Friday , 19 December 2014

2 – Getting The Right Surfboard

Getting The Right Beginners Surfboard

The first thing you need is a good beginners surfboard! Certain boards are great for learning, and others will probably make you hate the sport if you attempt to learn on them! The key ingredients to a beginner surfboard are how well it floats you, and how stable it is. We cover the details of surfboard design in our surfboard guide, so if you want more in-depth information, check it out.

New, Used, or Rental?

The best thing a beginner can do is search for a used surfboard. Used boards make the best beginners surfboards. They’re cheaper than new ones, and you won’t have to worry about damaging it as much since it’s not such a huge investment. Beginners tend to put a lot of wear and tear on their boards, so I wouldn’t subject a shiny new board to all the abuse. You can find used beginners surfboards at surf shops, yard sales, and the classified section.

You can also rent boards from most shops, although if you really damage it you might have to pay. This is a good idea if you’re not sure you’ll like surfing. You might decide it’s not for you. In that case, you won’t have purchased a 300-400 dollar board.

If you have a little experience and you took a few lessons, you have a little extra cash saved up, and you REALLY like one of the new boards you saw in your local shop, by all means go for it.

I rented a Bic board for a week when I first started surfing, then I bought a new funboard. I took really good care of it, and four years later it still only has a few minor pressure dents and a small chip on the nose. If you make sure you take good care of your boards, they’ll last a long time.

Fiberglass or Foam? Epoxy??

There are several different brands of foam surfboards on the market today, and these boards are excellent beginners surfboards. They are safe and have a ton of flotation. The downside is that they can be heavy and almost as expensive as a regular surfboard.

Foam boards are made of the same materials as boogie boards, and won’t cut you or knock you out if you accidentally get hit on the head. Foam boards are generally made to be beginners surfboards. Since beginners flail and fall a ton, you might want to consider this option. It’s easy enough to sell them once you’re done learning.

Fiberglass boards are made from a foam core surrounded by fiberglass. They’re still regarded as the best all around surfboard material on the market. It’s not too expensive, and it has just the right amount of float and flex. Fiberglass is hard, and will hurt if it hits you. It’s also delicate, and banging it against your car bumper can put a hole in it. If you get a fiberglass board as your first board, try to get a heavier glass job.

Epoxy “pop out” boards are becoming more popular these days. These boards are entirely machine manufactured rather than shaped by hand, and they are based on established board designs. The good thing about epoxy boards is that they are TOUGH. It’s really hard to ding them. Bic boards are a good example of an epoxy board. These are also a good option as beginners surfboards, but if you really want my opinion, I wouldn’t get one. I’m a purist, and I like to ride fiberglass boards. Epoxy boards float differently and react differently in the waves because they’re more buoyant. Many experienced surfers don’t like this aspect.

If you’re a parent and you’re looking for a beginners surfboard for your kids, epoxy boards or foam boards might be your best bet. They’re much more durable than fiberglass boards, and this is an advantage since kids aren’t the most careful with their boards when they’re young. One misdirected turn in the parking lot with a fiberglass board and you’ll have a broken board on your hands.

What size board should I get?

Most people recommend getting a 9’ longboard (or “log”) to start out. This is great advice, but if you’re a 5 foot tall, 100lb female, lugging that 9’ board around might be a bit of a hassle, not to mention difficult to safely manage in the waves.

Before you buy that hot looking 6’ Al Merrick, STOP. People DO learn on shortboards sometimes, but it’s pretty darn difficult. Even after mastering surfing on my 7’8” board, switching to a 6’ board was a big challenge. Yes, shortbords might look cooler, but you won’t look so cool when you can’t catch any waves ;)

A good beginners surfboard is thick enough to float you well so you can paddle easily, and is wide enough so it is stable in the water and not so tippy. Most people can learn comfortably on a wide board that is about 7’8” or longer, and 21-22″ wide. Any shorter or narrower than that and the board starts to get really tippy and unstable. If you absolutely must go smaller though, lose the length and keep the width. The advantage of a smaller board is that it’s easier to control and less cumbersome. It’s also more maneuverable once you’re up and riding.

