The ocean is calling. You can feel the sea-salt in the air and it’s time to connect with the waves again. Maybe you’re visiting the coast for a holiday, maybe you’re lucky enough to live there year round. Either way, the chances are that at some point you will be looking for a decent surf hire centre.
Taking a trip to any coastal town will almost inevitably see you walk through a maze of Rip Curl flags and well used surfboards. Be that the roadside trailers or the purpose built venues – or anything in between. The aim of this article is to really establish where you should confidently look for surf hire, and where you should probably give a wide berth.
Attributes of a Good Hire Centre
There are many different aspects to a reputable hire centre. We know what they might look like from the outside, but there should be so much more happening on the inside to keep things afloat. (Pun intended). Here’s a brief overview of things to consider before we look at each of them in a bit more detail:
Condition/Quality of Equipment
Variety of Equipment
There are heaps of differences when it comes to surfboard hire centres. Some places like to stack their equipment high and keep their prices low. This can seem like a great opportunity for any budget minded traveller, but dig beneath the surface and you might want to reconsider. Safety is paramount when you’re in the ocean, and anybody providing you with equipment to do so should have your best interests at heart. Which, unfortunately, isn’t always the case.
First Impressions for Surf Hire
They do say you should never judge a book by it’s cover, which is fairly accurate when it comes to people (or books). But for surf hire centres – you can make some quick initial decisions based on what you see. Instinct will go a long way and ultimately it’s down to you to decide who you’ll hire from. But there are a few things you can look for straight away:
Give the company a quick Google Where do they rank in the results list? Do they have a professional and informative website? What do the reviews look like? Do they list their contact names and numbers? This is a quick and easy way to determine what kind of company you’re looking at.
What kind of site are they operating out of? Is it a small trailer on the side of the road? Is it a bigger building with offices and changing rooms? Is it tucked away at the back of a convenience store? The wiser option would be a centre with lots of space and good facilities.
How do they look after their equipment? Are the surfboards properly stored and cleaned? Have the wetsuits been dunked and hung up? Is the centre itself clean and approachable? Visual first impressions are super important.
Do the staff look professional? Are they presentable and welcoming? Are they keeping an eye on customers and conditions? Are they friendly and helpful? You’ll feel much more relaxed in the hands of cheerful and informative staff members.
Do they have a forecast board? Is it displaying the correct information? Is it up to date? Is it informative enough? Knowing what’s going on in the water is vital.
This isn’t a definitive set of rules by any means, of course there will be exceptions. But it’s a good place to start when looking at potential surf hire. As with most things in life, common sense tells us to go where it’s busy and to follow the positive reviews.
Quality of Equipment
Arguably the most important aspect of a surf hire company is the gear itself. Some of the kit could actually be responsible for saving your life, so you want to make sure that the bar is set pretty high. The equipment should be regularly checked and maintained to an ocean-worthy standard.
This means surfboards should be clean and dent free. Fins should be without damage and the accompanying leash should be solid enough to keep you attached to it. Bodyboards should be waterproof and light, with no delamination. Any visible signs of damage could lead to creases, waterlogging and snapping. This could quickly progres to a serious situation if it happened in the ocean. Kayaks should be well maintained, have water tight bungs and good solid handles for carrying to the water. The paddles and seats should also be included free of any damage that could impair proper use. If you are offered a bouyancy aid, ask if is tested. Your surf hire centre should test safety kit to maintain high standards.
Wetsuits should be a good quality brand and well looked after. Often there will be a dunk tank with a cleaning solution to wash out the salt water, and a suitable place for them to hang dry. How a company looks after its own equipment is a great tell-tale sign of how it values itself.
Variety of Equipment
There’s nothing worse than squeezing into a wetsuit that’s too small or trying to surf on a board that doesn’t match your size. Lots of hire centres tend to stock straight down the middle and hand the same thing to anybody who walks through the door. It’s a safe bet for the supplier, but it’s not the most enjoyable experience as a customer.
