If you are just taking up surfing or returning from a long time away & you are buying your FIRST LONGBOARD always check the rails/edges to make sure they are not too sharp. You will need them to be full & rounded in shape. If they are too sharp they will be far too responsive for a learner & they will dig into the wave face too easily causing the rider to fall off. When you become more capable you will then want a more responsive board to match your new surfing ability & thats the time to get a board with the rails a little less rounded & slightly sharper in shape. Don't be too hasty buying a more responsive board as it's just as much about getting your surfing fitness up to a satisfactory level. Longboards tend to be ridden mostly by shall we say somewhat older surfers. So make sure you consider when your birth certificate was originally printed particularly if you are making a comeback after a long time away from surfing.
Most longboards will have a tri-fin setup as this seems to be the most successful. The centre fin will be the biggest and will be in a fin-box which will allow the fin to be moved forwards or backwards to take advantage of the available conditions. The only tool needed is a screwdriver to loosen the 1 screw which locates and holds the fin in place. This is a great idea as the fin can also be easily removed if the need arises. The other 2 fins will be much smaller and are usually referred to as stabilisers or sidebites. These will be fitted to a fixed point with small grub screws using the supplied tool to tighten or remove as needed. These boards can usually be used either as a single fin with sidebites removed or as a thruster with all 3 fins in place. All these fins come in different shapes, sizes and colours, it's just a matter of personal choice. Some boards will be sold with the buyer being given a number of options when selecting the fins to go with their chosen board. Please remember only size and shape will affect performance, colour is for appearance only. Advice from the local surfshop owner or local surfers may be a good option when selecting your fins.
A concave section under the nose is regarded as a good thing to assist in stability & noseriding.
Another option which may help a learner is to have a longboard size tailpad at the back of the board and that will tell the rider when his/her back foot is getting too close to the back of the board. The different feeling under the back foot eliminates the need to look down therefore making maintaining balance a little easier. In my experience Scheky(drop knee) make the best longboard tailpad as it's all in 1 peice and it glues onto a new board very well. I have them on my longboards and they don't start to peel off after a while like a lot of others can do. They are getting harder to find so if you are lucky enough to have a shop near you that supplies them it may be an idea to get more than 1. They come in a floral pattern with either blue/white, red/white, black/white or yellow/white as your colour options. If you are trying to glue a tailpad to a board that has had wax on it your level of success may be limited as a clean surface is always a better option. When you get your new board it's best to put the tailpad on first then you can apply wax to the remaining area on the deck of the board.
Colour/Spray Patterns will make no difference to performance but will affect the price. The more intricate the colour/spray pattern you choose the higher the price will be. It's just a personal preference thing. Remember once you put wax on the board the colours are slightly obscured so don't get too carried away with detailed colours as you are just increasing the price without increasing performance.
Most boards 9' or longer will carry just about any surfer unles you are very gifted in the kilogram department.
Your legrope should be as long or slightly longer than your board.
The first rule to remember is that the surfer closest to the breaking section of the wave has priority on that wave. Please observe this rule at all times as it's very important. This rule is NOT something to be negotiated with other surfers when a wave is building. The simplest way to explain it is if it's your wave you are expected to take it by paddling for the wave and announcing your intentions by calling the words hey/mine/yes to let others know you are the priority surfer on that wave. If another surfer has priority they will do the same to let you know their intentions and it's your responsibilty to get off the wave and leave it to them. You will often find that the need to call out will not be neccessary as other surfers will know when it's your wave or theirs. Don't be the surfer who complains about others who may get in your way and then do the same thing yourself. Therefore if you and another surfer are paddling for a right handed wave the surfer on the left closest to the break owns that wave. If that's you then go for it, if not it's up to you to get off the wave. The reverse applies for a left handed wave.
Some waves will form up and break in both directions. This is the only time that's acceptable for both surfers to catch 1 wave as long as they surf away from each other. In this situation if you prefer to ride the left handers and the other surfer likes the right handers you should both position yourself in the correct place to ride/surf away from each other. This is a good thing as 1 wave provides 2 rides without either surfer being disadvantaged. This is also a situation where both surfers can rotate between going left and right simply by changing their starting positions on each wave. When surfing with a friend this is an easy thing to arrange.
The second most important rule is to make sure you don't interfere with other surfers while you are paddling out through the breaking waves. The best way to avoid this is if you see another surfer take off on a wave while you are paddling out through the waves you need to select which side of that person you will go to. Once your decision is made stick with it and go hard to the selected side of the other surfer. Don't dither between sides as this will cause the other surfer to be unsure of where you intend to go. It's hard to surf/steer around someone if you don't know where they are going. The other thing you need to do is to make yourself as easy as possible to steer around. This is done by making sure your board is pointing directly to sea, 90 degrees to the beach. Don't have your board sideways as it's much harder to get around you because you will be a much wider obstacle. If there is a collision and you are sideways, your surfboard will almost certainly suffer the majority of the damage as the fin of the other board will slash/chop a large slice into the rail/edge of your board. Repairs can be done but are rarely cheap and will usually start at $60 for something fairly minor. You will also be without your board till the repairs are done, so the learning process will grind to a halt.
