Congratulations on deciding to buy a new surfboard! Looking through the rack of new boards at a surf shop is still one of my favorite experiences.
It can be fun to dream about different surfboards and how they might work for you but it can also be confusing when there are so many different surfboard brands and models to chose from.
I hope to share some of the information I have learned when buying new surfboards and I hope to help you answer the most common question asked between surfing friends, “What surfboard should I buy?”
The ideal surfboard for beginners is a foam surfboard, which is also called a soft top. Buying the right beginner surfboard is important and by focusing on selecting the correct size, volume and shape you will end up catching more waves, progressing faster and having more fun!
One of the most common mistakes made by beginner surfers is buying a surfboard that isn’t suitable for their skill level. Trying to catch waves with the wrong surfboard can be a frustrating experience.
Surfing is all about catching waves! Read on for the tips on how find the best surfboard for you!
Finding the Right Surfboard For You
It is important to recognize your skill level when selecting a new surfboard.
The definition of a beginner can vary widely and include people that have never tried surfing to people that are in the early stages of trying to catch waves. As well, beginner surfers come in all shapes and sizes, athletic abilities and ages, which can range from 6-60 years old.
The general advice given by surf schools and surf instructors is for beginners to learn to surf on a big, foam surfboard.
Beginners usually learn by catching broken waves, often called white wash, that are close to shore. This will allow beginner surfers to learn the basics in hip high water without having to deal with positioning, paddling and duck diving.
Basically, you will be able to wade around in shallow water, while gaining familiarity and confidence with the power of ocean waves. When a wave comes, you can jump on your board and paddle to catch it.
The basics skills required to ride a surfboard are balance, coordination and the ability to make quick decisions. It helps considerably if you are a competent swimmer and comfortable around water. Surfing is a unique sport because the playing field (the ocean) is unpredictable and constantly changing.
Foam surfboards are the most common choice beginners. You will need to take your skill level into account when deciding on which brand or model that is right for you.
Most new surfboards will come with a volume measurement expressed in litres. Volume tells us how buoyant the surfboard will be, which helps determine how well the surfboard will float you in the water.
Volume is important because surfboards are like boats and they will go faster when they are up and out of the water and skimming across the surface. If your surfboard doesn’t have enough buoyancy you will sink lower in the water and it will be challenging to paddle and catch waves.
The photo below is a picture of the board that I learned to surf on as a teenager. It is well loved and has yellowed with age but I still have it decades later! The dimensions are 8′ long x 24″ Wide x ~3″ Thick and it is very buoyant.
Making sure your surfboard has enough volume to float you is one of the most important factors when selecting a beginner surfboard. It is reflected in the common surfing saying, “Volume is your friend”.
To determine the recommended volume for you, choose a beginner surfboard that is approximately 100% of your weight in kilograms (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds).
- A 90 kg beginner surfer should select a surfboard around 90 litres of volume.
The above volume formula is a great starting point but will vary based on age, fitness level and type of wave you will be surfing.
If you are interested in learning more about how surfboard volume is calculated, check out Global Surf Industries Volume Calculator by clicking here.
Determining the correct surfboard shape that will work best for you will depend on your fitness, weight, age and surfing ability.
Surfboards generally range in length from 5 feet to 10 feet and fall into five different shape categories.
- Short Board – are surfboards under 7 feet long, with a pointy nose and designed for performance surfing. Surfers must be strong paddlers and be able to catch waves from the peak, which is the the highest point of the unbroken wave, and generate speed on the wave face. Short Boards are not the best choice beginners.
- Fish – are surfboards that are around 6 feet long and have a wide nose and a wide tail. Fish have two or four fins and are designed to be ridden much like short boards only with more speed and flow. Fish are not recommended for beginners
- Mid-Length or Funboard – are surfboards between 7 feet long to 8 feet long. They are have a wide nose, wider outline and a narrow tail. They come in many different fin configurations. Mid-lengths are designed to make it easier to paddle and catch waves. Mid-lengths are enjoyed by all surfers and work well for beginners and advanced surfers.
- Longboard – are surfboards over 8 feet long that are designed for all levels of surfers (beginners to advanced). Longboards have a wide nose, wider outline and a wide range of tail options. Longboards are a great board for beginners and the most popular board for teaching adult surfers because they provide maximum stability when catching waves.
