For Her Eyes Only – Surf tips for girls

All the things you wish that your surfing-mother told you


If you are like me, then most of your surf mentors have been male. A boyfriend, a dad, the old salty dog (aka an older surfer) behind the surf shop counter, or the guy you met in the water. They are the ones that helped you pick the right surfboard, taught you how to attach fins, showed you how to apply wax. And that was awesome, you felt supported and included in the male-dominated sport of surfing.


But along the wave, I’ve had to discover the hard way that there are some issues unique to women’s surfing that the guys just couldn’t teach me. Well, you are in luck sister, I’m going to share my mistakes and the lessons they’ve taught me to. Hopefully, these surf tips for girls will save you from repeating the same mistakes.


Underwater surfer girl



#1 Protect your skin and hair at all costs

I learned to surf at 28 years old. I had flawless skin and silky long hair. Like most of us who get bitten hard by the surfing lifestyle, I was instantly obsessed and spend multiple hours in the ocean, for three months straight. By the end of the summer, I could go directional on my longboard, but my skin had aged 10 years and my hair was so fried I had to cut off almost 12 inches! Although I wore a drugstore brand water-resistant sunscreen it just wasn’t enough. Over the years I’ve learned some tricks.


Only use Reef-safe zinc products

For sunscreen, it has to be zinc. There really is no way around it. If you are going to be out in the water for more than a few minutes you really need a thick layer of zinc oxide. There are plenty of natural brands out there that are also reef friendly and don’t leave you white-faced (read our compressive review of natural surf sunscreens). My favorite is Red Gecko. Just make sure, no matter what brand you use, that you SCRUB your face with a rough exfoliator cloth after each use if you are acne prone like me. Or use a biodegradable zinc removing wipe like Tapa Reef (click here for the Australian store).


Condition, rinse, and condition again

For your hair, I put a thick layer of biodegradable conditioner in before I paddle out. Some girls like Pro surfer Courtney Conlogue, prefer coconut or Moroccan oil which I’ve also used, but I feel conditioner tends to stay in better. Another good option is a surf hair mask designed specifically for surfers. Doing this will keep the salt water from stripping moisture from your hair. When you get out the surf, rinse it immediately and condition it again before the sun has a chance to dry it. The longer the salt has an opportunity to sit in dry hair the more damage will be done. Also, remember to wash your hands after applying oil to your hair, you don’t want the oil to end up in your wax!


Pro tip: All the pro surfers use a product called  It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in conditioner. Literally, every pro surfer interviewed about their surf tips for girls and hair advice mentioned it as one of their three must-have items. Read more tips from pro surfer girls on looking after your hair.


I believe It’s a 10 Leave-In Conditioner is possibly the most magical thing ever invented. It surprisingly works even better with salt-kissed strands from the ocean, but it’s my savior for restoring my hair when I get out of the water, too.

— Bruna Schmitz, Roxy ambassador and pro surfer in an interview with Teen Vouge



 #2 You’re going to get Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) 

Yup, that’s a thing. Especially if you are like me, and you are frothing after a rainy day and you ignore the murky brown water. Even in clean water, any amount of unknown bacteria can get in your lady-parts and cause painful urination along with the frequent urge to go. The first and the best thing you can do is to stay out of dirty water. But sometimes that isn’t enough. When I travel I always take with me cranberry pills, or better yet D-Mannose pills, which is the active ingredient found in cranberries. It basically makes your pee slippery so whatever toxins are in there, they can come out. Now keep in mind I’m not a doctor and you should definitely see yours if you are experiencing any UTI-like symptoms or before taking any supplements or medications. But these work for me.


Image from film “Dear and Yonder’
Image from film “Dear and Yonder’


#3 Choosing the right surfboard

This has been a huge source of frustration for me. You can go on popular surfboard manufacturer websites, enter your height, weight, and skill level and it will suggest a volume for your surfboard. Keep in mind these calculators are made for men. Men tend to have about half the amount of body fat as women. That means they are packing more muscle per pound. Generally, I have found that I need to add about 10% to the volume suggested by the surfboard calculator. Also, I have found that width may be more important for females. We tend to have wider hips, so if you feel you are sliding off the edges of your board, you might want to add a little bit in the width. I have found that half an inch makes a night and day difference. Have a read of our article on what to look for when buying a surfboard or this really in-depth article on how to chose the right surfboard, written by a surf coach and very useful.