If you’re between 100-150 pounds I’d try for a 7’6” or 7’8” funboard. If you’re 150-200 pounds I’d try an 8’ board. Anything over that you’ll want a full fledged longboard.

If you think you have at least some athletic prowess, try to go for a 7’6”-8’ funboard. Funboards are a cross between longboards and shortboards. They’re sometimes referred to as “mini mals.” A good funboard will be about 22” wide and 2.5-3.5” thick. It should have a round nose and a good amount of rocker.

The round nose helps you catch the waves, and the extra rocker makes it so that you won’t pearl or nose dive on your takeoff. A board with no rocker is flat, and it’s easy to dig the nose into the water and wind up with a fun wipeout!

The good thing about funboards or longboards is that if you own one, they’re a ton of fun on small days for any skill level.

Longboards are not just beginners surfboards, either. There are many advanced maneuvers that can be done on a longboard, and Longboard riding is considered different than shortboard riding. If you like longboarding and think you’ll only ever want to longboard, get a longboard as your beginners surfboard.

What about these sharp pointy things?

Those are called fins ;). Fins are essential, and your board should come with fins. If it doesn’t, make sure you demand them from your dealer. You shouldn’t have to pay extra for fins.

Funboards usually have a tri-fin setup, but they sometimes have a single fin. Either setup works fine, although it’s a bit easier to turn a tri-fin. Longboards also come with a single fin only, or a long center fin with two stabilizing fins on either side (called a 2+1 setup). Click here for our in-depth fin guide to learn more about surfboard fins.

Beginners should DEFINITELY get some Pro Teck fins for their boards. I can’t recommend this enough. Most surfing injuries come from the fins of your board. They are sharp and will cut your skin without much difficulty. Don’t kid yourself—-you’re just starting and you’re going to be spending a lot of time falling off your board, which means that the board will have a lot of opportunities to nick you.

Pro Teck fins are stiff but have urethane edges that won’t cut you to ribbons. They also make ultra flexible fins for kids and extra cautious newbies. These super flexible fins won’t hurt you at all. Check out this page all about my experience with Pro Teck fins.

49 comments

  1. if i am i 5′ ,95 lbs. gal wat size board would i get? u said a 7’8 were u talking about urself or for me?

  2. thanks this was SUPER helpful

  3. Great site! Thank-you so much for all your thought and effort, especially since I will be getting back into the sea after nearly 20 years since my last wave.
    A question for your advice:
    I am now 6′ 6” and about 240 lbs; looking at a WRV 7’5″ funboard, glassed fins, length 7’5″, width 21.5″, and thickness, 2 3/4″ is this a good size for me to learn on? I’ll be (attempting to re-learn!) surfing mostly SE Virgina and Outer Banks NC this summer to start, and am seaching for a board that I can ride for a few years at least.

  4. Super informative and helpful, I’ve been out a couple times now, and I’m sure I wanna buy a board, so I wanna make sure I get the right one, you definitely have helped. thanks.

  5. Hey, looking for some advice:
    first, I’m 6’0″, 195lbs (not fat – more of a basketball player’s build)
    I’ve only surfed longboards (I believe it was 10ft softtop), once in New Hampshire, and for a week in Barbados.
    I’m looking into used boards for New England surfing (mainly New Hampshire and Rhode Island), which typically are smaller waves.
    Any advice on the right board for me? I’m guessing longboard, but what size and style?

    thanks!

  6. Hey, Ive been skateboarding for 15 years and im about to give it up (due to the long periods of recovery) and start learning to surf. Whith my balance being top notch,would a 6’0 board be a good choice for me? Thanks

  7. how do u remove stripped hex screws off fcs fins?? its really a pain\

  8. I need some help:
    I’m 5’8″ and 130lbs. I surfed a few times on my friends board. I was looking to buy a funboard or beginner surfboard. I don’t know what brand, size or type to get?

    I’m also confused about the whole, “softboard is just a glorified boogieboard” Is this true or are they really worth the money?

