surfboards for beginners



Now that you’ve had your first surfing lessons and have decided to continue your surfing career, how do you go about buying your first surfboard? How do you decide on what to buy?

You might get objective advice from some staff at the surf shop, but there are those who’re ready to sell anything to you, just to get their commission… or you might end up with a salesperson that knows next to nothing about surfing.

Our best surfboards for beginners recommendations in this article will be determined by certain factors – where you surf, how often you surf, and if & how often you travel for surfing.


Volume is the most important factor when choosing surfboard for a beginner. A board with lots of volume will float better which makes it easier for learners to get to their feet and catch the waves.

Surfboard Volume
Different surfboards & their volume

A lot of people make this mistake when purchasing their first surfboard. Minimals, foam boards and longboards come with lots of volume, Shortboards and any surfboard under 6’6”, not so much.

Volume is usually measured in litres. We think a great beginner surfboard should have at least 60 litres of volume – and even better if there’s more. A minimal longboard surfboard could have between 65-80 litres or more volume. Now let’s compare it to one of those performance shortboard used by surf professionals… which might have about 6’1 x 18 ¼ inch shortboards. Its volume should be about 25 litres. If you want to enjoy a board as small as that, you’ll need a lot of surfing technique and the right waves.

Something we see on a regular basis here at Swell is from people with Snowboard experience, they assume that because they are good snowboarders: learning to surf will be easy and quick for them too. As a result, they want to skip the phase of learning on a bigger board. This will not speed up your surfing learning curve: in fact, it will do the opposite. You have to learn the basics: Paddle technique – catching waves – Riding the white water; All these things are best done on surfboard with more than 60 litres of volume.


Another common mistake is that after dealing with a big longboard in the water for a few days and seeing experienced surfers on their short boards, is to ‘blame’ their slow progress on the longboard. Yes, a long beginners board is not easy to turn, duck dive or handle in white water. In the beginning of your surf career, it’s not able to take on big waves or making nice turns. In the beginning of your surfing, you should focus on 1 thing: catching as many waves as you can. Catching more waves = Quicker Progress = More fun!

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What you will want as a beginning surfers is to catch waves – starting from the white water, then moving to unbroken ‘green’ waves. And if you really want to achieve this as a beginner, you’ll need to get a surfboard with lots of volume. So, at this stage volume is the most important thing you need in a surfboard.

Durability is another factor to consider for beginner surfboards, because you’ll probably end up knocking the board around a bit while you’re learning which is why you might want to go with something durable.



Beginner surfboards

These boards come with a soft layer of foam atop them with a slick plastic layer at the bottom.

Extremely durable

They don’t come with sharp points; which makes them safer

Best value for money

Used by practically all the surf schools



Epoxy molded surfboard

Bic, NSP & Torq ( which are surfboard brands we use for our Hardtops at Swell) are some of the common brands with this construction type. Although a lot of other brands use similar constructions, they are sometimes called “Pop-outs” in reference to the mould used for shaping the board’s core.

  • Very durable
  • They usually come with removable fins, which are compatible with systems like FCS or Future Fins
  • Great value, is often found in packages with leash & board bags
  • Proven surfboard shapes


Polyester surfboard

This has been the standard construction for surfboards for years. This surfboard has a soft foam blank shaped into it and layers of fibreglass cloth and polyester resin laminated across the top to give it a harder outer shell and make it more watertight.

  • Fairly lightweight
  • Looks every inch like the traditional surfboard
  • Available in different shapes and sizes
  • Comes with removable fins that are easily replaced
  • Dings and Cracks easily, but can also easily be repaired
  • Turns yellow-ish after a few months in the sun


Shaping surfboard
Custom shaping an epoxy surfboard

This board is similar to the polyester boards, but with a different foam for its epoxy resin and core, including a fibreglass cloth outer layer.

    • It is lighter than those polyester resin surfboards
    • More durable than the polyester resin surfboards
    • Shaped like those traditional surfboards
    • Available in every shape and size
    • Comes with removable fins that are easy to replace
    • Can easily be repaired if cracked or dinged
    • Epoxy boards are lighter boards & more crack-resistant, and their outer layer is more likely to bend not split when struck by something.

