1) Don’t go too small too soon. Although there is an obsession with using the smallest board possible at the performance end of competition paddle surfing is this really the right way to go for your average intermediate? This type of board affords the rider very little volume (float), can be very tricky to balance on in any kind of chop, suffers from minimal glide which often translates into lots of scratching versus maximising your wave count. As a general rule think about multiplying your body weight by 1.5 so if you’re 80kg you ‘should’ be able to paddle a 120L surf sup. That said other factors do come into play. Width is a key element. If you’re light (<65kg) then you should be able to get away with a board of circa 27-28.5” wide, for the majority (75-90kg) 28.5-30.5” is a good place to start and for the heavier paddler we’d recommend 30-33” although a lot will be governed by balance and ability.
2) Match your board to your style of surfing and prevailing conditions. If you only get slow powerless waves at your local break there’s little point having an aggressive surf shape as the board won’t work in those kind of conditions. You’d be much better off with a longer more voluminous stick that can pick up the slightest ripple. If you’re home spot gets lovely pealing glassy conditions but at the expense of offshore wind is a feather-light carbon board really the best option? You’ll struggle to drop in on a super light board unless you can effectively cross step to the nose and force the issue which take a bit of practice. If you favour longboard type surfing you’ll probably feel most at home on a 9’5”-10’6” board where you can still nose ride and cross step around with those old skool type moves. If you’re more radical and want to smack lips and lose the fins then sub 9′ board is going to offer you better carving options.
3) Double Leash Plugs. These come in very handy as you start pushing yourself in larger surf. Until you’ve done the 300m swim of shame back to the beach with a paddle in one hand you can’t appreciate how valuable double leash plugs actually are! Essentially if one cord snaps the other ‘should’ ensure you manage to make it home without too much egg on your face. Always a good idea to check your equipment before each session to make sure leash and attaching cords are in good order.