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 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 & SURFBOARDS
Volume is the most important factor when choosing surf board 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 long boards come with lots of volume, Short boards and any surfboard under 6’6”, not so much.
Volume is usually measured in liters. We think, a great beginner surfboard should have at least 60 liters of volume – and even better if there’s more. A minimal long board surfboard could have between 65-80 liters or more volume. Now let’s compare it to one of those performance short board used by surf professionals… which might have about 6’1 x 18 ¼ inch short boards. Its volume should be about 25 liters. 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 liters of volume.
Another common mistake is that after dealing with a big long board in the water for a few days, and seeing experienced surfers on their short boards, is to ‘blame’ their slow progress on the long board. 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 taking 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.
SURFBOARDS AND THEIR DIFFERENT CONSTRUCTION TYPES
SOFT TOP SURFBOARD
These boards come with a soft layer of foam atop it 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
MOLDED EPOXY SANDWICH TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION
Bic, NSP & Torq ( which are surfboard brands we use for our Hard tops 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 mold 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 surfboard for years. This surfboard has a soft foam blank shaped into it and layers of fiberglass 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 fiberglass 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 its outer layer is more likely to bend not split when struck by something.
- Quite affordable
- Soft – which is safer in case you get hit by your board
- Can be used to surf white-water
- Can easily catch most waves
- Pretty heavy
- Capable of absorbing lots of water when inside the car
- 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 surfers input
- It is faster and easier to maneuver than those foam boards
- Can be used to learn long board 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 long boards 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
- Might be harder to catch waves with them than foam boards
- Most airlines don’t allow passengers to check in long boards because of their length
- They work better with unbroken ‘green’ waves because they’re not designed to ride white water.
- 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
- Will likely make your surfing faster and enhance paddle fitness
- There are people who will rather surf on minimal shaped surfboards
- Can be taken on planes – i.e. airlines with 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
- 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
- Great designs at affordable prices
- More maneuverable and faster than all the other boards mentioned above (fun boards, foamies, minimals and long boards).
- They are light and easy to maneuver
- 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
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
FOAM BOARD/ FOAMIE: LENGTH 7FT – 9FT
The Good Stuff of foamies:
The downside of foamies:
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 hard top, so our advice is rent a soft top at your local surf school or join a surf camp like Swell and then move onto the hard top boards like the ones listed below
FIBERGLASS PU OR EPOXY LONG BOARD: LENGTH 8FT – 9FT+
The good stuff
These boards are great for intermediate surfers that want to progress from their first surf lessons on a soft top
These 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 thse lenght and type of surfboards for the rest of their surfing career.
Verdict: Highly recommended as first surfboard for any surfers!
MINI-MAL SURFBOARDS: LENGTH 7’4 – 8’0
The good stuff
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, woman or kids.
Verdict: Recommended as a first surfboard for any surfer!
Fun shaped surfboards like mininals are smaller versions of long boards without their middle 2ft.
Comes with thruster and single fin options
The good Stuff
Not the quickest way to progress in your surfing, you will catch less waves and most likely have shorter rides than on the boards listed above. On the plus side they do cater for a large variety of surf conditions
Verdict:Not ideal but can work as a first surfboard purchase
The good Stuff
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 standart 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 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 catching lots of waves and providing good stability once you are up and riding. Yes short boards are better for advanced maneuvers, 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
MORE SURFBOARD INFO
Different surfboard shapes explained
Questions or comments about this surf technique article? Let us know, send us a message.