Those are the major types of construction out there, so now you understand the advantages of each construction. You can put this information into consideration when considering the shape of surfboard to pick.



Surfboards for beginners


Quite affordable

Very stable

Soft – which is safer in case you get hit by your board

Great to surf the white-water

Can easily catch most waves


Pretty heavy

Not much difference between its price and that of hard surfboards

Not great for surfing shoulder high waves

Not easy to paddle out in bigger surfs

Not very responsive to the surfer’s input

Will not provide long term fun

What we think of foam surfboards

Foam surfboards can be found in 6 and 7ft (for kids and folks that are lighter) including 8 and 8ft versions. The smallest length for a regular adult to lean on is 8ft. However, you should know that there are quite a number of low quality, cheap and badly constructed foamies for sale on sites like Ali express and eBay.

Foamies are perfect for people that have never surfed before or are in their first stages of learning to surf

However, if you are going to surf on a regular basis you will grow out of the soft top with 5 to 15 surf sessions and want to move onto a hardtop, so our advice is to rent a soft-top at your local surf school or join a surf camp like Swell and then move onto the hardtop boards like the ones listed below


beginner surfboard


It is faster and easier to manoeuvre than those foam boards

Can be used to learn longboard moves such as hanging 5, cross stepping, etc.

Can be used to surf bigger head waves (provided you can actually paddle out)

Should have good resale value if you ever want to sell

Some people are so in love with longboards that they want to surf forever on them


If it is over 8ft long it won’t fit in most cars

Quite bulky to carry around

The fact that it is hard means it will hurt more if it actually hits you compared to foam boards

Harder to catch waves with them than foam boards

Most airlines don’t allow passengers to check in longboards because of their length

They work better with unbroken ‘green’ waves because they’re not designed to ride white water.

Our Thoughts:

These boards are great for intermediate surfers that want to progress from their first surf lessons on a soft top

This board will keep you entertained for 1 or 2 seasons so you can learn all the surfing fundamentals

Some People love the glide and feel of these boards that they never move onto a shorter board but will stick with this length and type of surfboards for the rest of their surfing career.

Verdict: Recommended as first surfboard/

Worth noting: Not every ‘long’ board is a suitable board for a beginner. There are a lot of high-performance longboards on the market which are geared toward the expert longboarder, they are not very good to learn on. Ask at your local surf shop or bring a friend who can tell the difference.


Mini Mal Surfboard


The board is smaller so you can easily carry it around

You can fit a 7’6 into a small car

Easier to paddle it in bigger surfs compared to large foam boards

It is also quite progressive, so you can actually enjoy this board for a while

There are people who will rather surf on minimal shaped surfboards

Can be taken on planes – i.e. airlines with an 8ft limit


More difficult to catch waves compared to foamies or long boards

They’re not so soft, so you might want to avoid getting hit with them

A minimal board is still a large board so it might be a little difficult to navigate high waves (though it is advisable to stick to smaller waves if you’re a beginner).

They’re slower than the smaller surfboards

Our Thoughts:

Not a bad board for someone to buy after they have had 5 or so sessions on a soft top, however, works best in this size range for lighter men, women or kids.

Verdict: Recommended as a first surfboard for any surfer!


Fun shaped surfboards like minimals are smaller versions of longboards without their middle 2ft.
Comes with thruster and single fin options


They’re easier to carry since they’re lighter than foamies and large long boards

These boards which are a little smaller than minimals are faster and easier to paddle out when the surf becomes bigger

Small enough to meet the requirements of most airlines

It is also quite progressive, so you can actually enjoy this board for a while

It is quite popular among surfers, so it has great resale value

It can fit into most cars


It doesn’t have as much volume as a long board, so it would require a little more effort to actually catch waves

It is harder to learn on this board than on a longer board

Have to be surfed in more critical parts of the wave to generate enough speed and lift

Our Thoughts:

Not the quickest way to progress in your surfing, you will catch fewer waves and most likely have shorter rides than on the boards listed above. On the plus side, they do cater to a large variety of surf conditions

Verdict: Not ideal but can work as a first surfboard purchase


Short surf board


Great designs at affordable prices

More manoeuvrable and faster than all the other boards mentioned above (fun boards, foamies, minimals and long boards).