When you have successfully paddled out to the surfing area it's a good idea to paddle a little further out than the other surfers. This will serve 2 purposes, the first is to allow you to recover from the long paddle and the second is to have a look at who is getting all the best waves and where to be to get one for yourself.
When you stand on the board if you are left foot forward and right foot back you are classified as a natural footer. When riding a wave that is called a right handed wave you will be facing the wall of the wave and riding on your forehand and this is usually a little easier when learning. When riding a left handed wave your back will be towards the wave and you are riding on your backhand. If you stand with your right foot forward you are classified as a goofy footer so just reverse the above. The percentage of natural footers(majority) compared to goofy footers(minority) is approximately the same as right footed to left footed in the general population.
Make sure you learn on both right handed and left handed waves so you can go to any beach anywhere in your own local area or wherever you may travel. It's not much fun going somewhere outside your local area and finding the best waves are going to the left when you have only ever learned on waves going to the right. If you have practiced both directions you can go anywhere anytime and be comfortable in the available waves. The prevailing weather will determine which beaches will be the best on any given day, sometimes the left handers will be the best choice and on other days the opposite will apply. If you are flexible in your choice of waves you open up more options for yourself. More is better.
When attempting to get to your feet it needs to be done in 1 smooth movement. Don't try to get up on 1 knee & then move again to both feet as this will increase the overall time taken to be in the standing position. The longer it takes you to get to your feet the more it's likely you will fall before you get there. You can only be correctly balanced & capable of steering the board if you are on both feet. Always try to get to your feet as early as possible. When you attempt to stand up early your board will still be relatively level, however leaving it too late means that your board will be at a much steeper angle and this only increases the degree of difficulty and will usually end up with you nosediving. The difference between early and too late is only very short so decision making becomes vital. It's better to go for your feet early and miss the wave than go too late and nosedive over the front of your board. Nosediving is best avoided as damage to yourself, your board or both may be the end result.
When getting up to your feet you need to be moving up & slightly back at the same time. This will help in avoiding tipping forward as you rise to your feet. Once on your feet you will feel the need to inch/creep forward on the board & when you do this the speed of the board will increase because the tail is lifting allowing more water to flow under the board. This is good, don't panic. As with riding a bicycle you will find that when you are moving at a good speed it's much easier to maintain your balance. If you slow down too much your balance will be harder to maintain and falling off is usually the end result. The secret is to only slow down if you are sure you can speed up again before falling off. The higher you are up on the wave face the more likely you are going to be able to increase speed by pointing your board slightly downhill and allowing gravity to take over.
Some surfing spots will have a place where after catching the wave you will be happily surfing and at approximately the same place a small part of the wave will break in front of you. This is known as a section in the wave area. Once you have worked out where it is going to happen a bit of early planning is needed. When approaching this section you will need to be as high up on the wave face as you can get and when the section falls in front of you it's easy to point your board down the wave face to build speed. This extra speed will get you around the section and back up onto the wave face to continue surfing.
With small changes in your weight distribution you will then be able to move up or down on the wave face. When at the end of the ride/wave you will need to move to the back of the board & push down hard on your back foot to lift the nose out of the wave to allow you to turn the board and paddle back out to get another wave.
Remember surfing is meant to be fun,enjoyable and recreation and if you keep this in mind your level of enjoyment will remain high. There are many things that will affect your surfing and some of these include weather, ability, fitness, crowds, water temperature, wave size, wind direction and strength, attitude and motivation. If your attitude and motivation are good it can in some cases reduce the affect of the others. If the waves are bigger than you are accustomed to please think carefully before going in. You can always come back on another day when the conditions are more suited to your ability. There are some days when watching the good surfers riding on big waves is a pleasant experience. You may also learn something when watching the good surfers do what they do. It may be something small but it could be the 1 thing that nobody has told you. You are more likely to learn something new if you are watching someone who is more proficient than yourself.
Surfing is also one of the very rare sports where dad and mum can participate together and/or with their sons and daughters. I started teaching my son to surf when he was approximately 10 years old. He is now more than 30 and we still go surfing together on a regular basis. It's also a good activity for more than 1 family to participate in together as it gives the younger members a sense of looking out for all the members of a group and learning how to fit in with accepted methods of surfing within a group.
Hope this helps. Happy surfing.