Buying a Wetsuit

Coming back from Hawaii and surfing North Shore was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. You’ve got the best waves and the best temperature. Something about tropical weather makes you want to surf. If you live in Hawaii and you’re not a surfer….well, shame on you.

The water in Hawaii feels like a jacuzzi. 77 degree on average! Jesus! San Francisco temperature is a blistering 56 degrees! That’s a 21 degree drop. When I came back from Hawaii, my first time in the water I said to myself, “this fucking sucks”. One of the many reasons why Northern California surfers are much more resilient. Who the hell wants to jump into cold water? Even Southern California surfers are a bit spoiled with temperatures on average of 68 degrees.

Okay, enough of my ranting. Considering your first wetsuit? Here are some things to consider.

  1. What is your budget?
  2. How tall are you?
  3. How much do you weigh?
  4. Where will you be surfing?
  5. What seasons will you be surfing? All year? Or just summers?

What is your budget? Should I consider buying a used wetsuit?

My first wetsuit I purchased from some guy on Craigslist. It was pretty much brand new. And I got it for a great deal for only $90. I was on a budget and I wasn’t sure if I’d be sticking with it.

If you decide to purchase a 2nd hand wetsuit from Craigslist, that might be a good option. But I recommend making sure that it’s brand new and not used. If it’s been worn, there could be a high chance that it has a leak and if you purchase a wetsuit on Craigslist with a leak chances are it’s too late to return it. Do not buy a used wetsuit from a stranger unless it’s brand new and has the tags on it and in excellent condition.

If you do not have a budget, I recommend buying brand new. Good wetsuits can last up to 10 years if you care for them.

Typically, new wetsuits in the low end will cost $200-$300 and high end will cost $500-$1,000.

What size am I? 

Typically, wetsuits are sized based on your height and weight. And different brands will have different size matrices for their wetsuits, so check with the brand you’re interested in. I recommend O’Neill, Xcel, RipCurl, Orca wetsuits. Pretty solid.

O’Neill Wetsuit Size Chart

Xcel Wetsuit Size Chart

Where will you surfing? 

If you’re based in Northern California and you plan to surf all year around I highly recommend buying a 4/3mm wetsuit. 4/3s can be used all year around and they will keep you warm throughout the winter. During summers you can use a 3/2mm wetsuit. I surfed all year around with a 3/2mm, but I don’t plan to do it this year. 3/2s are awesome because their much lighter and more flexible. But during the winter season, it’s too cold and I can’t surf as long if I was comfortable.

If you’re based in Southern California or an area with 65-68 degree water temperatures, a 3/2 might suffice. You can even buy a rash guard to give you an extra layer.

Here are some wetsuits I recommend,
O’Neill Wetsuits Mens 4/3 mm Epic Full Suit, Black/Black/Black, XX-Large

O’Neill Psycho Freak Z.E.N. Zip 4/3 Wetsuit – Men’s Black/Black/Black, M

O’Neill Psycho Freak Z.E.N. Zip 4/3 Wetsuit – Men’s Black/Black/Black, M

Xcel Wetsuits 4/3 Xplorer OS Full Suit, Black/CAS Blue/CAS Blue, Small

Xcel 3/2mm Revolt X2 Thermo Dry Celliant Wetsuit, Black, X-Large

Also, make sure you grab booties. Here are some below.
Xcel Wetsuits Women’s 3mm Infiniti Boot, Black/Grey, 9

Xcel Infiniti Split Toe Men’s Surfing Bootie – 5mm

I wear an O’Neill Zen Zip and Xcel 3mm Infiniti Boot which has lasted me for over a year without any issues.

Now that you have a surfboard and a wetsuit, you should be good to go. Now hit the waves and keep it consistent. The only way for you to learn faster is to surf as often as you can. Once you start standing up and riding waves you’re going to get addicted. Surfing is challenging and that’s why it’s fun. If anyone could do it, it wouldn’t be that cool.

But before you do that, we NEED to talk about surf etiquette. It’s serious business to be safe and ensure that everyone around is safe and free from injury.  Make sure you check out my next blog post.

Here are pictures of what you can expect. Beautiful!


Don’t get too Stoked: Will you commit?

All right, so now you’re pretty stoked about surfing. How’d you do?

I remember my first time surfing was with my coworker. He told me at the office that if I wanted to learn how to surf then I should meet him at 7:00am in front of NorCal Surf Shop on Saturday. I didn’t have much to do that day, so I decided I might as well try something new. It was the best decision in my life. However, it was very difficult to show up. Northern California surf is pretty bad. Bad compared to Hawaii or Los Angeles where the water is a lot warmer, especially in the mornings.

My first day was rough and I’m sure after your first day, you probably felt really sore afterwards. This brings up a great segway into our next topic.

If you want to learn how to surf, you need to be consistent. Surfing is one of the coolest sports out there and catching a wave will be one of the best feelings you’ll experience. It’s definitely worth your time. Once you learn how to surf you’ll become healthier and more active. Surfing is a form of exercise. Even if you’re not catching waves in the beginning, you’re always paddling. You’ll become stronger and you’ll build up endurance. (I’m going to write up all the healthy benefits of surfing in our next blog).

Here are some tips to make progress while you’re in the beginning stages of learning.

Buy or Rent?

  1. If you’ve made the decision to commit, you want to buy your own surfboard. Buying equipment is a lot cheaper than renting, especially if you plan to surf every weekend.
  2. You want to start off with a “foamie” before considering a “cool” looking surfboard. On average depending on condition and who shaped it, custom surfboards can be very expensive and range from $500-$3,000 on the low end and up to $10,000. But you obviously do not want to do that since you’re starting out and probably damage it while you’re learning. Plus, you’ll look like a “kook” (poser) if you show up and can’t surf. Highly ill-advisable.

