Blame the equipment

Wet(suit) fashion – girls overseas look hotter than us

by Iona in Blame the equipment | No Comments »

Residing in Copenhagen, without the means to pop on a wetsuit and access the few surf breaks that apparently lie out there somewhere in the land of the Danes and hence not having surfed in months (!), has made me engage in slightly masochist endavours such as watching way too many surf movies and daily browsing the Liquid Salt website.

Practical ladies surf wear

Pret-à-Surf -

Sexy surf wear

Alopé -

Ladies swimwear

Pret-à-Surf -

However, I do get a lot of web surfing done. And one of these recent surf missions actually turned out not to be a total waste of time. Not only did I find a little online jewel – the Salt Gypsy webpage – but I also found answers to profound questions, which have nagged me for a long long time: are there alternatives to boring/tacky wetsuits and rash guards out there, will I ever find the perfect swimsuit???

fashionable surfer girl in sexy wetsuit

Velvet Dreams -

Fashionable full wetsuits for ladies

Velvet Dreams -

The issue of female wetsuits has appeared in a many a discussion between Holle and me over the course of the last few years. And although I think we have different visions of what the ideal female wetsuit should look like, we both share a distaste for the conventional female suits on the market. So I was happy to discover that the spectrum of styles and suits is a little wider in Australia and the US of A. And not only are there other options out there for the woman, whose definition of style does not include pink and glitter and big logos (which seems to be the standard look for women’s suits) – but the selection is surprisingly rich. There’s even a neoprene suit in leopard print (and respect to any chick who pulls that one off)!

Full ladies wetsuit

Muther of all Things -

Sexy surfwear

Sexy and practical surfwear

Alopé -

All I need now, is lots of dough and some warm waves so I can indulge in my new-found loves…

Cape Town Surfsisters wetsuit survey reveals best wetsuit in town

by Holle in Blame the equipment | 2 Comments »

Being a woman surfing in Cape Town, we all know what difference a good wetsuit makes. Thank you for participating in the Surfsisters wetsuit survey. Our goal was to find the best wetsuit in town and help girls to make an informed decision when buying their next suit. Here are the results:

Half of the Surfsisters who responded were between 31 and 40 years old and the vast majority of respondents have been surfing between 1 and 5 years. Most women either identified their body shapes as banana or hourglass. This was a rather difficult questions, it must be admitted…

Cape Town Surfsisters wetsuit shopping

Cape Town Surfsisters wetsuit shopping

O’Neill, Xcel and Reef are most commonly surfed amongst the survey respondents, followed by Rip Curl, then Roxy and finally Billabong. Respondents who have surfed wetsuits from more than one brand, put either O’Neill, Xcel or the Rip Curl G-Bomb suit as their favourites. Neil Pryde was mentioned as an expensive favourite suit as well as the O’Neill mod which is unfortunately not available in South Africa (…but of which I have heard fantastic stories!)

The following wetsuit models were rated by participants: Psycho 2, Coral custom-made, Ripcurl G-Bomb, O’Neill De Lux, Reef 4,3, Reef Tri Star/Flex, Xcel Infinity.

Half of the women paid between R1000-R2000 for their wetsuit and usually bought them in a Surf Shop. Only a few bought their suit in Factory Shops. About 35% of the respondents paid between R2000 and R3000, and only 7% up to R4000.

All respondents are either satisfied or even very satisfied with the fit of their suits. The opinions differ more when it comes to functionality, including aspects such as elasticity, key pockets and zips. Still the vast majority was either satisfied or very satisfied, but some felt neutral or dissatisfied about functionality of the above.

There is a similar picture when it comes to warmth of the suit. Half of the respondents were very satisfied, the remaining opinions divert down to dissatisfied.

In terms of looks and design, the majority of respondents said they are satisfied. slightly fewer were very satisfied and even fewer were on the neutral or negative side.

With the vast majority of respondents stating that they don’t have any strong opinion about the price of their suits, none being dissatisfied and some satisfied or very satisfied, money doesn’t seem to stand in women’s way when it come to purchasing the right suit.

When questioning the fit of their wetsuits further, most respondents complained about too much material around the tummy. The second most mentioned issue was sleeves. “Suit’s sleeves are too short” was funny enough followed by “sleeves are too long”. Some indicated that their suits are either too tight or too loose around the neck.

One woman stated that her suit fits perfectly, another found the Velcro at the neck irritating and again some were complained about a missing duck flap and pink sleeves on the new O’Neill top of the range suit.

Elinor wearing a O'Neill junior men's suit

Elinor wearing junior mens suit, which fits her perfectly

When suggesting a range of potential issues with suits, missing key pockets/elastic, tricky to work zips and difficulties with getting in and out of suits were equally commented on. Some women experience broken seams and a lack of flexibility of their suits as problematic.

