BEST SURFBOARDS FOR BEGINNERS
HOW TO PICK A SUITABLE BEGINNER SURF BOARD
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 & BEGINNER SURFBOARDS
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.
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.
MORE WAVES = MORE PROGRES = MORE FUN
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!
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 CONSTRUCTION TYPES
SOFT TOP SURFBOARD
These boards come with a soft layer of foam atop them with a slick plastic layer at the bottom.
They don’t come with sharp points; which makes them safer
Best value for money
Used by practically all the surf schools
MOLDED EPOXY SANDWICH TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
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
TRADITIONAL POLYESTER RESIN
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
EPOXY RESIN 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.
THE DIFFERENT SURFBOARDS FOR BEGINNERS
FOAMBOARD/ FOAMIE: LENGTH 7FT – 9FT
THE GOOD STUFF OF FOAM SURFBOARDS
Soft – which is safer in case you get hit by your board
Great to surf the white-water
Can easily catch most waves
THE DOWNSIDE OF FOAMIES:
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
FIBERGLASS PU OR EPOXY LONG BOARD: LENGTH 8FT – 9FT+
THE GOOD STUFF
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.
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 SURFBOARDS: LENGTH 7’4 – 8’0
THE GOOD STUFF
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
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
THE GOOD STUFF
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
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
THE GOOD STUFF
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
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.
WHERE TO BUY A NEW BEGINNER SURFBOARD?
Ok, there are tons of places online to buy cheap surfboards: Amazon, Alibaba and other online surf shops, our advice?
BUY AT YOUR LOCAL SURF SHOP!
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.
QUICK QUESTIONS ABOUT BEGINNER SURFBOARDS
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?
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MORE SURFBOARD INFO
Different surfboard shapes explained
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