  9. ok, the author of this site is a buddy of mine and i am going to try and answer some questions here.

    madison s. that size should be pretty good for a beginner. the thing with smaller women and wider long boards is you have to be able to have full clearance of your arms to paddle. you don’t want to have to crank your arms around in a weird way to paddle….you loose efficiency and it will lead to injury.

    kevin – you gotta go way bigger. come on, re-read the above article. i would say get a 9’6″ board, old school, single fin. you are a big guy and you are going to need the float. you can change up the fin later to make it more turny or for nose riding. trying to re-learn surfing on such a small board in compared to your frame….much frustration.

    greg, i would go with an 8’0 or so longer, but get one with a 1 +2 fin set up, so you can go single fin for more nose riding or put all three in for more of a performance board. stay on the wider side when you buy. this board is a little more versatile.

    jay, sure go with the 6’0 if you want to just sit out there and never catch anything. the deal with surfing is not only balance, but the ability to paddle…and a shorter board is harder to paddle. with a shorter board, yeah, your take off is much later, but you gotta get out there first. it all depends on how big you are. re-read the article and go for a fun shape.

    nathan – ooohhhhh, bummer dude. there is some trick that i don’t totally understand about putting epoxy in the screw hole and then making a new hex or something? uuuhh, i really don’t know….but your local shaper should have a really good idea how to handle it. also swaylocks is a great site to go for help on stuff like this.

    cody – i weigh about 5 pounds less than you and i started on a 9″0. it all depends on what you want. if you are only going to be surfing 3 times a year, go for bigger. if you are serious about surfing, spend the money and get what want. that said…..brands for beginners don’t mean much, other than how much are you willing to spend. a hand shaped board by a great shaper is going to cost you some bucks. if you get one like that, a 9’0 is going to run you over a grand. if you get a “china board” (massed produced by a machine) it will cost you less. yeah, it is nice to rock onto the beach with a classy longboard and get the oohhhs and ahhhs from folks,….. but like hayley said above, if you can’t surf and it gets banged up, then you spent all this money and your board gets dinged all up. bummer. personally, i lucked out with my first board. it was a dewey weber performer, super sweet. i bought it for a really low price of 425! it was only a year old and had no dings, no pressure dents, nada. i had no idea the caliber of board i was buying and the sweet deal i got. i loved that board, but i put it through the ringer. my first surf trip to mexico with it, in the first year i owned it, on the first paddle out, someone ran into me, charging down the line, with carbon fiber fins and took a good 4 inch section out of my board. i put a tube and a half of suncure in it and was out the next day. (thanks to tom) that board went on to get banged in rocks in baha, have airlines bash the shit out of it, get finned by my neighbor…it was beat to shit…until some redneck down in north carolina (my home state) stole it. i loved that board and cried like a baby when it happened….and vowed to one day find it and disembowl the turd who stole it. to make a long story short, for everyone who is questioning their first board, buy a decent used one, but understand you may be keeping it forever…it is your first board.

    how is that for everyone? good luck and stick with it. i started surfing late in life and it changed mine. have fun, that is the most important.

  10. Great surfing guide. Maybe you can put together a guide for experienced surfers. Like board selection, size, and tips. There are so many guides for beginners, but not many fore the experienced.

  11. I am 5’3″ and i am kind of a beginner. I have a 5’6″ board but it is 3 and a half inch thick so it is quite easy to keep your balance on it. People say that i made a mistake getting it and i should learn on a longboard but i can catch waves quite okay with this board. Should i stay with my board or try to jump on a longboard.

  12. I am trying to decide the best size and type of board and hoping someone here can help. I am 12, weigh 85 pounds and am about 5-2. I have spent a week at surf camp each of the last two summers, so I can do ok. I surf on the Atlantic coast of Florida around Daytona, so its low and slow. In class I used a 9 foot soft board, but it was a little big and heavy to tote around. A local surf shop recommended a 5-10 fish board. I want something that will last for a while without getting trashed, will be easy for me to improve on and doesn’t make me look like a total dork. Any suggestions? Thanks

  13. This was a cool article. I got the wrong advice and almost stopped trying to surf after months of pandling and sucking in water. Got a longer thicker mini mal and so stoked. Today I didn’t even attempt to paddle and caught a cool wave all the way to the beach. Thanks. And guys take the advice bigger and used to start

  14. Hi am 5?3? ,45lbs and i am kind of a beginner here. I have a 6?2? board..is it ok for my size?

  15. I agreed with a lot of what you said but im also left with some question. i have surfed before when i lived on the coast of florida in cocoa beach, i have been away some time unfortunately so i have not surfed in some time. however when i did i was not bad i picked it up quick and progressed, so my question is with learning on a 6′ boardworks epoxy board, i would like to keep the length but should i get a wider and more of a round nosed board for relearning and these small florida waves.
    thank you

  16. longboard all the way!