They are light and easy to manoeuvre

Easier to duck dive with them under waves whenever you’re paddling out

Can surf both small waist high and overhead waves

They’re small enough to fit the requirements of most airlines


Beginners catch very few waves

Waves need to be caught and surfed in the critical part of the wave

Very unstable in small waves

Our Thoughts:

Unless you are young, light and/ or a very very quick progressing surfer with lots of talent, it is not recommended to buy a small shortboard as your first surfboard. You will struggle learning the basics and the gap from a soft-top foamie to a shortboard is huge

Verdict: Don’t buy a standard shortboard as your first surfboard when you are still a beginner / intermediate surfer.

Our final thoughts on the best surfboards for beginners

Buying a surfboard is always a compromise, at the stage of your surf career, every surfboard has different characteristics: some work better in hollow waves, some work better in big waves etc. Starting off your first season as a surfer, we think one of the most important aspects of your surfing should be to catch as many waves as possible.

Bigger boards work well in being able to catch lots of waves and providing good stability once you are up and riding. Yes, shortboards are better for advanced manoeuvres, but…. if you can’t catch the waves in the first place you will not be pulling any fancy moves at all.

Lots of surf shops are also affiliated with a local surf school ( or run one themselves), so ask them if it’s possible to try a certain board from their rental pool before buying it.

Volume is your friend: more volume = more waves = more fun!

If you have any questions about this article on best surfboards for beginners, do contact us.



Ok, there are tons of places online to buy cheap surfboards:  Amazon, Alibaba and other online surf shops, our advice?


Besides supporting a local business, they will also be able to give you good advice on local surf conditions at the nearby surfing beaches, and they are also a great way to meet other fellow surfers in the area. A good shop owner will also be able to give you advice on sizing the right surfboard for your weight/lengths and level of surfing.


Q: Should you buy a beginner surfboard?
A: Don’t spend too much, you’ll ‘grow’ out of your soft top in 15 or so surf sessions, rent one or use a beginner oft top surfboard at surf school or surf camp.

Q: I do want to buy a beginner surfboard , how much do they cost?
A: New between 150 and 500 USD. Used between 50 and 250 USD

Q: What type of surfboard should I get as a beginner?
A: Lenght wise: something bigger than 8 foot with lots of volume, ideally with a soft top for safety.

Q: Is a 6’6 surfboard good for a beginner?
A: No



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We cater for surfers of all levels, from beginners to expert surfers who are looking for an active surf holiday

We at Swell offers full surf packages holidays


Swell now also offer a luxury surf holiday experience in Bali

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Interested in learning how to surf? Have a look at the surf vacation packages we offer for our guests at Swell Surf camp


Different surfboard shapes explained

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surfboards for beginners

7 Common Mistakes Surfers Make & How to Fix Them

We all know that surfing is difficult. Everything about learning to surf, from paddling out to catching a wave, presents us with new and seemingly insurmountable challenges. But something about the feeling we experience when we caught our first wave profoundly resonated with us. It hooked us and transformed us from seemingly normal people into addicts. Plain and simple. There’s no turning back. No matter how many wipeouts, hold downs, or frustrating experiences we have in the water, we will persist. Thankfully, there are a few steps we can take, as beginner surfers, to remedy some of our downfalls. Dive in and learn the common mistakes surfers make while learning, and the steps you can take to fix them.

Common surf mistakes


1. Poor positioning on the board

While paddling for a wave, it’s vital to consider your position on your board. Too far back, and you’ll never catch a wave. Each oncoming roller will simply sweep under you. Too far forward, and you’ll submerge the nose of the board and nosedive in the process. Your paddle position on the board should leave the board completely flat on the water while you paddle. Neither the nose nor the tail should rise from the water as you paddle. Once you find the sweet spot on your board, look for a reference point so that you may remember the position. My go-to is my relative position to the logo on the board.

2. Dropping to a knee during the pop-up

Now that you’re paddling effectively and catching waves, it’s time to worry about your pop-up. Pop-ups are key to securing a clean ride down the line of a wave. If your pop up is too slow, the wave will outrun you. If your pop us is off-balance, you’re sure to fall. One way many beginner surfers cope with the difficulty of the pop-up is to drop to a knee to retain their balance as they get to their feet.

