Buying Right: The Maximum Surfer

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Review, August 1997
Buying Right: The Maximum Surfer

Surfing may seem the most minimalist of sports, but a few extras are worth considering, if only to ensure you do it safely — and stylishly.
By John Stein

Surfboard reviews


Billabong Rash Guard and
Rusty Tollroad shorts
My favorite among the many snazzy board shorts available is the nylon Tollroad from Rusty ($46; 714-252-1197). Plenty long to surf in alone, the Tollroad is also minimally intrusive under a wetsuit, thanks to the lightweight fabric. A key pocket and double-snap fly provide just enough utility — more features would only bind when you're crouched over a board. The Lahaina ($40) is cut for women, with a narrower waist.

For chillier conditions, consider Rip Curl's Zip Free ($142; 800-842-2875) wetsuit. Slipping into this short-sleeved suit doesn't feel like donning a straitjacket,

Rip Curl Zip Free
because it's sewn from stretchy nylon-skinned two-millimeter neoprene and designed with an extra-wide neck — simply climb into it like a gunnysack and then seal it with a hook-and-loop flap. The design provides all the requisite freedom of movement.

Billabong's versatile Rash Guard ($32; 714-548-9375) deserves a place in every surfer's bag. Wear the four-way-stretch spandex shirt as a warm base layer under a wetsuit, or alone to keep your bodyboard from rubbing your torso the wrong way. Cleverly integrated rubber gaskets at the sleeves and waist keep it from billowing in the surf.

Since harmful UV rays have an easier time reaching your scalp than you do with sunscreen, Patagonia offers the Hood Ornament ($29; 800-638-6464). The visored nylon cap fastens with simple straps and a buckle and won't come off no matter how violently you wipe out.


Rip Curl Tide Master
The quest for the perfect wave takes a twist with the Rip Curl Tide Master watch ($160; 800-842-2875), which tracks tide height, tide range, and lunar phase — and has Swiss-movement time functions. Good to 660 feet and featuring a rotating bezel, it doubles as a dive watch.

Beachside, you'll appreciate sunglasses with polarized lenses, which cut glare reflected off water. The Revo Extreme Wrap ($295; 800-843-7386) features multicoated, optical-quality glass lenses that block 99 percent of glare while enhancing contrast to make the world look that much more ... tubular.

Barz Optics Fug goggles
Of course, you don't want to thrash around amid surf and reef with sunglasses on. Instead, consider Fug goggles from Barz Optics ($120; 800-788-8964). The cellulose acetate frame holds optically correct, shatterproof, cast resin lenses that block UVA and UVB rays, and gaskets nestle against your face to keep out wind and water. They offer an impressive 170 degrees of peripheral vision and can accommodate most prescriptions.

For bodyboarding or bodysurfing, Redleyfins ($56; 408-458-3382) will put some zip in your kick. The asymmetrical fins feature unique left and right foot pockets and are available in hard and soft compounds.

The so-called vacuum jet drains effectively channel away sand and rocks, and the fins float, something you'll appreciate if you ever lose them in the waves.

Surfboards and bodyboards are like amorous dogs: Passersby like them best when you keep them on a leash. Block Surf's Weapon ($18; 805-583-0057), a simple urethane cord with a swivel on each end and an ankle collar, is a no-frills way to keep track of your surfboard.

Quiksilver Surfunction Waterproof Backpack
Any surfer worth his salt knows garden-variety sunscreens won't do for braving the waves, which is why Aloe Gator SPF 40+ gel ($10; 800-531-5731) appeals to boarders. It's so tenacious that you'll need soap to remove it. The gel goes on a bit greasy but quickly dries to a scarcely noticeable film. One caveat: You have to apply it at least 20 minutes before hitting the water for full effectiveness.

Stow all that stuff in the Quiksilver Surfunction Waterproof Backpack ($48; 800-576-4004), a wet/dry bag that easily accommodates wetsuits, rash guards, and trunks for two. The compartments neatly separate your gear. It's the only way to keep the inside of your car from looking like the beach itself.

Beachworthy sandals (from $18 to $40): Adidas Adilette, Birkenstock Super Noppy, Fila Heritage Classic, Nike Soccer Sandal 2, Polo Sport Neoprene Slide, Sensi Navy Regatta Ice Slide, Tommy Hilfiger Freedom Slide, Vans Zoe

Photographs by Clay Ellis

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