So it’s your first time to try your hand at surfing and you aren’t sure exactly what to bring. It’s pretty straightforward. Still, many people make the mistake of overpacking for their first surf trip which can be quite cumbersome, and while some opt to utilize the toss-everything-in-5-minutes-before-you-leave technique, a little forethought may be beneficial in the long run.

These 10 surfing essentials for first timers should make packing for your first ever surf trip a little less stressful – this is assuming you’ll be renting a softboard (along with the instructor) at one of the surf shops when you get there, and not be bringing a board with you.


1. Sun Protection. You’ll be out in the sun with nowhere to hide, so packing a big bottle of your favorite sunscreen – you’ll need to re-apply every so often as you’ll be in and out of the water for the most part. Thanks to Surfista Travels, I am now a convert to VMV Hypoallergenics’ Armada Sport 70, but I also like to use Beach Hut’s Max SPF 100++ on my face, ears, and shoulders for good measure. For a bit of ’80s fun, you can buy Zinka cream in different colors that use can use for a nosecoat that reflects sunlight, blocks out UVA and UVB rays, and is water resistant. A cap is also a good idea to have with you, especially if you plan on being out in the sun for more than three hours. DO NOT underestimate the weather in the tropics – especially when you’re at the beach!

2 Sunglasses. Unless you want to be squinting for most of the day, you may want to invest in a decent pair of sunnies. Ray-Ban Wayfarers are always a popular choice, but a lot of surfers are also going the sustainably chic route with Panda‘s handcrafted bamboo sunglasses. If you love the classics, Oakley‘s polarized sunglasses are a good option to consider, too.

3. Bathing Suit/ Boardshorts. This should be no-brainer, but pack a comfortable bathing suit that leaves a lot to the imagination. The last thing you want is going into the water in an itsie-bitsie, feeling self-conscious about your choice of beachwear and checking for nip-slips instead of concentrating on standing up on your board. Same goes for boardshorts – nobody wants to see that ass crack, so keep it under wraps.

4, Beach Towel. After braving the waves (and wiping out) for an hour, you;re going to be left exhausted. Rest up and relax on a super cute, absorbent beach towel like the local favorite Lagu Beach Blanket. If you’re looking for the eye-catching round beach blankets, The Roundee Island is a good choice with a variety of pretty geometric patterns to choose from. I have their Majorelle Round Beach Towel myself and can’t go to the beach without it!

5. Rashguard. Surfing in the tropics means the water is a lot warmer, so you can keep the wetsuit for your next dive trip and invest in a cute rashguard instead. You can take your pick from long-sleeved and short-sleeved rashguards from Zalora, or order super cute rash vests from Roxy online.

6. First Aid Kit. You can buy a pre-made first-aid kit with most of the essentials (band-aids, OTC medication, iodine, gauze and plasters, and a menthol rub) at Watsons or Mercury Drug, but you may want to add a big bottle of alcohol, a roll of cotton, and maybe a few big bandages just in case you get into a bad scuff up – like your head accidentally colliding with somebody’s board.

7. Dry Bag. Sand is a camera’s worst enemy – it gets everywhere and leads to the most expensive lens cleanings. I use a 20L Tactics Dry Bagpack myself, which is big enough to stash my electronic, sand-free equipment, coverups, and my beach towel, and this particular dry bag can also convert into a backpack of sorts to make it easier to carry when it’s full. When not in use, roll it up and tuck it away into your bag or backpack for later use.

8. Snacks. If you haven’t realized it already, surfing can really wipe you out! In between surfing sessions, pack a healthy snack of fruit (apples and oranges do nicely) or a big bag of trail mix to help keep your energy up without making you want to throw up.

9. Camera and/or GoPro. You’re going to be encountering a lot of firsts on this trip, so pack your camera and action camera with you to capture all those firsts – first time to stand up on a board, first time to ride a wave, first wipeout, etc. Take pictures and videos of the other more experienced surfers like Luke Landrigan, and get tips on everything from popping up on your board to tackling the trickier waves. My FujiFilm X-M1 is perfect for trips like these – it’s small enough to fit in my bag and not at all cumbersome to use.

10. Cash. You never really know whether a store or restaurant accepts plastic or where the nearest ATM is, so it’s always a good idea to have an estimate of how much you’ll be spending on your trip and withdraw that amount plus a little bit more in case of an emergency.