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Surf Setup 101

Tips & Gear Picks From Caley Vanular

Caley Vanular is a British Columbia-based surfer and snowboarder, and a Backcountry Ambassador. When she’s not globetrotting to her favorite surf spots and powder stashes, she’s giving us the drop on her favorite breaks, what she’s wearing off the waves, and the best way to travel with surf gear.


Tell us about a few of your favorite breaks and which boards you ride for each.

  • Right hand point breaks in Baja California Sur, Mexico. A mid-length like the Salt Gypsy Mid Tide in a 6’8” length is really fun—the extra length helps with the long paddles back to the point. 
  • Beach breaks along the Oregon Coast. The Hayden Shapes Hypto Krypto in 5’8 is small enough that when the surf gets big, it still performs, but buoyant enough that it helps me catch mushy waves more easily. 
  • Reef Breaks in Indonesia. I like to bring a classic short board and my Hayden Shapes Hypto Krypto—something with a little less volume gives you a bit more control and performs well in more advanced waves. 
  • Mushy summer waves in Tofino, British Columbia. I recently got the Salt Gypsy Dusty Longboard in 8’6 and it’s awesome for smaller summer days in Canada.

What are your go-to wetsuits for summer? And if you’re catching waves in a swimsuit, which ones do you recommend?


I love the Roxy Satin Wetsuit, the Billabong Peeky Jacket, and the Seea Swimwear Hermosa Surf Suit. The sun can be so harsh in the summer so it’s nice to have your arms and back covered for long days out in the ocean. I also like the option of a 1mm jacket. You can throw it on over whatever swimsuit for extra warmth and protection. 

Some of my favourite bikinis for surfing are the Vitamin A Sienna Bikini Top and Sienna Bikini Bottom. I also love surfing in one-pieces like the Vitamin A Leah Bodysuit or Stone Fox Nayda Swimsuit. A good tip for surf bikini shopping is to buy it a tad too tight. If they dig into your hips, great. After a few big surfs in the ocean, the bikini will stretch and fit perfectly.

When you’re not on the water, what are some of your favorite styles for exploring the beach or around town? 


The first thing is a good hat to shade me from the sun. I love the Brixton Joanna Visor or Joanna Stripe Hat for some much needed shelter after a long session out in the water. And I always have shades on. I love almost all of the frames from Raen, especially the more unique shaped ones. To hit the town, I’m loving the Free People Ziggy Denim Overall with Free People Solid Rib Brami Tank. After a long day in the sun, I often get cold at night so something like the Mollusk Yarn Stripe Crew Sweater for warmth when the temperature drops.


And I always default to Vans Classic Slip-On with Stance Badwater Crew Socks. It’s so nice to not have laces in the summertime and I like to wear closed toe shoes so that if I jump on a dirt bike or skateboard, I am in the right footwear. If I am wearing sandals, the Seychelles Lighthearted Sandal, Good Spirits Clog, or On The Road Sandal are functional and can be dressed up or down.


What about when it comes to swimwear? Do you just rock the same suit on beach days as you do on your board?

I typically have a “surf suit” and a “beach suit,” because surfing can be pretty rough on your swimwear. For beach chillin’, I have a couple pieces from Stone Fox—they fit really well, the quality holds up, and the prints are always on point. 


Give us the lowdown on fins. How do you choose one? 

You need different fins for different boards. Some fins are sold separately (and don’t forget your fin key for swapping them out), while others come with a corresponding fin.


Fins come in XS, S, M, L, and XL. This typically corresponds with your weight—I am 5’9, 143lbs and use a size M fin, but arguably I could use a size S. For longboards with a single fin setup, the size of your fin is typically determined by the length of your surfboard (you can give or take an inch or two for preference). When placing your single fin you can also move it up or down in the fin box: closer to the nose will make it faster, closer to the tail will make it more maneuverable. Play around with placement and decide what is right for your surfing style.


Any other accessories you need to get your board ready to catch waves?

Unless you are a seasoned longboarder, you’ll want a leash. For longboards, it’s common to wear a calf leash like the DAKINE Longboard Calf Leash. You want your leash to be no more than a foot longer than your surfboard. Too short a leash and your board will slingshot back at you when you fall; too long and it’ll get in the way when you’re surfing. For short boards, I like using the DAKINE Kaimana Pro Comp Leash—it’s comfortable on my ankle and I haven’t had one break yet! 


Let’s talk wax. What kind do you need? Any personal preferences? 

You’ll need a basecoat wax and a wax that corresponds to the water temperature where you are surfing. In Oregon, I use cold, in California I use warm, and in Indonesia I use tropical. If you’re travelling around with your surfboard, you will often have to take all the wax off and re-wax your surfboard so the wax works in the new water temperature you’ve travelled to. Once you have done your initial wax (layer of basecoat and a layer of temperature-specific wax), you will want to add more wax before every surf. https://www.backcountry.com/

Any tips for traveling with a surfboard? 


I pack a bag that can fit the amount of surfboards I am bringing, like the DAKINE Regulator Triple Surfboard Bag and DAKINE Cyclone 36L. I always bring Baja Tie Down Straps for tricky transportation situations, as not all taxis or rentals will fit your surfboard bags. I pack the rails of the surf bag with towels, swimsuits, and a DAKINE Rack Pad, which you can then later use for transporting your boards. Airlines are pretty rough with your gear, so make sure you pack it tight and pad the rails and the boards with all your softgoods. 


Wax, fin keys, extra fins, and repair kits are hard to come by in more isolated areas, so I typically stock up before a trip abroad. And hot tip: Don’t pack anything hard in your surfboard bag—that is typically what will dent/ding your board in transit.

Caley Vanular is a surfer, snowboarder, artist, and photographer who hails from British Columbia, Canada. Her roots lay in vast mountainscapes, rich temperate rainforests, and expanses of rugged land bound by deep, sometimes unruly seas. It’s from these natural spaces that she draws much of her inspiration.  Find her @caleyvanular or caleyvanular.com.