All body shapes and weights vary. A good hire centre will have every kind of wetsuit and board needed to suit each customer comfortably. This means you get much more out of your time on the water. Something else to consider is the season you’re hiring in and how it can affect the temperature of the sea. This can determine what gear you’ll likely require. From only needing a rashie in the summer – to boots, gloves and a hood in the winter. A reputable centre will be prepared for these conditions and stock accordingly. They will also offer you the appropriate advice for the time of year.
We all know variety is the spice of life and that extends to the water too. There are so many ways to enjoy the ocean and surfboard hire is just one of them. A good centre will offer more than just surfboard hire. We cover a wide range of activities including coasteering, SUPing, surfing, bodyboarding and kayaking.
Your skill level will play a part too in deciding which is the safest piece of equipment for you personally. This is where the staff play a vital role in making an informed decision as to what would suit you best – based on your experience in the water.
Hire Centre Facilities
It stands to reason that a hire centre with good facilities is going to make your whole experience much more straightforward and enjoyable. Facilities you might not have given a second thought become much more important after a cold dunk in the sea. You’ll thank us for it, believe me! Here’s what to look for before hiring out any equipment:
Changing Rooms. A private space where you can comfortably get changed makes a world of difference when it comes to slipping on (fighting with) a wetsuit. Even more so on the way back out.
Having somewhere to wash the salt out of your hair, and sand off of your feet is absolutely priceless after spending time in the ocean. Instantly refreshing in the summer and invitingly warm in the winter. Life saver.
Safe Storage. Any decent company that has your interests at heart will offer a safe space for your valuables. Beaches can be a hotspot for theft, especially in the busier summer months. Having somewhere to lock away your bag allows you to enjoy your activity without worrying and needing to check the beach every 5 minutes.
Nobody likes being caught short! You may happily go for it in your own wetsuit, but it’s kind of frowned upon if you’re hiring. Plus you get to avoid the queues of the public loos. Result.
Forecast Board. A well managed hire centre will be on top of the weather and surf forecast above all else. They’ll make the forecast visible for customers, usually on a chalk-board by their office. This should tell you the air and sea temperature, high and low tide times, weather forecast and swell size.
Convenient opening hours. Some of the best times to enjoy the beach are morning and evening. You don’t want to be rushing back to return your kit when the waves are fun. Look for a hire centre that is professionally staffed, are open from first thing in the morning until the early evening.
Ocean safety is paramount when enjoying any type of sea activity. Finding a centre that understands and prioritizes this over sales is invaluable. Hire centres have a responsibility to advise against any potential dangers, and to give any necessary advice to customers regarding their activity.
This could be forecasted changes in sea swell, any rip currents that are present on the beach, potential changes in weather or the safety parameters for a chosen activity – whether that’s bodyboarding, surfing or kayaking. Essentially you should be armed with the vital knowledge you need to be confident and safe when hiring equipment.
Your safety should be their number one concern.
Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff
A good hire centre will have a fantastic team behind it, actively helping customers to safely enjoy the ocean. Generally most of the team will be instructors, lifeguards or hold some kind of ocean related qualification. The combined experience should amount to a vast wealth of knowledge about being on the sea. This puts you in the best possible hands when it comes to hiring any equipment.
Taking a responsibility for your safety and understanding your limits is part of the process that helps to maximize your enjoyment out at sea. The staff should be certified to talk to you about ocean safety and how best to deal with any potential problems to avoid panic and unnecessary lifeguard call outs.
As well as the forecast board, they should be giving a good ‘eye-ball check’ of the current conditions each time a piece of equipment is hired out. This provides a real time synopsis of what’s happening with the ocean before you head off for your activity. The aim is to keep you informed of any dangers that may have surfaced throughout the day or whether it’s safe to go out at all.
The staff should also be knowledgeable enough to make customer specific decisions for different situations. A parent wishing to take their small child out on a kayak should be offered different advice to a single adult with lots of ocean experience. Sometimes it’s a lot about common sense and preventing any problems before they occur.