- Gun – are surfboards that are typically over 7 feet long with a pointy nose, narrow outline and a narrow tail. Guns are designed for speed and control when surfing big waves. Guns are for advanced surfers and they are not recommended for beginners.
Mid-Length or Funboard
The Longboard is the most popular surfboard shape for beginners because it is a large, stable platform that makes it easier to paddle and catch waves.
Mid-lengths or Funboards are good shapes for beginner surfers that are smaller and lighter. Typically, you will see children learning on a mid-length surfboard.
Surfboards are generally made out of three different types of materials: foam, fiberglass and epoxy.
For beginner surfers, foam surfboards which are often called soft tops, are a great option for your first surfboard. They are great for experienced surfers too because they are so much fun to surf!
Most surf schools teach beginner surfers exclusively on foam surfboards. I have created a quick reference table below with the pros and cons of each type of construction.
|Foam||● safe for beginners|
● soft and forgiving
|● less responsive |
|● more costly|
● less safe for beginners
|● more costly|
● less safe for beginners
When I first started surfing, the choice of beginner surfboards was limited.
Foam surfboards have grown in popularity among beginners over the last 5-10 years for very good reasons. A foam surfboard, often called soft top surfboards, is the ideal choice of construction for beginners.
Foam surfboards allow beginners to build confidence while reducing the likelihood of injury because they are soft. You can buy them at local surf shops, online and even at Costco!
Beginner Foam Surfboards
When it comes to beginner surfboards, there are a number of different foam surfboards to to chose from. I have highlighted some of the most popular foam surfboards below.
For beginner longboards, I recommend surfboards made out of foam. They are durable, safe for beginners and a lot of fun.
- Weight: 12.5 lbs
- Dimensions: 8′ Long x 22.5″ Wide x 3.25′ Thick
- Volume: 86 Litres
The Wavestorm Classic Surfboard has been the best selling surfboard in the USA for a number of years. Beginning in 2007, the Wavestorm is sold at Costco and retails for $99 in store and $179.99 online and comes with a leash and fins.
The popularity of the Wavestorm is not surprising because it is inexpensive, durable and designed for beginners (and Costco has a great return policy).
The Wavestorm is 8 feet long and has 86 litres of volume. The suggested weight capacity for the Wavestorm is 200 lbs. Surfers over 200 lbs may find the Wavestorm a bit undersized and may want to consider a bigger surfboard with more volume.
That being said, the Wavestorm is the cheapest option among new foam surfboards.
If you aren’t a member of Costco, you can also find it by clicking here to go to Amazon.
- Weight: 14+ lbs
- Dimensions: 8’4″ Long x 24″ Wide x 3.5′ Thick
- Volume: 103 Litres
Softech surfboards are durable, handmade surfboards that are popular for teaching beginners in surf schools and lending through surf shop rental fleets.
The Softech Roller is part of the original series and designed for beginner surfers. It is stable, wide and has a significant amount of volume. The 8’0 Roller has 94 litres of Volume and the 8’4 has 103 litres of volume.
Check out the Softech surfboard in the video below.
The Roller is a great surfboard for beginners but it lacks some of the performance attributes of higher end soft boards. The Roller is considered a mid-range soft board, which is reflected in the price. The 8’0 Roller is available on the Softech website for $345.00
Catch Surf Log
- Weight: 14+ lbs
- Dimensions: 9′ Long x 24″ Wide x 3.5′ Thick
- Volume: 98 Litres
Catch Surf Surfboards, which started in 2007, is known for its innovative marketing, flashy colors and user friendly surfboards that are popular among a wide range of surfers from beginners to professionals.
The Catch Surf Log is a great surfboard for beginners because it is wide, stable and has a lot of volume. The two lengths that are recommended for beginners are the 8’0 Log, which has 86 litres of volume and the 9’0 Log, which has 98 litres of volume.
Check out the Catch Surf Log in action in the video below.
Catch Surf surfboards are sturdier and perform better than some of the lower end foam surfboards, which is reflected in the price.
The 9’0 Log retails for $424.99 on the Catch Surf website or you can click here to view it on Amazon.
