What To Wear Surfing 101 Complete Guide

When starting out all surfers are a little unsure what to wear surfing, it's completely normal! 

Knowing what to wear and when to wear it can massively impact your surfing experience as you need to consider temperature, environment and cultural factors.

Let’s get into this detailed guide answering the simple question, what to wear surfing!

What To Wear Surfing Checklist 

What to wear surfing is always personal preference however there are some essentially items that all surfers will wear. Here is a checklist on what to wear surfing:

  • Surf Wax
  • Surf T-shirt/ Vest
  • Surfing Sunglasses
  • Surfing Hats and Caps
  • Changing Robe and Beach Towel
  • Sandals or Flip Flops 
  • Surf Shirts
  • Go-Pro
  • Surf Changing Mat
  • Waterproof Dry Bag
  • Wetsuit Bucket
  • First Aid Kit

What To Wear Surfing Under Wetsuit

This is a frequently asked question by surfers so let's get into it first! What to wear surfing under your wetsuit is completely up to you, however for guys and girls it can differ.

For Guys: Aim to wear light shorts or trunks under your wetsuit. The less bulky the better for comfort as most wetsuits are tight fitting as it is! It is becoming more common to surf naked under a wetsuit for guys, so again this is always a personal preference. 

For Girls: The go to item to wear under a wetsuit is a bikini. This is due to it being a light and comfortable item of swimwear perfect to go under your wetsuit. Ensure you test a few bikinis until you find “the one” that you feel the most comfortable in!

What To Wear Surfing 101

Okay let’s get into the ultimate checklist of what to wear surfing. Some of these items are for before or after your surf. However all are important for a surfer to consider and will come in handy!  

1. Bikini 

No surf wardrobe is complete without the perfect bikini, and for female surfers, it's a key piece that combines style and functionality. Designed to stay in place during even the most dynamic rides, a quality surf bikini provides the comfort and freedom needed for an exhilarating surfing session. Opt for bikinis crafted from quick-drying, stretchy materials when selecting what to wear surfing.

The right fit not only prevents wardrobe mishaps but also allows for unrestricted movement in the water. Express your personal style with vibrant colours or patterns, and make sure your bikini not only looks good but stands up to the demands of the waves. Whether you're catching your first waves or are a seasoned pro, a reliable bikini is a must for any surfer hitting the beach.

what to wear surfing

2. Boardshorts 

Boardshorts are the quintessential attire for male and female surfers alike, offering both practicality and style on the waves. Designed with quick-drying materials and a comfortable, loose fit, these shorts provide optimal performance and ease of movement during surfing sessions. Look for boardshorts with secure waistbands and reinforced stitching to withstand the rigors of the ocean.

The length of boardshorts is a personal preference; shorter styles offer more leg movement, while longer ones provide additional sun protection. With a wide range of colors and patterns available, boardshorts allow surfers to showcase their individual style while enjoying the perfect balance of comfort and functionality on the water.

3. Rash Vest/Rashguard

A rash vest, also known as a rashguard, is a crucial piece in a surfer's wardrobe, providing protection from irritation caused by wax, sand, and the sun. Crafted from quick-drying, breathable fabric, rash vests offer both comfort and UPF sun protection. With a snug fit, these vests stay in place during intense wave rides, preventing chafing and rashes. Choose a style that suits your taste, and enjoy the waves with the added confidence of skin protection.

what to wear surfing

4. Wetsuit

A wetsuit is more than just a surfing accessory; it's a second skin that keeps you warm and comfortable in cold water. Made from neoprene, these suits trap a thin layer of water against your body, which then warms up, providing insulation against the chill of the ocean. A well-fitted wetsuit ensures flexibility and buoyancy, allowing you to move effortlessly through the waves while staying comfortably warm in varying water temperatures.

5. Wetsuit Boots

Wetsuit boots are a surfer's essential for colder waters, shielding your feet from the cold and sharp objects like rocks or coral. Constructed from neoprene, these boots offer insulation and protection, allowing you to maintain feeling and control over your board. The sturdy sole provides traction on slippery surfaces, making wetsuit boots a vital component for a safe and enjoyable surfing experience in diverse conditions.

6. Wetsuit Hood

A wetsuit hood is a key component for surfers braving cold waters, ensuring that even the most extreme conditions won't hinder your surfing adventures. Designed to cover your head and neck, the neoprene material provides thermal insulation, keeping you warm in chilly temperatures. A snug fit prevents water from seeping in, offering complete protection against the biting cold and wind.

7. Wetsuit Gloves

Wetsuit gloves are a necessity when facing cold waters, shielding your hands from numbness and discomfort. Constructed from neoprene, these gloves provide insulation without sacrificing dexterity. The grip-enhancing material on the palms ensures you maintain control of your board, making them an essential accessory for surfers tackling colder climates.

