After the initial start up costs, surfing can be a relatively affordable sport. Living near the ocean will make it cheaper and more accessible because you won’t be spending money on travel costs every time you want to go surfing.
I often get asked, “Is Surfing an Expensive Sport or Hobby?” This post outlines all the costs associated with catching waves.
First of all, surfing is both a sport and a hobby. Surfing is a hobby because it is undertaken in one’s leisure time for enjoyment and it’s a sport because it involves skill development, effort and competition.
Whether you consider surfing to be a sport or a hobby, the average cost is about $100-$500 to get started. But there are no ongoing user fees because riding waves is free! All you need is a surfboard (and a wetsuit in colder climates) and you are ready to start catching waves.
I have provided a summary table of all the costs to think about when getting started in surfing as well as other costs you may not have thought of.
Keep reading to review all the costs associated with Catching Waves!
Summary Table of the Cost of Catching Waves
|Surfing Costs||Average Cost|
|Total Costs to Get Started||$100-$500|
|Other Costs (Annual)|
|Other Surfing Equipment||$25-$250|
|Total Other Costs||$100-$4000|
The Cost of Surfing
Let’s be real, surfing is not the cheapest sport or hobby but if you live near the ocean, you can get started for as low as $100.
According to Sports Then And Now, the cheapest youth sports are Soccer, Swimming, Running, Basketball and Track & Field. While the most expensive youth sports are Horseback Riding, Hockey and Skiing.
Surfing ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of costs. However, there is one very big caveat, you will need to live near beaches with surfable waves or the travel costs will be a huge barrier to getting into the sport.
If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean and have some surfer friends, you can probably try surfing for free with some borrowed equipment.
Because proximity to the ocean will determine how often you are able to surf, most of the world’s best surfers come from coastal areas where they are able to develop skills and progress on a regular basis.
There are No Ongoing User Fees in Surfing
For many sports and activities, you have to pay a fee to participate, like ice rink rentals for hockey or lift passes for downhill skiing. One of the benefits of surfing is that you don’t have to pay ongoing user fees once you are set up with the appropriate gear.
Surfing in the ocean and catching waves is free!
This is one of the main reasons that I and many of my friends focused on surfing when we were teenagers. There is so much freedom with surfing because there aren’t a bunch of rules like opening and closing times or out of bounds and the waves aren’t regulated.
Obviously, you can’t always cross private property to get to the beach but as long as you are using public access points you can enter the ocean anytime you want.
Beaches are a great place to hang out and anyone can set up for the entire day. Surfing is a family activity and young surfers can go in and out of the water multiple times a day while taking rest breaks whenever necessary.
Going to the beach for the day is one of the most inexpensive family activities and there are lots of different things to keep everyone busy, including making sand castles, looking for shells, sun bathing and surfing!
If you compare this to a sport or activity like hockey where you can only use the ice rink during your team’s scheduled time, surfing has almost limitless access.
Of course, most people surf during the day because it is safer, easier to see and some beach parks are closed at night.
The Cost of a Surfboard
The most important piece of surfing equipment is a surfboard.
The cost for a used surfboard starts at about $50 but you will need to shop around to find a used surfboard for this price. Check out thrift shops, online classifieds, surf shops and ask your friends and you might be surprised by the old surfboards that you can find.
My mom bought me my first surfboard for $100 and although it was secondhand and had yellowed with age, I was super excited to have a board of my own. Getting your first surfboard is a right of passage in surfing and something you will never forget.
If you are willing to spend a bit more time and money, you can get used surfboards in almost new condition. Most surf shops have a section of used surfboards that you can sort through to find something that works for you.
Also, lots of surf shops sell off their surfboard rental fleets at certain times of the year, which allows for great prices on second hand beginner surfboards.
Today, new surfboards are fairly inexpensive and you can get a brand new Wavestorm foam surfboard from Costco for $99, just like this one:
Foam surfboards have increased in popularity over the last five years and they are great for beginners because they are light, inexpensive and safer because they are soft. If you end up falling or getting hit with your surfboard, the chances of injury are lower because it’s made out of foam.
Foam surfboards range in price from $99-$450. For more information about buying foam surfboards feel free to click on the link to be redirected to my post titled, Beginner Foam Surfboards: A Helpful Buyers Guide.
If you are looking to get your kid started in the sport of a surfing, the size of surfboard will depend on the age, size and ability of your child.
A quick guide for kids surfboard sizing is as follows:
|Age of Child||Type of Surfboard|
|Under 7 years old||Foam Body Board, also called Boogie Board|
|8 to 12 Years of Age||Small Foam Surfboard (Under 7 feet in length)|
|Teenagers||Foam Surfboard (under 9 feet in length)|
For more information about kids surfboard sizing, click on the link to check out my post titled, A Helpful Parents Guide to the Best Surfboards for Kids.
The Cost of a Wetsuit
The cost of a new or used wetsuit will range from $50-$400 depending on thickness, style and brand.