After sales service is stated as a generally positive experience, at least when it comes to friendliness and helpfulness in surf shops. The quality of repairs, however, doesn’t seem to always be up to scratch.

The comment box was filled with various statements. From a female surfer who cannot believe that they are surfing the warmest wetsuit available on the South African market (which doesn’t keep them very warm at all), to a warning of the smooth Coral neoprene which according to the survey tends to be brittle and break, compared to a rough material according to the survey also used by Coral.

There were also requests to stop producing top of the range suits with flowers and pink patterns, wishing for more creative designs.

Last but not least there was a recommendation to always go for the best suit one can afford! Comfort even in Atlantic waters is the reward.

Ladies wetsuit survey – lets find the best wetsuit in town

by Holle in Blame the equipment | No Comments »

Hello Surfsister!

Wetsuit survey Cape Town surf spots

Even dogs wear wet(pet)suits in Cape Town

A very warm welcome to this survey. We would like to learn about your experience with wetsuits. Being a woman surfing in Cape Town, we all know what difference a good wetsuit makes.

We believe that there are a number of gender specific needs and insides into this topic and would like to capture the views of as many women as possible to be able to report back to you so that you can make informed decisions when buying your new wetsuit.

Potentially, we can also feed information back to the surf brands and local suppliers.

We kept the questionnaire as short as possible. The more detailed information we get, the better, so please make extensive use of the white boxes below questions for comments. If your story doesn’t fit in the questionnaire, please send an email with the subject ‘wetsuit survey’ to

So, let’s do this! The survey is anonymous >>>> GOOooooo Wetsuit survey

Thanks a lot for sharing your time with us!


P.S. Sorry guys. I know there are quite a few male Surfsisters amongst us, but this survey is for ladies only.

A beginners guide to – Size Really Does Matter

by Nailah Furnival in Blame the equipment | 1 Comment »

Ugh! I have chastised myself, all the way through writing this story, about sounding so ‘Cosmo’. So girly. But I am a girly, lest I forget. I love being a girl: painting my toenails, getting my hair done, flirting with the boys on the dance floor and such things. I’m a bona fide surfsister.
So, when I decided to get my very own, very first board shaped, I did the ‘Cosmo’, “oh woe is me! back of hand slapping up against forehead” thing. The damsel in distress vibe. Up until very recently, surfing in Cape Town has been a bro’s world. Somewhat of a gentleman’s club. Ha ha ha – you know what that’s a euphemism for? I digress.

Cape Town Shaper

Dave Stubb's surfboard factory

I’d only been on the scene for a year and I really didn’t know a whole lot about surfboards and all the different shapes they come in. I’d been mucking about on a friend’s 6’3, affectionately known as ‘the toothpick’ and had no idea of these things called longboards or minimals. I grew up in Sea Point, and being one of the most insular ‘hoods in South Africa, I had never actually seen anyone surf anything other than a shortboard. Still, that’s no excuse for my barefaced idiocy. I mean seriously, after my first trip to Muizies, one would think I would’ve developed some clarity on the matter. The fact that it took me six months just to paddle hard enough to keep up with the foamies, on that toothpick (I hadn’t even started standing yet) would’ve been a screaming message to me to GET A BIGGER BOARD . . . apparently not. All I wanted to know was – and herein lies my first biggest mistake in surfing – I was going to be a shortboarder! Riding the Factory. By next year. This story has a sub-moral to it too, which I’ll tell you later – it has to do with my little friend, Ego.

Back to size counts. I wanted to get my first board and really wanted one tailor-made just for me. A board that would take my dimensions and level of strength into consideration, as well as my level of performance, or lack thereof. So I went to the experts, my bros, for advice. What I found was that almost every surfer in the world has his own idea of ‘what’s-what’ when it comes to the right board. They’re all experts, and they almost all have opposing opinions.

Similarly, this is the case with shapers. Their opinions presumably are more valid as there is a good chance they’re actually mathematically sound. However, every shaper has his own personal style and favourite spots to surf and this affects his frame of reference. Perfectly acceptable. What I figured out later, with regards to shapers, was that we should allow for intuition when making this decision of who shapes our boards. It’s not just about aqua-dynamics and biology. Your shaper either understands your needs, or he doesn’t. And this you can feel in the first five minutes you’re in his company. Seriously: trust your gut. If you don’t click with him, chances are you’re not going to click with your stick.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, any kind of expert. I can only tell you about what I deduced from my own little exercise – I compiled a short generic list of: ‘aah ssssh*t, if only I knew then what I know now.’ Besides width, length and thickness, I discovered aqua-dynamics, biology and hey-sjoe-wow: the shaper’s energy.