8. Sunscreen or Zinc

Depending on temperature this is a must on what to wear surfing! Sunscreen or zinc is not just an option; it's a crucial step in preventing sunburn and protecting your skin from the harsh effects of UV rays. Before hitting the waves, generously apply a high SPF sunscreen or zinc to exposed areas of your skin. Opt for water-resistant formulas to ensure lasting protection, and reapply as needed to keep your skin shielded throughout your surfing session.

what to wear surfing

9. Surf Hat

A surf hat is not only a stylish accessory but a practical one to wear surfing, providing shade and protection from the sun's intense rays. Look for hats with a wide brim for maximum coverage, and ensure they are made from quick-drying materials to handle the ocean's elements. Keeping your face and neck shaded helps prevent sunburn, making a surf hat an essential part of your surfing ensemble.

10. Surf Watch

A surf watch is a surfer's best friend, often top of the list on what to wear surfing helping you keep track of time and tides while riding the waves. Look for watches with features like tide graphs, water resistance, and durable straps. With a surf watch, you can time your sessions, monitor conditions, and make the most of your time in the water. Choose a style that suits your preferences, and let your surf watch be the reliable companion for your surfing adventures.

11. Earplugs

Earplugs are a small but crucial accessory for surfers, providing protection against surfer's ear, a condition caused by exposure to cold wind and water. By preventing water from entering the ear canal, earplugs reduce the risk of painful ear infections. We recommend to go with our friends Surfears, perfect for long surf sessions keeping your ears safe and secure. Always a good accessory to explore when deciding what to wear surfing.

12. Bracelets and Necklaces

Bracelets and necklaces are more than just accessories; they're a way for surfers to express their unique style and connection to the surf culture. Choose waterproof materials to withstand the rigours of the ocean, and let your jewellery reflect your personality. Whether it's a simple bracelet or a meaningful necklace, these adornments add a personal touch to your surfing attire, making every wave-riding experience uniquely yours.

13. Surf Wax

Surf wax is a surfer's secret weapon for maintaining grip and control on the board. Applied to the deck of the surfboard, the wax creates a tacky surface that prevents slipping, allowing you to execute manoeuvres with precision. Choose a wax suitable for the water temperature, and regularly reapply to maintain optimal traction. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced surfer, having the right surf wax ensures a secure footing on your board, enhancing the overall surfing experience.

What to Wear Surfing for Winter

When hitting the waves in winter, it's crucial to prioritise warmth without sacrificing mobility. Opt for a high-quality wetsuit with thicker neoprene to provide insulation against the cold water. Consider accessories like wetsuit boots, gloves, and hoods to ensure your extremities stay warm.

Don't forget a changing robe for post-surf warmth and comfort. Additionally, surfers should invest in durable waterproof gear, such as a wetsuit bucket and a waterproof dry bag, to protect equipment and essentials from the winter elements. Winter surfing demands careful consideration of gear to make the most of the waves in colder conditions.

What to Wear Surfing for Summer

In the summer, the focus shifts to staying cool and protected from the sun. Choose a lightweight and breathable wetsuit or surf bikini, depending on your preference. Surf shirts with UPF protection offer an excellent shield against harmful UV rays, and a wide-brimmed surf hat provides shade for your face.

Sunglasses with UV protection are a must, and don't forget high SPF sunscreen or zinc to safeguard your skin. Sandals or flip flops are ideal for easy on-and-off footwear on the sandy shores. Embrace the summer vibes with stylish accessories like bracelets and necklaces, and always have a waterproof dry bag handy for your beach essentials. Summer surfing is all about comfort, sun protection, and enjoying the waves.

What To Wear Surfing Extras

Surf T-shirt/Vest

A surf t-shirt or vest is not just casual wear; it's a comfortable and stylish addition to your surfing ensemble. Perfect for lounging on the beach or throwing on after a surf session, these shirts are typically made from breathable materials to keep you cool.

The loose fit provides freedom of movement, making them an ideal choice for transitioning between the waves and the shore. Express your surfing style with vibrant colours and designs, and enjoy the relaxed comfort of a surf t-shirt or vest on your beach days.

Surfing Sunglasses

Surfing sunglasses are a vital accessory for protecting your eyes from the sun's glare and the reflection off the water. Designed to stay secure during rides, these sunglasses often feature polarised lenses to reduce glare and improve visibility.

Look for frames that are durable and resistant to saltwater corrosion. With a stylish pair of surfing sunglasses, you not only protect your eyes but also enhance your overall surfing experience with clear vision and UV protection.

Surfing Hats and Caps

Surfing hats and caps are more than just fashion statements; they provide crucial sun protection for your face and head. Whether it's a wide-brimmed hat for maximum coverage or a classic cap for a sporty look, these accessories shield you from the sun's rays.

