This is something that has continually pissed me off for a long time. Especially in snowboarding (because lots of fools do that one) I feel like it’s impossible to go ride without seeing someone who can barely stand, let alone ride, with a setup worth upwards of $700. That is the perfect illustration of why gear doesn’t matter, and I could stop there. But I won’t.
Gear does not make you better whatsoever. The reality is, if you don’t know anything about something like surfing and you buy a fancy step-up board with crazy design features, you are cheating yourself. Same goes for snowboarding. If you buy a stiff ripper of a board with some crazy camber/rocker combo and you’re a beginner, you might as well ride a plank. You won’t be able to tell the difference. Not only are you wasting money on stuff that you don’t need at a low ability level that won’t help you, you might actually be making it worse for yourself. Surfing is a good example because a thin, skinny step-up will be tougher to ride than a longboard in pretty much any scenario.
Gear can’t help you until you have the skill to notice the differences between the top-end shit and the basic shit. Personally, in longboarding I find that wheels and bushings have the biggest effect on how a board feels. Fact is though, I couldn’t notice differences in how wheels slide until recently. It takes time to get comfortable enough in a boardsport that you begin to notice the intricacies of your equipment. Then, when you change your equipment up, the differences are obvious.
Bottom line? It takes a bit of skill to even notice the fancy features of a board, or fins, or wheels, or bushings, or whatever. Once you have that skill, feel free to go crazy customizing your setups. But until then, do yourself a favor and buy something basic.