Like aerodynamics, but the water version. And please note, I’ve made this word up. I’ve yet to find two waves that are the same. And I’ve never even surfed outside of South Africa. In Cape Town for instance, the West Coast/Atlantic conditions are very different from that of False Bay. False Bay tends to be gentler, slower and less hollow, whereas the Atlantic is more powerful, faster, crunching and steep. Chances are that if it’s your first board, you’re probably surfing Muizenberg, Long Beach, Milnerton and maybe the Shipwreck. These spots are all good longboard and minimal spots, which are wonderful beginner boards. You may actually stand up in under six months. These waves are slower and sometimes have very little punch to them. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when these spots are pretty hairy, make no mistake, but generally you have some time to sort your life out. To compensate for the lack of push in the wave, it is advisable to have a bigger board, with lots of surface area to give you more buoyancy to help glide over the water. Also in the case of longboards, minimals and fishes, the rails tend to follow an almost straight line from nose to tail. This means that more water is ‘pushed’ out of the way, for longer, which enables you to propel yourself forward at a greater distance, with very little effort. The board does the work.

We’re actually chicks. As one shaper told me: ‘There is no way on God’s green earth that a woman will ever have the same kind of power in her shoulders as a man.” We’re just not made that way. My best friend, who is a surfer/physiotherapist/girl, with very large ‘cajones’ I might add, confirms this. She says, that due to our anatomy, we should ride differently shaped boards from boys. We simply don’t have the same power. It’s not a macho, chauvinist thing, it’s just biology. And quite frankly, I don’t want that kind of power if it means I’m going to look like Miss Extreme Body USA. I’d rather just compensate for my lack of power, by changing the shape of my surfboard slightly. Don’t be scared to have a nice wide nose if you opt for a slightly shorter board. It’ll dramatically increase your speed paddling into waves. And I know this because I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting caught in lips and whipped over falls, because I was too slow paddling into waves. The first day I paddled my wider nosed thicker board out, I dropped my rate of incidence by possibly 80%. The other 20% was due to my being a rubbish surfer.

A thicker board also helps. The more buoyant, the more effortless your glide. The faster you go, the less your chance of getting whipped over. The problem with a thicker board, your shaper will tell you, is it is harder to duck dive. And it is. But you’ll build the strength and eventually you’ll have your technique right so it won’t matter that your board is thicker. It might just be my personal preference, but I prefer to battle more when paddling out to the line up, and worrying less when paddling into waves. It means less panic at takeoff and you may also find that this will help you to set yourself up better to ride the wave. It’s a tradeoff.

The ‘Hey-Sjoe-Wow’ Factor of your shaper
Shapers are all sooooo sexy. I won’t bore you with my analysis on that, but they are. After all, these guys are the custodians of our happiness – like dealers. We want to do everything they tell us to, because they know Everything. They hold the key. Don’t get misty eyed by all that sexiness and clever surf talk. Try to stay objective and ‘outside’ of the situation. Most of what these guys will tell you will make not one ounce of sense to you. These okes have all been surfing for like 20-plus years. They quite literally are on a level we can’t imagine yet. When they do that, bring them back to the basics. If they suggest something in the shape of the board that will enable you to do something you don’t understand, bring them back to the basics – easy to paddle into waves, stability when popping up. At this stage all you need is something you can trim on, not something ridiculously responsive. If you ‘feel’ like you’re not being heard and you feel like there may be a little condescension going on, just be cool. Take in what you can and then go shopping. Shapers obviously know a lot more than you do, but you know when something is right and easy and when it’s not. If it’s starts feeling like a battle, leave it. It might be that you want your shaper to make all the decisions for you. That’s also okay; just do what feels right. Seriously, go talk to a whole bunch of shapers. You’ll learn shed-loads from them if you do, plus you will be able to gaze at all those sexy men. Don’t rush into making a decision.

Things I’ve learned so far

1) The learning curve in surfing is slow and so should your first board be. This will simply give you more time. It will slow the situation down and help you be more cognisant of what’s happening around you. This will enable you to plan your next move. The more experience you gain, the more responsive you’ll want your board to be. There are of course exceptions, but for most of us it’s a slow journey. Be grateful for that and enjoy every moment and every droplet of water while you’re out there.

2) It’s nearly five years now and I’m still nowhere near being ready to surf the Factory.

3) No matter what anyone tells you, there are no hard and fast rules regarding what style of board should be ridden where. That, as far as I’m concerned, is ‘jus’ some ‘ol bullshit’ that got made up in the 80s. Watch some of those old 70s Dick Hoole & Jack McCoy surf movies. “Bustin’ Down the Backdoor” and “In Search of Tubular Swells”, and then come and tell me you can’t get barrelled on a fat chunky single fin – ala Mark Richards. In terms of surfboard shapes, really the possibilities have only just begun.

4) Most importantly to trust my gut. To listen to the academics and then to feel how I feel about the person delivering it.
How fortunate I am to have discovered this way of life and how much better I am for it.

Later, hommie chickas.