The ALEXA surf bikini designed for large bust small frame, with fully adjustable straps
A proper bikini for surfing: Inch thick, fully-adjustable adjustable straps. The Alexa surf bikini by Sensi Graves Bikinis.


#4 Not all swimwear is surfwear!

I had only surfed in a wetsuit in California, so I didn’t think twice when I threw my triangle top, string bikinis in a bag, and hopped a plane for Costa Rica for my first surf trip. I’ll never forget a guy pointing at me in the line up saying, “Amiga, tu tita!”. Boy was that embarrassing!

You will need to invest in some surf-wear that really stays on in the water. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if it is made by a popular surf brand that it is made for surfing in. Also avoid hard moulded plastic, metal or wooden clasps, hooks, buttons, or other unnecessary additions that will jam into your chest or dent your board, while paddling. Lucky we’ve tested several great options for you, and written a whole article on the do’s and don’ts of surf bikinis. We have even designed our the ultimate surf bikini called ‘The Alexa” for Get 10% off your first order! (use code stillstoked10 for 10% off).

We are so passionate about not wearing shitty surf bikinis we got you loads of discount codes from our favourite independent, female-owned, surf brands, so you could go shopping and paddle out in confidence.


Surf bikini discount codes


#5 Manicures and pedicures

Skip it. It will be ruined after the second surf session. Even gel nails don’t hold up to saltwater well.


#6 Getting your legs waxed

OUCH! Did you think the process of waxing hurt? Wait until the salt water gets into those newly opened follicles! I’ve never experienced such pain in my life. In my experience, it only happens after I exit the water and start to dry. Then the itching becomes overwhelming, it’s like being stung my 10,000 mosquitos at once. tick to a razor. Or if you are feeling it, rock a more natural look!


Surf trip in Sri Lanka, Talalla Surf Camp
Transport for our afternoon free surf, Sri Lanka style


#8 Toiletries & other necessities

There are a few things you discover along the way like surfer’s ear, sea-ulcers, underarm chaffing, and other delights of being a sea-dwelling, surf dog. If you are going on a surf trip, make sure you have everything you need to treat all the (likely) bumps, bruises, cuts and mossie bites that will no doubt happen along the way & could keep you out of the water. We’ve compiled a comprehensive first aid kit for any surf trip which includes things like blister packs that work so well in water, so you can protect your cuts from the nasties and still go for a surf. Oh, and don’t forget that tampons are incredibly hard to find in remote areas of many Asian countries. Like wax and a ding repair kit, them with you!

Read our packing list of all the essential items you will need for a successfulful surf trip.



#8 The Girls

Last but not least, find some surf sisters. Surfing is fun no matter who you are with but it is always nice to paddle out with a girlfriend. Most of the girls in the lineup are probably wishing they had more surf girlfriends too, so introduce yourself and make some new friends.


More tips for surfer girls:

Surf Hair Care – Pro surfer tips on how to look after beach hair
Surf Hair, Do Care: How to get beach blonde surfer hair
How to lighten hair naturally without bleach and get surfer highlights
Surfer Girl Style – Top 10 surf fashion staples
The Do’s and Don’ts of Surf Bikinis
Best Surf Bikinis – Review of top active swimwear brands + discount codes
Best Surf Sunscreen – Full review & breakdown of top brands


Feel free to share in the comments below, any other surf tips for girls that you’ve found useful. Sharing is caring ladies x


I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


  1. There are some fundamental skills that you’ll need to develop before you can successfully catch and ride waves with any consistency.

    Safety is the first, most important skill to acquire! Remember to always err on the side of caution when learning to surf.

    Some important things to consider are your ability to recognize potentially dangerous situations, BEFORE THEY HAPPEN, to avoid collisions and injuries. If you are not sure of what to do in certain situations, then you should learn what to do before putting yourself, or others, in danger due to your lack of knowledge and ability.

    If you are unable to hold onto your surfboard, you probably should not be out there! Play in the whitewater, away from others while you build your strength, confidence, and understanding of how to control your surfboard in the surf.

