Choosing the right surfboard makes a world of difference in learning to catch and ride waves. Your age, weight, fitness level, and ability are relevant to the decision. The types of waves and beaches you surf at matter, too. Regardless of your goals, the beginning is the only place to start. Choose an appropriate board for the surfer you are now and not the one you hope to become. Be realistic about your ability and how often you will get out into the waves to practice. You’ll have a ton more fun on a board suited to your level than you will on an advanced board.
The dimensions of a board are the measurements of its length, width, and thickness. When choosing a beginner board, a general guideline is the bigger the person, the bigger the surfboard. Our motto is the more waves you catch, the quicker you will progress! A bigger board will allow you to catch more waves.
Surfboard volume is measured in liters. For example, an 8’2 may have 70 liters, whereas a shortboard might only be 28 liters. We suggest beginners stay in the higher volume range for more stability and because more volume will help you catch more waves. There are sites that can help you determine whether the volume of a surfboard is right for you based on your weight and surfing experience, such as this one from Lost Surfboards.
If you are progressing from beginner lessons to surfing independently, don’t get too caught up on the board’s shape or fin configuration. However, the width is important, as a nice wide board will give you a stable platform to pop up on. We recommend choosing a board around 20-23″ inches wide.
If you have taken lessons, such as at Pura Vida Adventures, you probably have experience with soft top surfboards. These boards are stable and durable. Once you are getting to your feet most of the time and beginning to turn, you are probably ready for a hard top made of epoxy or polyurethane. If properly maintained, a hard top surfboard will last a long time and allow for more progression than a soft top.
A longer board will help provide floatation and increase your wave count. We recommend you consider a funboard or a longboard. A funboard is typically any full-volume board between 7′ and 8′ in length, and it is a good option if you are starting to work on carving. A longboard is anything over 8′. While shortboards are great for high performance surfing, we don’t recommend these surfboards for beginners.
Don’t spend a lot of money on your first board. Think of getting a car for a new driver. You wouldn’t (usually) buy a teenager a Porsche, right? You would get them something less performance-driven to develop their driving skills, and it wouldn’t matter if they put a few dings in it. The same goes with buying your first surfboard.
However, keep in mind that you don’t want the cheapest board around. A quality surfboard is invaluable to get the proper foundation you need to progress. If you buy used, minor yellowing and dings aren’t a big deal but avoid purchasing a board that obviously needs repair. When a surfboard has foam showing or has delamination, the foam will soak up water, become heavy, and break from the inside out.
These are basic rules for choosing your first surfboard. We recommend stopping at a local surf shop and talking to the pros there; Also, if you have taken surf lessons and liked your surf instructor, ask that coach for some guidance. Those in the industry can be a wealth of knowledge!
If you choose to look on your own, a couple of brands to consider are NSP and Torq. They have a good entry price point, have boards geared towards beginners, and are relatively durable. If you choose to buy used, you may want to look at Firewire, Lost or Pyzell. These have a higher cost when new, but you may be able to find great deals on used boards. What it really comes down to is the best surfboard for you is the one you will be stoked to ride!