This is incorrect and will lead to the formation of bad habits, which can plague your surfing and halt your progression. If you’re not agile enough to hop into your stance during your pop-up in one swift movement, do not fret. Simply place one foot after the other. As the wave begins to lift you, begin your pop up by arching your back upwards, lifting your torso off the board as you place your hands flat onto the board. Next, place your back foot flat on the board and bring your front foot up between your hands, and stand up into your stance.

3. Grabbing the surfboard rails during the pop-up

Another egregious pop-up error, that is often made by learning surfers, is to grab the rails of the board during the pop-up. Grabbing the rails may seem like a natural thing to do when the force of the wave begins to lift you, but it will undoubtedly cause you to fall. While it may be a hard habit to break, it has a simple fix. Rather than grabbing your rails during the pop-up, place them securely under your chest, flat on the board, and push up into position.


4. The “poo stance”


The dreaded poo stance is the telltale mark of a kook, and it is something that should be avoided at all cost. In addition to forcing you to out yourself as a true kook, the poop stance will hinder your ability to cleanly ride down the line and retain your balance.

By definition, the poo stance is an exaggerated squat stance where the surfer is bending at the waist, not the knees, while also pushing their backside out. The remedy to the god-forsaken poo stance is to practice the correct stance repeatedly on land before trying it in the water. A correct surf stance will have the surfer’s feet just wider than shoulder-width, the torso turned facing down the line, and the knees slightly bent with the back knee turned slightly inward.

5. Standing too far forward/ back on the board

If you’ve conquered the pop-up, but can’t seem to successfully ride a wave, your positioning on your board may be to blame. If you stand too far to the front of your board, you will sink the nose, which will cause you to wipe out. If you’re too far back, the wave will roll under you and you will not be able to complete the ride. The simple solution is to pop up in the middle of your board, with sufficient weight on your front foot, allowing you to drop into the face of the wave. As you ride down the line, you may need to change your position on the board. Maneuver forward to speed up and ride further down the line, maneuver backward to avoid nose-diving, or to slow down and reenter the pocket of the wave.


6. Not facing down the line while riding backside


If you’ve mastered the pop-up, paddling, and catching waves on your own, then it is time to work on riding open faced waves. Catching your first wave is a surreal rush that is hard to match but riding your first green wave takes it to a whole new level. Taking off on a perfect peeling wave, carving up and down its open face while outrunning the white water behind you, is akin to what I imagine flying feels like. Many surfers, however, struggle with riding open-faced waves on their backside. The obvious reason for this is that when you are riding backside, you are not facing the wave, and therefore it is harder to surf as effectively.

Fortunately, there is a sure-fire method to help surfers turn and face, and subsequently ride, down the line on their backside. This method is commonly referred to as “Waiter’s Hands.” “Waiter’s Hands” is a position in which a surfer holds both hands directly in front of their torso as if they were carrying a tray of plates.

Holding your hands in this position and turning at the hips to face down the line, will allow you to avoid cutting your ride short and effectively make it down the line.


7. Downsizing your board to quickly


In surfing, like everything else in life, it’s important to crawl before you walk, walk before you run, and so on. Many surfers feel that once they’re up and riding on a foam board or a longboard that they are ready to hop on a shortboard. In reality, that is rarely the case. If you downsize your board too quickly, you’ll find executing the skills you’ve previously grasped to beß difficult and frustrating. Surfers should spend ample time on a longboard before they consider riding anything else.

Longboards teach surfers the feel of the wave, how to use the wave to generate speed, and help them gain confidence in the water. If, after a few weeks of comfortably and confidently surfing a longboard, you feel it is time to change it up, pick up a fun-size board. Perhaps a 7-footer.

Spend as much time mastering that board, as you did the longboard, and move down from there. Repeat with each size, until you arrive at a high-performance shortboard.
More information on choosing the right beginner surfboard is on this article: best beginner surfboards to buy

We hope you like the article about common surf mistakes and how to fix them

Interested in learning how to surf? Have a look at the surf vacation packages we offer for our guests at Swell Surf camp


Different surfboard shapes explained

Questions or comments about this surf technique article? Let us know, send us a message.


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