommendations for your height, weight and paddling ability. If in doubt, go for a longer board, since they offer more floatation, and you will catch more waves. You can worry about turning and shredding later.
Fins. Most boards come with either a single fin or three fins. Single-fin boards are popular with purists who go for old-school surfing and flow with the wave. Tri-fins, or thrusters, are better suited for surfers who like maneuvers, tricks and power surfing.
Wetsuits. A neoprene wetsuit traps a small amount of water inside the suit and your body acts like a heater to warm the water close to your skin. A good fit is essential. A suit that's too loose will make you feel waterlogged and cold; too tight, and circulation and movement will be compromised. Make sure your arms move comfortably and that you feel warm within a few seconds of getting wet.
Board shorts. Surf trunks have come a long way in the past few years. New cuts, fabrics and innovations have created comfortable options for optimal surf function and fashion. Look for something that has a snug fit around the waist with enough room in the hips to sit straddling the board. A key pocket with a secure Velcro closure and/or key clasp is handy. Longer lengths can offer protection from chafing if they offer a good cut.
Rash guards. A Lycra surf shirt that fits snugly will protect your stomach from chafing when paddling. Most rash guards will also cut about 80 percent of the sun's harmful rays and help prevent the dreaded dropped bikini top. You can also wear rash guards under your wetsuit to avoid armpit and neck rashes from friction while paddling.
Izzy Tihanyi, Her Sports magazine contributor, has been surfing since age 6. In 1996 she and her sister Coco Tihanyi founded Surf Diva, the first all-girls surf school, in La Jolla, Calif. Since then, Surf Diva has taught more than 10,000 women to surf.