A great beginner surfboard would be a Wavestorm that will cost less than $200, like this one found below.

WavestormTM 8′ Pinstripe Graphic Classic Surfboard

It will provide with a lot of paddling power and ton’s of buoyancy making it easier to catch waves. This type of surfboard will help you build strength and endurance while learning to pop up. Start with this type of surfboard until you are able to stand up and ride consistently. Click the link above to purchase on on Amazon.

Next, you’ll need a standard longboard leash and not a standard 6′ leash since you will be riding a longboard. At the surf shop you’ll pay roughly about $30-$40. Here are a few options below,
Dakine Unisex Longboard Kainui Calf 9′ X 1/4” Leash, Pink, OS
Dorsal ProComp Surfboard Surf Leash – Red 9 FT Longboard

Your last piece of equipment, a wetsuit.
Depending on the temperature where you live, you might not need one. But if you live in Northern California you may want to purchase a 4/3 wetsuit that can be used all year around. There are a ton of places you can surf in Northern California. People are always surprised when I tell them I surf and live in San Francisco. Water temperatures can be very cold from 55 degrees to 59 degrees on average. The coldest months are November and December.

When choosing a wetsuit make sure you find a 4/3mm and the right size. I recommend going to the local surf shop and ask them what’s best since they’ll know the conditions that’s best suited for your local break.

The best surfer is the one having the most fun.

Ok, so this is my second blog post and I guess this wouldn’t be a surfers blog without instructions on how to start.

People ask me all the time, “Toan, how’d you start surfing?” Well, I guess I’ll go ahead and tell you how I got started.

Before you head to the beach it might be best to start researching online. Watch some videos on YouTube and learn the basics. Then, when you’re ready enroll into surf lesson. Typically surf lessons are a great way to start because you’ll meet people that are also interested in surfing and they’re beginning just like you. The surf instructors will also be knowledgeable about how the waves break and conditions. You’ll learn the basics about how to pop-up, where to position yourself in the water, but most importantly surf etiquette. We’ll definitely cover this in a separate discussion.

For now, if you’re lucky enough to live along the coast in California the first step should be pretty simple. Head to the beach, find a surf shop and enroll in a lesson.

Before the BIG day be sure to keep in mind what you’ll be learning.

  1. What size wetsuit should I get?
  2. How thick of a wetsuit should I get?
  3. How long of a surfboard should I get?
  4. Should I get booties?
  5. What is the temperature of the water?
  6. How big do the waves get?
  7. What type of surfboard works well in my area?
  8. How much does renting a surfboard and equipment compared to buying?
  9. How long can I surf until I get tired?
  10. Will my local beach be crowded?
  11. If you’re going alone, where should I put my keys? – Leave your keys at the surf shop register.

These are all great questions to think about before jumping into the water, but you’ll learn as you go. Remember, the best surfer is the one having the most fun. Go out there and have fun! I’m excited you’re going to be stoked! 


First blog post: Surfing heals the soul.

How did I get into surfing? That’s probably the first question people ask me when they see my social media posts on facebook, instagram or even snapchat. Take a wild guess…I started surfing at a pretty late age. I started surfing at age 31. I am now close to 33. However, surfing had always been in and out of my life, but I never noticed it or was too busy to take advantage of trying it.

Let me explain….One of my coworkers actually brought the surf lifestyle and culture into my life, and that I am forever grateful. However, there was a deeper reason why I started surfing and it was a tough time in my life.

Surfing had always been in and out of my life even at a young age. My sister taught my how to swim in the local pool in San Rafael. When I was 6 years old, she pushed me into the pool and I started kicking. That was how I learned how to swim. Survival.

Next, movies like Point Break growing up during the 80s I was familiar with the concept and totally felt the adrenaline rush of watching it on the big screen and envisioning a life where I was actually in the water. Growing up with Vietnamese immigrant parents, I was familiar with the ocean life. My uncles had their own fishing companies and boats and we’d be in the ocean or close the ports watching them fish.

I also remember how my sister when she was 15 and watching North Shore, her crush on Kelly Slater and Keeanu Reeves from Point Break. I remember back in the 90s girls loved surfers and that’s how I remember it today. But I don’t surf because of the girls or the image.

I surf because it heals the soul.

If you made it this far, I’ll tell you the truth. Now, to the deeper side of why I started surfing.

I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my teens and young adult life. I’ve made the wrong career moves, investments, I had a wrong perspective on life and materials, but more specifically the wrong choices in losing the women I loved. Some of my biggest regrets. My mentality wasn’t worthy of having such beautiful women. My mentality led to my decisions and my behavior.

I know, I know…I am being such a coward. But hey, life isn’t about how much money you make, or how many trophies you have. Life is about love. Do what you love. Be with who you love. That’s the only reason why people are happy. Surfing taught me that. There is no better joy than being one with nature. It’s free. It’s gratifying. It’s beautiful.

Now what enabled me? Before embarking on my surf life, I went through a horrible break up. Learning how to be alone was hard. Breaking up with someone is hard. Surfing brought me back to life and made me realize how much beauty and joy you get from being in the water or catching that perfect wave. Surfing taught me I could be alone.

The joy of surfing demonstrated a sense of peace. It gave me therapy and a way for me to heal by finding myself in the water. It gave me peace. If you listen to the waves you may very well find something you’re looking for. The beauty of the waves reminded me that love is out there, you just have to open your eyes. And that was all I needed to learn to move on.