    You should spend as much time as possible practicing your paddling technique. Keep your back arched and your chin raised up off the board. Stay aware of your body’s centerline as it relates to your board’s centerline to help maintain balance while paddling.

    Once you learn where the sweet spot of the board is, you can always get back to that exact spot by noting where your hands grab the hold of your rails just around where your chest and ribs meet. Each time you get on the board, grab the rails in the same spot. This will help you stay balanced, allowing you to get back to paddling, as quickly as possible. This will you more time to cover the necessary distance you’ll need to get into the correct position to catch the next wave or to get around it and out of the way of other surfers riding the wave.

    Learn how to turn the surfboard while paddling and sitting up on the surfboard. You don’t need waves to practice, just a body of water big enough to paddle in a circle. Get lots of reps, and make sure you can turn the board both clockwise and counter-clockwise, lay down and quickly paddle without losing your balance or momentum. This will be critical when you are actually ready to catch a wave.

    As others have said, practice your pop-up on land as often as possible. You’ll want to engrain the movement in your muscle memory, so get as many reps on the land, and in the whitewater, before you ever attempt paddling out where the waves are actually breaking.

    Get a WaveStorm and keep using it until you are proficient at paddling, turning the board, catching and dropping in on the waves. If you have not mastered these skills you are likely a danger to yourself and others, just waiting to happen.

    And most of all, enjoy yourself, respect others, and stay safe!

  2. I would add WATCH out for joints after giving birth to children! I popped my hip joints out whilst i was eggbeating my feet around to position for a wave. I had gotten in the water too early after the birth and with all the hormones pumping through my body the joints escaped their sockets. They popped strait back in but the consequences have stayed with me. A physio check up and then a MRI and xray showed a bulge in my lower disk. They all said don’t surf. As if! That was 12 years ago. What I did instead was work out what part of the actions in surfing was giving me grief, so the transition from sitting to prone whereby you swing your legs back would hurt depending on the width of the board. I got a custom made hybrid 7’9 that was made to suit my weight and was thinner through the length and width and it was perfect for that time and where my body was at. I am now on a 6’6 by the same shaper LSD.

  3. Great article, thanks for all those good tips 👍
    Our tip from CEACEA Swimwear is for those of you with long hair to braid/tie your hair up when you surf.
    Especially when you are learning to surf, sometimes you can take a tumble, come up for air and feel like you are drowning in your own hair 😬

  4. Good article , def an eye opener for guys ha ha! I must say though I disagree with #3 . 🙏✌️

    In terms of developing good technique I’d say this.
    It’s less about volume and more about volume distribution. Women generally have smaller feet than men , so the volume should be put into a narrower , longer board , this will make it easier to get from rail to rail which is the basis of good surfing. It also helps to teach/keep good posture ie straight/er back , not squatting too much (if you squat too much your weight is supported in the hamstring area rather than quad muscle area) .
    Also , as (good,smooth) upper body rotation is important for good turns and smooth transition from rail to rail, wider boards are harder to perfect (or work at) this.
    Now, i’m not saying nobody should ride wider (shorter) boards , but I am saying that they would be best to avoid them until good style & posture is developed.

    People tend to be coerced into certain boards by sales people and end up going from their (example) 7’6 or 8’0 that is wide , thick , and very hard to turn …straight down to a board in the 6’0 department and it’s too much of a shock to the system so to speak. They should come down in increments of 4 to 6 inches (length) and tiny (but relevant) increments in width.

    Sorry for the long answer , but it needs to be :) x

    • Well put! I think this is a great addition to the idea of add a little volume. Basically what you are saying is not to go too small to quickly and I definitely agree that that volume to well spent in the length. Personally I have found width to be important too, but it is about finding the goldilocks zone…not too big, not to small, JUST right. I think I would add that working with a very advanced surfer who has seen you surf is extremely helpful in choosing the correct board. And lastly, of course, we shouldn’t forget the idea that some waves just lend themselves well to different equipment. I now have boards in Bali, Michigan (yup to surf LAKE Michigan), San Diego, Hawaii and two places in Mexico. Maybe I’ve gone too far lol!!!


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