Look for hats made from quick-drying materials and featuring adjustable straps for a secure fit in windy conditions. With the right surfing hat or cap, you can stay cool and protected while enjoying your time in and out of the water.

Changing Robe and Beach Towel

A changing robe is a practical and comfortable solution for changing in and out of your wetsuit discreetly, providing privacy on the beach. Paired with a beach towel, these items are essential for staying warm and dry after a surf session.

Changing robes are often made from quick-drying, absorbent materials, while beach towels offer a cozy and stylish way to relax on the sand. Invest in a quality changing robe and towel combo for a seamless transition from the waves to the beach.

Sandals or Flip Flops

Sandals or flip flops are the go-to footwear for every surfer navigating the sandy shores. Slip them on and off with ease, keeping your feet comfortable and protected.

Look for sandals with durable soles to handle various terrains and quick-drying materials to withstand exposure to saltwater. Whether you're strolling on the beach or grabbing a post-surf snack, these easygoing footwear options are a must for any surfer's wardrobe.

Surf Shirts

Surf shirts are a fantastic addition to your surfing wardrobe, offering UPF protection and moisture-wicking properties. Designed to keep you cool and shielded from the sun, these shirts are perfect for extended sessions on the water.

Choose long-sleeved options for extra coverage or short-sleeved shirts for a more casual look. With surf shirts, you can stay comfortable, protected, and stylish while enjoying the waves.


A Go-Pro is a must-have gadget for surfers looking to capture their thrilling rides and share the excitement with others. These compact, waterproof cameras can be mounted on your surfboard or worn on your body, allowing you to record high-definition videos and stunning photos of your surfing adventures. With features like stabilisation and slow-motion capabilities, a Go-Pro is the perfect companion for documenting your skills and the breathtaking scenery of your favourite surf spots.

Surf Changing Mat

A surf changing mat is a simple yet invaluable accessory for surfers who want to keep sand out of their wetsuits and gear. Lay the mat down on the beach before changing, providing a clean and stable surface to stand on.

The mat's drawstring design allows you to create a barrier, preventing sand from sticking to your feet and gear. Compact and easy to carry, a surf changing mat is a practical solution for maintaining cleanliness and comfort during your surf sessions.

Waterproof Dry Bag

A waterproof dry bag is an essential item for surfers wanting to keep their valuables safe and dry while out on the water. Whether it's your phone, keys, or spare clothes, these bags create a watertight seal, protecting your belongings from splashes and submersion.

Look for bags with adjustable straps for easy carrying and choose the appropriate size for your storage needs. With a waterproof dry bag, you can focus on riding the waves without worrying about water damage to your essentials.

Wetsuit Bucket

A wetsuit bucket is a practical accessory for maintaining the longevity of your wetsuit. After each surf session, fill the bucket with freshwater and use it to rinse off salt, sand, and other residues from your wetsuit.

The wide opening allows for easy washing, helping to preserve the flexibility and performance of the neoprene material. Regularly rinsing your wetsuit in a dedicated bucket ensures that it stays clean, fresh, and ready for your next thrilling surf adventure.

First Aid Kit

Although not included in what to wear surfing, a first aid kit is a non-negotiable item for any surfer, providing essential supplies for minor injuries and emergencies. Include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and adhesive tape to address cuts and scrapes.

Additionally, pack pain relievers and any personal medications you may need. A compact and waterproof first aid kit should be a permanent fixture in your surf gear, ensuring you're prepared to handle unexpected situations and prioritise safety while enjoying the waves.

What To Wear Surfing In Different Temperatures

Overall, what to wear surfing depends on the temperature and environment you are surfing in, here is a guide so you know what attire to wear surfing in different temperatures.

What to Wear Surfing for 75 Degrees and Up!

In temperatures of 75 degrees and above, prioritise comfort with a lightweight rash vest or surf shirt, paired with boardshorts or a surf bikini. Enhance sun protection with surfing sunglasses and high SPF sunscreen. Finish the look with sandals or flip flops for a perfect day in the warm waves.

What to Wear Surfing Between 71 and 75 Degrees

For temperatures between 71 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, balance warmth and breathability with a wetsuit or surf bikini, complemented by a rashguard or surf shirt. Boardshorts, sunglasses, and a surf hat complete the ensemble. Stay comfortable in sandals or flip flops for an ideal surfing experience.

What to Wear Surfing - 65 and 75 Degrees

In temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, go for a versatile wetsuit or surf bikini with a rashguard or surf shirt. Boardshorts, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed surf hat provide sun protection. Keep it comfortable with sandals or flip flops for an enjoyable surf session.