Mid Length or Funboard Surfboards
Mid-Lengths are typically between 7-8 feet long and can be slightly more challenging for beginner surfers to learn on compared to long boards.
That being said, there are several mid-lengths that are appropriate for smaller, athletic or adventurous beginners.
Wave Bandit Easy Rider
- Weight: Unknown
- Dimensions: 7’0″ Long x 22 ” Wide x 3.125′ Thick
- Volume: 72 Litres
Wave Bandit is a line of surfboards that was developed by Catch Surf Surfboards. Although Catch Surf Surfboards and Wave Bandit Surfboards differ in their product offerings, they share similar technology and construction.
The Wave Bandit Easy Rider is a great option for kids and smaller adults. If you are a beginner over 70 kg, you may want to consider a bigger surfboard.
The Easy Rider retails for $249.99 on the Wave Bandit website. Check out a video about the Easy Rider below.
California Board Company 84 Series
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Dimensions: 7’0″ Long x 22 ” Wide x 3.5′ Thick
- Volume: 57 Litres
The California Board Company was started in 2008 by a group of friends. Since that time, the California Board Company has developed a wide range of products, including stand up paddle boards, bodyboards and surfboards.
The company has focused on developing a variety of foam surfboard models for beginner surfers. The 7’0″ surfboard is appropriate for kids and smaller, lighter women and men. Surfers over 70 kg may want to consider a larger surfboard because this model may make it more challenging to catch waves.
The California Board Company 7’0″ surfboard is a mid-range model that comes with fins, leash and instructions. It retails for $289.99 through the California Board Company’s website.
Check out the video below that outlines all the information and this surfboard.
NSP P2 Soft Funboard
- Weight: 12 lbs
- Dimensions: 7’4″ Long x 21 ” Wide x 3.25′ Thick
- Volume: 57 Litres
NSP is a surfboard company that started in 2001. The NSP P2 Soft Funboard is is a mid-length surfboard that is designed for beginner surfers as their skills start to progress.
With a length of 7’4″ and volume of 57 litres, the Funboard will be appropriate for smaller and lighter beginners. Beginner surfers over 70 kg may find this surfboard more challenging and will want to consider a bigger surfboard.
The P2 Soft Funboard is a higher end model and retails for $479.00 on the NSP website. It has a second layer of rubber strips around the nose and tail for added safety and durability.
Do You Wax Foam Surfboards?
Most manufacturers recommend that you wax foam surfboards for increased grip.
When you first pick up a foam surfboard the deck is soft and rubbery. It seems like you don’t need to wax it. But when you take it in the water it becomes slipperier than expected.
Save yourself the hassle and wax it like you would any other surfboard. If you have never waxed a surfboard before, check out the video below on how to wax a surfboard.
I have included definitions below for the most common surfboard terminology you will come across when discussing surfboards.
Nose: is the front part of the surfboard. There are two general types of noses on surfboards: round noses, which are found on longboards and mid-lengths and pointed noses, which are found on short boards, fish and guns.
Stringer: is a thin strip of wood that provides internal structure to a surfboard that runs down the center from the nose to the tail.
Rail: are the edges of the surfboard that run down both sides from the nose to the tail.
Deck: is the top of the surfboard where surfers apply wax for grip. The deck is where surfers lay down to paddle and stand to surf.
Bottom: is the underside of the surfboard where the fins are located. You do not apply wax to the bottom of the surfboard.
Fins: are located on the bottom of the surfboard and come in many different shapes and sizes. Surfboards can have 1, 2, 3 or 4 fins. Surfboard fins provide control, stability and turning ability.
Tail: is the end part of the surfboard. The tail shape will impact the way a surfboard performs.
Leash: is a urethane cord that attaches near the tail of the surboard to the surfers ankle with a velcro cuff. It is worn on the ankle of a a surfers back leg so it stays close when you fall.
Buying a new surfboard is a big decision. By working within your budget, choosing the optimal shape and selecting the correct size, you will find the surfboard that is right for you!
As a beginner, buying a foam surfboard is a great choice. Foam surfboards help build you confidence, reduce injury and progress faster!
But keep in mind that foam surfboards will prove to be a good long term investment because they are fun for people of all different surfing abilities. You will have it in your collection for a long time as you progress from a beginner to a more experienced surfer.
Best of luck!