The plans are made, forecasts checked, that one friend who always decides to join late just sent the “is it still on?” text; You’re going on a surf trip. After getting absolutely frothed that you are traveling to some world class surf, the reality of the logistics needed to score kick in. What do I need to bring? Where can I get it? Am I forgetting anything? These questions have been the cause of much pre surf trip anxiety for yours truly, and I am sure many other surfers throughout history share the same worries. Worst case scenario would be showing up to a perfect reeling point that you researched and after digging through a hastily packed boardbag realizing you forgot fins. The solution is here, a no frills packing list for any surf trip with suggestions for where to buy items you might not have. Read on, intrepid adventurer.
This section will pertain to everything you’ll need at the water’s edge to score some A-grade surf.
To surf you’ll need a board (no, this article will not assume you know anything). Make sure to bring a board or boards that match the waves you’re going to surf, or a just one very versatile board.
Bringing a board by air leads to some complications: Longboards are trickier to fly with (of course) and I would forget about trying to fly with glassed in fins. Make sure to get insurance as most baggage handlers are not so nice to boardbags.
Depending on if you are flying/sailing/driving to surf you’ll need to make the right choice on how to bring your boards. There are plenty of options that can accommodate 1/2/3/4 boards safely as well as having room for some of the other items on this list. FCS, Dakine, and Db all have good options.
Fins (and fin keys!)
Don’t be that guy that tries to ask his two mates to lend him a fin each so that they can all surf a trendy twinny. Bring fins! Preferably not screwed into your board to avoid damage. Different sets of fins can bring a board to life in different conditions, so if you want to pack just one board pack a couple sets of fins and have fun! Make sure bring bring 3 yes 3 fin keys as well. These buggers are easy to lose at the bottom of your bag and they are cheap enough to warrant having many extras.
Always important if not necessary. The key here is to make sure your existing equipment is in good condition (not noodling or thinning out anywhere) and to bring backups. I would not go on any surf trip without at least two brand new leashes and one that I have used but is in good condition, especially if I am planning on surfing anything over head high. If you are going somewhere with good surf amenities and shops, feel free to buy there. Online options include: Creatures of Leisure, FCS, and Stay Covered.
Big no brainer here, but you never want to be slipping off your board. Make sure to pack the right temp for the water you’ll be surfing and bring extra bars for your mates who will inevitably forget this surf essential. Fu Wax and Sexwax are my go tos.
Preferably something thin to pack easily and dry quickly. A favorite of many is Slowtide’s.
Don’t Surf Nude
Or do, although it is frowned upon at many beaches (but not all!). Jokes aside, this section will cover what you should bring to wear in the water depending on temperatures.
Who doesn’t love a tropical trip? Shed the rubber and hit the warm sea!
A big theme on this list is extra of everything. Bring at least two pairs of your tropical attire of choice. Any major surfbrand will have what you need. Billabong, Volcom, Birdwell Britches, Rip Curl, Quiksilver etc…
Depending on your preference for sun on your skin or rashes on your chest/stomach, we recommend wearing some sort of covering up top while surfing. This can be in the form of a tight looking rashie (damn John John) or a loose old t shirt sure to be ruined by the saltwater and sun. Either way works, one is cheaper and less comfortable (I’ll let you figure out which one). Rashguards can be bought from any surf brand, see boardshort links above.
You might be wondering why this is in the tropical section. The answer: sharp reefs. Depending on your destination a pair of water shoes/booties will be invaluable in protecting your feet from cuts and infection. Vans, Vissla, and Xcel have some of the best.
Cold to Freezing
Some might wonder why you are going somewhere cold for a trip, the answer might be a massive lack of crowds. Just make sure you are set up to be cozy.
Choose thickness wisely. Wetsuits are expensive, but if you can manage I recommend bringing an extra. Nothing is better than watching your mates struggle to put on a damp wettie the morning after a marathon surf while you slip into your bone dry back up. Check out any of these or really any wetsuit brand, it is the fit that really counts: NeedEssentials, O’Neill, Feral, or Patagonia.
Depending on the water temperatures you might need to bring wetsuit booties, a hood (or make sure you have a wetsuit with one attached), and gloves. Make sure to do your research on your destination and be honest about your personal tolerance for cold. Any of the above wetsuit brands will have what you need.
This might be the most boring yet important section. Many traveling surfers tend to fixate on waves and forget physical health until it becomes a problem. Be ready before that happens. The easiest way to keep everything together is make or purchase a first aid kit.
First Aid Kit
As an emergency medical professional, this is my favorite section.
- Sunscreen. This is an essential for any trip regardless of location. Make sure to get the good, thick, zinc filled stuff.
- Alcohol wipes to disinfect skin before piercing it.
- Iodine wipes or Betadine solution with bunch of cotton pads to disinfect already open wounds.
- Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection after treating a cut.
- Gauze. Get a lot of different sizes, if you want to be fancy get hemostatic gauze which has chemicals that help staunch bleeding.
- Butterfly Stitches. These things are amazing at closing hard to close thin cuts.
- Saline solution or distilled water for rinsing wounds.
- TAPE. This could be duct tape in a pinch, but sports tape works great as well.
- Bandages. Same as guaze, bring a lot and in different sizes.
- Scissors to cut away rubber or clothing from the skin.
- Tweezers with a good sharp point.
- Sting/Itch relief wipes.
- Tylenol/Aspirin etc… low level pain meds.
- Tourniquet, especially if you are going to a sharky area. I recommend the Israeli version for ease of use.
If you feel like purchasing a pre made kit, check out SurfIndonesia. It has most of the items I have listed above, so feel free to purchase and then add your own!
Quality of Life/Miscellaneous
Sometimes the little things make all the difference. These items didn’t really fall into any other categories, but will always find a way into my suitcase.
- Binoculars. A good tool to check the sandbar down the beach or save a drive down the cliffs. Can be expensive but a huge convenience at times. Vortex, Nikon, Bushnell are all good.
- Surf Pack. A waterproofed compartment backpack is a great item to have when walking to and from the surf. It can also double as a carry-on if flying. Check out O’Neill, Corsurf, Creatures of Leisure
- Phone. Make sure that you have the ability to get service where you are going, especially if it is remote. Check carriers etc and get set up early. Vodafone is king.
- Hydration Packets. These are amazing at washing off a hangover or replenishing after dehydration. Pack more than you think you need. LMNT, NUUN, and Ultima are perfect.
- Speaker. Music is key to pass the time. A speaker or headphones are fantastic travel companions. JBL has some good options, but you can’t go wrong anywhere.
There is also a bunch of non surf related stuff you’ll need to bring. Clothing isn’t optional on planes these days… But I’ll leave that up to you as most other things are climate dependent and non surf specific. If you have any additions that are essential to you, comment below! Happy travels!