What To Wear Surfing - 62 and 65 Degrees

For temperatures of 62 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, choose a moderately thick wetsuit with boots and gloves. Add a surf hat and sunglasses for sun protection, ensuring a warm and comfortable surf session.

What to Wear Surfing - 58 and 62 Degrees

Surf in temperatures between 58 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit with a thicker wetsuit, boots, and gloves. Top it off with a surf hat and sunglasses for extra protection against the cooler temperatures.

What to Wear Surfing - 46 and 57 Degrees

In temperatures between 46 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit, stay warm with a well-insulated wetsuit, boots, gloves, and a hood. Complete the ensemble with a surf hat and sunglasses for comfort in colder conditions.

What to have on Surfing in 45 Degrees and Below

For temperatures of 45 degrees and below, brave the cold with a thick wetsuit, boots, gloves, hood, surf hat, and sunglasses for maximum insulation and protection against the elements.

Cultural and Religious Norms of What To Wear Surfing

As well as temperature influencing what to wear surfing, your locations cultural and religious norms will also be a key factor. Here is a world summary of considerations when you chose what to wear surfing:

  • Western Countries: In many Western countries, wearing bikinis is widely accepted at beaches and swimming pools. Topless sunbathing is also allowed in certain areas, although the acceptance varies.
  • Middle Eastern Countries: In countries with conservative Islamic cultures, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, modest swimwear is more appropriate. Bikinis may not be acceptable in public places. In countries like Turkey, UAE, and Lebanon, coastal areas and resorts may be more lenient, but it's essential to be respectful of local customs.
  • South Asian Countries: In countries like India and Sri Lanka, beach attire is generally more conservative. While bikinis are accepted in tourist areas, modesty is encouraged elsewhere. In the Maldives, resorts usually permit bikinis, but local islands may have different norms.
  • South-East Asian Countries: Many countries in this region, such as Thailand and Indonesia, are more tolerant of Western swimwear in tourist areas. However, in certain conservative regions or local villages, it's recommended to dress modestly.
  • African Countries: Beach destinations in countries like South Africa or Kenya often accommodate Western swimwear. However, in more conservative regions or Muslim-majority countries like Morocco, it's respectful to wear more modest swimwear, and topless sunbathing is not acceptable.
  • European Countries: In Europe, attitudes toward swimwear vary. While bikinis are widely accepted, topless sunbathing is more common in certain countries like France, Spain, and Italy.

What To Wear Surfing For The First Time?

What to wear surfing for your first time as beginner will depend on who you are surfing with and where.

We recommend to surf with a surf school where a wetsuit or rash vest will be provided for you, however if you are surifng with friends ask them what to wear surifng normally in the given location and conditions.

Remember what to wear surifng is totally up to you so put comfort at the top of the list so you can enjoy the waves!

Here is a helpful video on what to wear surfing and more!

Still unsure on what to wear surfing? Email us and we can answer any of your questions!

Summing It Up: What To Do Now

Nice! Now you know what to wear surfing in all temperatures you can confidently head out for your next surf fully equip! Before you go ensure you know what square waves are to be on the safe side!

If your interested in learning more about surfing discover our many guides that will inform you on your surfing journey. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook & Instagram to stay informed on our amazing surf shots and stories shared from surf creators around the world!

Frequently Asked Questions

What clothing do surfers wear?

Surfers typically wear a combination of a rashguard or surf shirt, boardshorts or a wetsuit, and suitable footwear like sandals. The choice depends on factors like water temperature, weather conditions, and personal preference.

What do surfers wear when not surfing?

When not surfing, surfers often wear casual beachwear like boardshorts, comfortable tees, rashguards, or sundresses. Flip flops or sandals are common footwear choices.

Can I wear leggings to surf?

While some surfers wear leggings for added sun protection and rash prevention, it's not the most common choice. Dedicated surf leggings or surf pants made from quick-drying, stretchy material are more suitable.

Can you surf without a shirt?

Yes, you can surf without a shirt, but it's advisable to wear a rashguard or surf shirt for protection against sunburn, chafing, and irritation caused by wax and the surfboard.

Do you need to wear something for surfing?

Yes, it's recommended to wear appropriate surf attire for safety and comfort. This includes a wetsuit or rashguard, boardshorts or bikini, and, in colder conditions, wetsuit boots, gloves, and a hood.

What is the etiquette for surfers?

Surfing etiquette involves respecting the lineup, taking turns, and avoiding "drop-ins" on others' waves. Priority is often given to the surfer closest to the peak, and being aware of your surroundings helps maintain a positive surfing atmosphere. Additionally, respecting the local community and environment is crucial for a harmonious surf experience.

The Surfbank is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate Disclosure.

The Trusted Voice of Surfing.
Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved

313, 39 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7JN