Through the hard work of our staff and the high standards we keep, we have been awarded a Centre of Excellence by the ISA & Surfing England. We are one of the only schools in Newquay to hold this award and are very proud to do so. You can rest assured that you are in great hands with our staff when you book your activities with us.
The concern of staff members should be an indefinite interest in their customers’ journey. If a company just wants to take your money and give you a surfboard, chances are they’re not going to care too much about your experience. A surf hire centre worth returning to will be the one that follows up on your activity and provides helpful feedback. The staff should ask you how you got on in the water and if they can help at all going forward.
Good quality staff will be passionate about the ocean and the people who use it. In reputable companies, you should find that the staff don’t just want to sell you another lesson. They genuinely want to help you on the water, making it as safe and enjoyable as possible.
This doesn’t have to stop in the hire centre either. It could also include providing customers with information relevant to the local area. Offering advice on other good surf beaches home or away, best places in the area for kayaking or SUPing or recommending other good surf hire companies around the country or world.
The location of a surf hire centre is a key factor in its success. Too far from the beach and it defeats the point, too close to the beach and you risk the lack of space or foot fall. A hire centre that is close to the surrounding shops or restaurants is definitely one likely to receive more customers.
Surfing is a huge part of the culture here, and the surfboard hire in Newquay is what draws lots of people to this part of the world. We, ourselves, are lucky enough to have the beautiful Towan beach right on our doorstep. Being located in this part of town means you’re well within walking distance of the local shops and cafes. Perfect for refuelling after a tiring day paddling through the surf.
The natural position along the coastline can also be beneficial in making a surf hire centre thrive. Our epic Atlantic Coast with its jagged rocks, golden sand and azure waters make it a hotspot for visitors. The view will take your breath away no matter where you’re standing. Whether you’re at the top of the cliff or back down at sea level, our coastline can be admired from anywhere. As Ellie Ross (writing for The Times) found out recently when she was invited along on one of our heritage kayak tours.
What are the Advantages of Hire Centres?
First and foremost, surf hire can take a lot of the hassle out of holiday traveling. The equipment you’ll be looking to hire will be big, bulky and often difficult to carry. Not to mention almost impossible to squeeze into the car once the suitcases and kids are loaded. Finding a good hire centre will solve all of these problems for you. The equipment will be of a high standard and already stored at the beach, all you need to do is bring yourself – and away you go. Plus, you don’t need to store it at your hotel or campsite each night.
Another benefit of hiring equipment is that it’s much cheaper than buying it outright. This definitely rings true for the people who love being on the ocean but might not get there as often as they’d like. With even the cheapest of beginner surfboards starting at a few hundred pounds, the price can be a big outlay when it might only be used two or three times a year. Surf hire prices on the other hand are much cheaper, at around £15-£20 for the whole day, which is payable as and when you need it. This could save you a lot of money through the course of the year.
Here at the Newquay Activity Centre we find that a lot of people are quite confident in the water after their first surf lesson. Thanks to our awesome instructors most people are happy with their technique and have already managed to stand up once or twice. Practicing technique and time in the water is super important when learning to surf, but paying for another beginner lesson immediately may not be necessary. Without rushing out to buy a board, hiring one is a great alternative so you can keep on learning without the cost.
Progressive businesses never stop learning. So while this is an extensive list of what makes a good surf hire centre, it certainly isn’t exhaustive. Businesses should be forever evolving and adapting to meet the requirements of its industry and customers. When you have something as wild and natural as the ocean involved, this is true on a daily basis.
If you’d require surfboard hire or wetsuit hire and you want a huge range of other kit in a professional setting, trained staff and competitive prices the Newquay surf hire specialists at Newquay Activity Centre have got you covered.
Newquay Activity Centre owes its existence to creator, director and former European bodyboard champion Rob Barber. Having been introduced to the ocean as a child during summers on the beach, Rob found his passion in the water and went on to leave a lasting legacy in the surfing world.
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