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By Jake Howard
When I was 10 years old, my parents gave me a wetsuit for Christmas. It was a used, navy blue O’Neill 3-millimeter full suit. I was so proud of my new rubber that, unbeknownst to my folks, I wore it to school under my clothes the first day back from vacation. Trying to be sneaky, I wore jeans and a turtleneck over it (hey, it was the 1980s, turtlenecks were cool). By first recess, I was drowning in sweat and my neck was completely chafed. Staunchly dedicated to my ridiculous line of reasoning, I kept the suit on all day. When I got home from school around 3 p.m., I was a miserable, swampy mess, but so stoked.
Thirty years down the track, I was taking my daughter to school when she blurted out, “Mom and I haven’t got anything for you for Christmas yet. We can’t figure out what to get you.”
Therein lies the conundrum of holiday gift giving for the surfer in your family. It can be as satisfyingly easy as a new wetsuit for the grom or as challenging as figuring out what to get the salty old wave-rider who has a dozen boards in their rack, a full wardrobe of wetsuits and doesn’t really appear to need, or want, much. When it comes to buying presents for surfers, a great rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Don’t overthink things…that’s kind of one of the surf mantras, after all.
First, if you’re considering buying a new board for that special someone, let them pick it out. Surfboards are a highly personal thing and everybody has their own unique kink. It’s much more nuanced than deciding between a shortboard or a longboard. For the lifelong surfer, picking out a new board means fondling the rails, feeling the swing weight under arm and eyeballing the outline from every conceivable angle. There is no shortage of great surf shops in San Clemente, so if you’re dead-set on buying your beau a board, take them shopping or put a gift certificate under the tree.
Admittedly, new surfboards are expensive. A fresh sled off the rack will set you back between $500 to $800, so it’s understandable if you don’t want to go that big. Thankfully, for as minimalist as some surfers try to be, there’s no shortage of gear you can load up on. No surfer is going to complain if you get them a fresh set of fins for Christmas. Depending on what materials and design you go with, a well-tuned set of FCS or Futures shortboard fins will cost between $75 to $120 (make sure and include a gift receipt, because like boards, fins are a matter of personal taste). Another clutch idea is a new leash. They’re typically under $40 and are the gift that will keep on giving all year long. Board socks, board bags, ding repair kits, wax—they’re all stuff the surfer in your life will use on a day-in, day-out basis.
With the winter water temps sliding down to the upper 50s, it may also be time to upgrade their wetsuit. A good 3-millimeter fullsuit will run between $300 to $500 depending on the brand and what kind of sales are going on. With wetsuits, you usually get what you pay for, so when shopping, be sure to ask the salesperson about the suit’s materials, seam construction and most important what kind of warranty is offered. If you don’t want to go the fullsuit route, 1-millimeter or 2-millimeter wetsuit tops, also called “jackets” are a great idea that’s reasonably priced (they’re perfect for summertime around here). Booties and hoods for the cold dawn patrol sessions are also usually much appreciated.
If you’re not in the market for surf gear, fret not. Remember, surfers are easy. A warm flannel shirt, a baggy hooded sweatshirt or a cozy beanie all are great for getting the body temp back up post session. New sandals or boardshorts never disappoint either. You could also throw down and get them a new California State Park pass for $195.
As this goes to press, we’re about 96 hours away from Christmas. The tide’s not completely out yet, there’s still time to swing through the San Clemente Surf Ghetto or hit up your favorite surf shop. Happy holidays, and if you get your grommet a wetsuit, make sure he or she’s not wearing under their clothes when they go back to school in a of couple weeks.