Wetsuits provide warmth and are worn by surfers at different times of the year at almost every surf break in North America. Because the surf media displays pictures of pro surfers catching waves in board shorts and bathing suits, it is easy to think that you don’t need a wetsuit to go surfing.
Although the air temperature can be warm enough for a t-shirt and shorts, the ocean water temperature can be significantly lower.
The winter ocean water temperature is generally below 70ºF (21°C) even in the southern states of North America like California, Texas and Florida.
For further information to help determine the wetsuit thickness for different ocean water temperatures, check out the table below created by Excel Wetsuits. Click here to view on the Xcel website.
When you first start surfing, any style of wetsuit will work for the first couple of times but as you get more involved in the sport, you will want to purchase a wetsuit designed for surfing.
When I first started venturing into the ocean with a body board as a child, we borrowed a women’s two piece diving wetsuit from a friend. The wetsuit gave me some pretty nasty rashes because it wasn’t very flexible but it was 1989 so there weren’t as many choices compared to today.
Today, you can find new and used surfing specific wetsuits for an affordable price. If you are willing to shop around a bit, you will be able to find what you are looking for.
If you are new to the sport and a little bit unsure about how to select a wetsuit for surfing, click on the link to check out my post titled, The Complete Beginners Guide to Buying a New Wetsuit.
The Cost of Renting Surfing Equipment
You should expect to pay $25-$50 to rent a surfboard and a wetsuit. Renting equipment is an excellent way to give surfing a try before you decide if you want to make a long term commitment.
Buying surfing equipment isn’t necessary if you only expect to go surfing a few times per year. Thousands of people rent surfing equipment every year and it is the most popular way to go surfing without the hassle of owning, maintaining and storing surfing equipment.
Most surf shops have a huge selection or surfboards and wetsuits and are set up to make the rental experience quick and easy. Most surf shops offer long term rentals at a discounted rate if you are going to surf for multiple days in a row.
Renting equipment is a great strategy for kids because they are constantly growing. Kids wetsuits usually only last for one season because they are growing from one size to the next. Because wetsuits are meant to fit snugly so they don’t flush with water, the strategy of buying a wetsuit that “they will grow into” doesn’t work in this case.
When I was a teenager, I rented wetsuits for several years because I was growing so fast and it was a great way to try a bunch of different styles and brands without having to purchase.
We lived inland and would go camping near the beach for several weeks in the summer, so it made sense to find a surf shop that did long term rentals. I would surf every day of our Vacation and then return the equipment when we were heading home for the summer.
If you are looking for tips on how to rent surfing equipment, click on the link and check out my post 25 Useful Things to Know When Renting Surfboards and Wetsuits.
The Cost of Surfing Lessons
In Western Canada, the cost of a group surfing lesson averages between $50-$100 for a 2-4 hour lesson. For smaller group sizes, private lessons are offered for individuals or smaller groups but they are more expensive.
Surfing lessons are usually an “all in charge” that includes the cost of the lesson, surfboard rental and wetsuit rental.
The surf lesson process is as follows – You arrive at the surf shop, sign up for the lesson, confirm the correct wetsuit sizing and then meet your instructors at the beach to start the lesson.
Most companies will transport the surfboards to the beach for the group.
The Cost of Travelling for Surfing
The cost of travelling for surfing includes everything related to how you get to and from the beach whether it is by foot, bike, car or airplane.
If you can access the beach on foot, your costs will be low because you won’t have to pay for transportation costs or parking once you arrive.
The same goes for travelling by bike. You can just show up at the beach, lock up your bike and go surfing.
If you are wondering how to transport your surfboard to the beach while riding a bike, there are generally two different ways to accomplish this task. Many surfers will ride their bikes and carry their surfboard under their arm but this can be challenging and not recommended because it only leaves one hand controlling the bike!
Another option is to attach a surfboard rack to your bike. This will allow you to transport your surfboard in a safe and easy way and frees up our hands to ride your bike normally. Check out the photo below of a side mounted surfboard rack.
If you plan on riding your bike to the beach you will need to have a plan for where to safely stow your bag, clothes and valuables because most beaches don’t have lockers or places to lock up your valuables.
Often surfers will get around this challenge by changing at home and then riding to the beach in their wetsuit so they don’t have to store any extra valuables. Once at the beach, they just lock up their bike and go surfing!
Although the cost of a bike, surfboard rack and bike lock is more than you will spend if you can walk to the beach, it is considerably less expensive than a car.
Travelling by car is one of the most common transport methods because surfing requires a lot of equipment especially when there are multiple people and surfboards. You will need to factor in the cost of a car, maintenance, insurance, gas money and even parking.
You can offset the cost of travelling by car by car pooling with other surfers. Because it is more fun surfing with friends, car pooling is a great way to make it social and split the costs.
