Surf Equipment | A Guide To Essential Surfing Accessories
Accessories to the crime: 7 surfing accessories you just can’t do without
You’ve got yourself a surfboard and a wetsuit, now it’s time to accessorize. The field of surfing accessories is endlessly fertile and forever expanding; some of its fruits are entertaining novelties or handy little extras, others you just can't do without. Here are 7 of the most basic and essential surfing accessories. The chances are you’re going to need all of them.
Surfing Accessories: Surfboard Fins
Beginner surfboards will often use rubber fins, preferable because they’re softer and thus safer. Otherwise your surfboard’s likely to come with a free set of plastic fins, which are fine for beginner to intermediate-level surfers. More experienced surfers are likely to prefer fins made out of fibreglass, carbon or honeycomb because of their superior responsiveness and “feel".
The two main fin companies are FCS and Futures, whose systems are not mutually compatible. The original FCS I system is probably still the most widely used, but is gradually being replaced by the FCS II system, which new surfboards are more likely to be fitted with. The new system is in theory more efficient and easier to use, its main innovation being that fins click rather than screw into place, obviating the need for a fin key. Futures fins are secured with the aid of a single screw which tightens from the front, sport a more solid base, and are preferred by many top pros.
Surfing Accessories: Surfboard Leash
Your leash — and you must wear a leash, if only for safety purposes — should be roughly the same length as your surfboard; as for its thickness, this is determined by the size of the waves you’re using it in. In small waves, where speed is harder to come by and the demands on your leash are less strenuous, a thinner “comp" leash can be used to minimise drag.
Surfing Accessories: Surfboard Bag
If you want to look after your surfboard you’ll need some sort of cover to protect it, especially if you plan on travelling with it. The most basic kind of cover is a surfboard “sock", which will keep your board safe around the house or in the back of your car. A lightweight surfboard bag with reflective outer layer and thin foam lining will provide slightly more protection, but not enough for travelling by plane -- for this you’ll need a “travel bag". Travel bags are available for one, two, even three boards, but if you plan on travelling with three surfboards or more the best thing to get is a “coffin" board bag. These can usually hold three or four boards though in some cases as many as ten, and have a zip that opens up all the way round the bag, which means you can pad the boards out for extra protection or pack all your wetsuits and clothes in with your surfboards.
Surfing Accessories: Fin Key
For most popular fin systems, including Futures Fins and FCS’s original system, a thin allen key is used to tighten the grub screws that keep the fins in place. Fin companies tend to make their own versions of the same key, which come free with most fin-related purchases or can be bought for little more than a pound. The FCS II fin system, whereby fins are simply “snapped" in and out of place, dispenses with keys and screws altogether.
FCS make a special ratchet key which significantly speeds up the tedious screwing in and out process, and comes in handy if working with worn out grub screws, which a regular fin key may struggle with (a sign that the grub screws need replacing) . Some clever bastards use a full-on power tool.
Buy fin keys in large batches; put two in your wallet and leave one in every pocket of every item of clothing you own. Still there will come a day when you arrive at the beach equipped with both surfboard fins and a surfboard but no way of affixing the former to the latter.
Surfing Accessories: Surf Wax
The surface of a normal surfboard is extremely slippy, and so specially made surf wax is rubbed onto the deck (the upper side of a surfboard) to provide traction — both for the surfer’s body, when prone, and feet, when standing.
The packaging will specify what water temperatures the wax is intended for use in. Softer wax is used in colder water, harder wax in warmer water; get this the wrong way round and your wax job will either melt or prove insufficiently sticky. A decent bar of surf wax will a) smell divine, and b) incorporate some sort of sexual innuendo into the marketing material. Mr. Zog's Sex Wax is the most iconic surf wax brand, and in my view the best, although there’s probably not too much difference in quality between the major brands.
Surfing Accessories: Wax Comb
A wax comb serves two purposes. The teeth of the comb are used to etch crosshatches into a decrepit wax job whose youthful bumps have been worn smooth with use; these criss-cross indents will provide renewed traction. The thin, flat edges of the comb, meanwhile, are used to scrape a surfboard clean of dirty wax. In the opinion of your correspondent, Mr. Zog's continues to produce the surf industry’s most versatile, elegant, effective wax comb.
Surfing Accessories: Surfboard Tail Pads
Deck pads provide an alternative form of traction to surf wax, and are now used by the vast majority of surfers. The standard set-up these days is a single tail pad for the back foot, with surf wax then applied all the way up to the front foot; a tail pad is also a great marker to help less experienced surfers get their back foot in the right place. The majority of tail pads come in two or three pieces, which can be spaced slightly apart; most also feature a kicker to push up against at the back, and a slight arch running down the middle.