Water temperature is the main factor to consider when putting together a surfing wardrobe. Suppose your home beach is Gabon, in equatorial Africa, where the water temperature hovers around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) year-round. Then you might need only a pair of board shorts and a rash guard, a shirt that prevents irritation from the sun and surfboard wax. Both items are made with a stretchy polyester fabric, such as spandex, for a comfortable fit. Rash guards carry a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating, similar to the SPF rating on sunscreens. A UPF of 25 to 39 is considered very good; 40 and higher is excellent. You should still apply sunscreen, however.
If the water temperatures where you surf change with the seasons, and you plan to make this a permanent hobby, you may want to invest in an assortment of surf wear: a sleeveless vest, a long-sleeved jacket, and a head-to-toe, hooded wetsuit. Neoprene is the fabric of choice. This synthetic rubber is not only warm, but tough and durable as well. It's resistant to sunlight, chemicals and abrasion.
No wardrobe is complete without accessories. A leash is an ankle strap that secures you to your board. That saves you the trouble of chasing it across the bay if and when you wipe out, while preventing accidents caused by a wayward surfboard. And we strongly recommend a cushioned plastic helmet. It may look nerdy, but less nerdy than a shaved patch of hair and 13 staples to close the gash caused by hitting your head on rocks or coral -- or a loose surfboard.