To make things easier to transport surfboards, you will need to purchase surfboard racks for your car, which cost between $25-$50. If you are looking for tips on how to transport surfboards and want to know the best products on the market, click on the link to check out my post titled, 17 Tips on How to Strap Surfboards to Your Car.
In addition, surfers travel all over the world in search of waves and it can be very costly. Airline tickets cost hundreds of dollars and that isn’t even factoring in food and accommodation.
From my experience, the cost of an inexpensive surf vacation is approximately $1650-$2000. This cost was based on my last 11 day trip to mainland Mexico with 3 friends so some of the costs were shared.
- Plane ticket: $650
- Accommodation (shared): $350
- Food & Beer: $500
- Car Rental (shared): $150
- Incidentals & gifts (optional): $250
You can definitely find inexpensive countries that have great surf but if you plan on travelling in style and are considering hiring a boat charter once you arrive, your surf trip may costs thousands of dollars.
The Cost of Surfing Apparel
Surfing apparel includes shorts, bathing suits, t-shirts, hats and jackets.
Although the surfing industry spends millions of dollars manufacturing and marketing surfing specific apparel, you don’t need to spend a lot of money if you are just getting started. It will cost you nothing to use your existing bathing suit, shorts and hat.
For surfers in northern latitudes, where temperatures are colder and a wetsuit is required all year round, you will need warmer gear including a jacket, pants, boots and a beanie, which is called a toque in Canada.
For myself, the most recent piece of apparel I have purchased is a warm jacket for those cold winter days.
Although it is a bit of an investment, I finally bought a Patagonia Hooded Nano Puff jacket after many years of trying many other jackets without much success. Keep in mind that I live in Canada and after you surf on a cold winter day, getting warm is your first and only priority.
If you want to check out the Nano Puff Hoody, click on the link to be redirected to the Patagonia website. Another bonus of buying Patagonia gear, is you will be supporting a company that also donates a percentage of profits for environmental protection.
The Cost of Other Surfing Equipment
Other surfing equipment & accessories include surfboard wax, surfboard leashes and surfboard fins.
Surfboard wax is a necessity because it helps provide grip when standing on your surfboard. It costs about $2 per bar and if you are surfing regularly you will go through several bars of wax every year. Don’t try and save money on wax, it is the one of the most important pieces of surfing equipment!
A surfboard leash, also called a leg rope, is a urethane cord that is attached at one end to the tail of a surfboard and the other end to a surfer’s ankle. Surfboard leashes prevent surfers from getting separated from their surfboards.
A surfboard leash ranges in price from $25-$35 depending on the size, brand and style.
Surfboard fins are an important component of a surfboard because they help provide stability, control and performance. Not all surfboards come with fins so make sure to check if fins are included before you buy a new or used surfboard.
The Cost of Other Surfing Accessories
There are a number of surfing accessories that will add value to your surfing adventures. However, many of the best accessories are considered a luxury and you can get by without them if you are trying to reduce costs.
The first and most useful surfing accessory is a towel. A surfing towel doesn’t need to be special and you can use any old towel from home. A towel has multiple uses and is great for drying off after your session, changing in the parking lot and sitting on the beach.
If you want an upgrade on your towel, surf ponchos or surf change towels keep you warm while allowing you to change anywhere and anytime. They are worn like a poncho and have an open bottom so you can change into your wetsuit without flashing anyone on the beach.
Another accessory which will help protect your car from sand and ocean water is a waterproof bag or container for your wetsuit. A waterproof container will keep your wetsuit contained and stop it from dripping all over the trunk of your car when you are driving home after your surf session.
For many years, I used a plastic tote to store and transport my wetsuit, booties and gloves. A plastic tote is functional, inexpensive and tough. I think I paid $10 and it lasted for many years until I bought a waterproof bag.
A waterproof wetsuit bag offers one key feature that a plastic tote doesn’t. Waterproof bags have shoulder straps and are easy to carry which is essential if you find yourself hiking into surf spots.
Even a short hike from your car to the beach is made easier with a waterproof wetsuit bag that you can throw onto your back or over your shoulder. That way you have your hands free to carry your surfboard. A good waterproof bag will cost $35-$75.
The surfboard bag will also protect your surfboard from bumps and dings when storing or transporting.
If you surfboard is made out of foam you don’t need to put it in a bag during transport, just tie it to the top of your car! If your surfboard is made out of epoxy or fibreglass, a surfboard bag is a good choice because it will save you money over the long term.
Surfing – The Cost of Time
Surfing is time consuming but it’s a great way to spend your time!
If you are looking for a sport or hobby that is time efficient like jogging, where you can leave your front door and get a great workout in 30-45 minutes, then surfing may not be the activity you are looking for.
But if you are looking for a hobby that will take many hours of focus and effort then surfing is a great choice! You can spend your time enjoying nature and exercising amongst the waves.
Take it from me, the pursuit of chasing waves is worth every minute of effort!
Go surfing, have fun, repeat!