  17. Im around 5.4ft 121.3lbs and im thinking of buying an Alwilson Shortboard 5’10.5 x 18 1/4 x 2 x 1/8. Is this the right size board for me? thanks

  18. Hey guys, been bodyboarding, snowboarding and skating on and off, I’m generally fit and fairly quick learner. My first board is a 6’10” al merrick red beauty.I’m 160ibs an 6ft tall, I have no trouble paddling and catchin, duck diving and rolling, all I need is some good fast waves to actually master surfing the wave. So I would say I’ve found a nice little bargain because it only cost me a bicycle I had lying around (marin bike all the same). Keep her chilled an take the necessary time to understand the water and the process of breaks. I’ve got a long road ahead but I’m gonna be an awkward b*#%^**#* an learn on a fun/shortboard lol

  19. Really helpful article. Of course I have a question too :)
    I’m a 5′ 10″, 155lbs girl. I love the long boards, but I was told by my local surf shop a fun board would be great for me. Took lessons once a long foam, got up each time and was able to turn – great experience.
    So here’s my question: Found a new board by Strive, it’s a Bully, 7′,22 1/2, by 3. It comes with the fins and board bag and $20 to put towards a leash. Totaling around $500. I have been saving up for awhile and just want to be sure I’m making the right choice. Is this board and the price a good idea?
    Thank you :)

  20. Hello,

    Very helpful article! Unfortunately, I too have a question… My entire family is going to start surfing this summer (we live in South Florida). I’m a 14 year old girl, about 5’3″ and 84 lbs, would a 7’8″ish board work for me? Or is that too long? My younger brother is 8 and he’s like 4’3″ and 50ish lbs… What would be good for him?

  21. your article was very helpful im a 13 year old boy and am about 5′ foot. I weigh about 88lbs i already kitesurf and have good balance i had a go on a friends board and felt fairly easy and comfortable with it
    what size would you suggest for me?

  22. Hi, my name is Ashley and I’m 5’2″ and about 85Lbs. I have been surfing since I was about 6 but I’m not really that advanced. My sister who is advanced said I should get a funboard and 8′ 6″ in size. No way! I can’t luge that around. Should I get a 7′ 8″ or what? Thanks1 :)

  23. hey there, my name is Natalia and i’m just a beginnger, and i was wondering what type of i should use. I am 5ft 11in and i don’t know what type of board i should use, i’m going out of the U.S. for vaction and the place I go have awesome waves but i don’t know what board i should have. Can you help me plz i leave in 2 and 1/2 weeks and i really what to know.

  24. This has been much more helpful than most sites i visit.

    I am a 5’8” girl about 148 muscular build and i have surfed at a surf camp for two years and then took two years off. I mainly surfed long foam boards with soft tops and worked my way shorter as i got older. I think i ended with a medium foam fun sized board. I am looking to get back into surfing and plan on taking a lot of spills. But want a shorter board to challenge me and help me improve. Would you recommend a Medium fun board 7’6” with a thickness of 2 1/2” and pro tech fins? or something longer/shorter?

  25. sweet article! gave me some good basic ideas for a board…but i still have a question…i live in the Netherlands, so the waves probably peek at about 9 feet, but they’re mainly around 5. I’m 5’7″ and about 100 pounds. I did two surf camps, 1 week each, during the summer and mainly surfed on long foam boards with soft tops. I can stand up and turn without a problem I really enjoyed this so i was thinking of getting my own board. Would a fun board be good or should i stick to the foam board? And what width and length? You mentioned 7’8″ long…would this be okay for me?
    Thanks in advanced :)

  26. Super helpful site!

    I was wondering, I just bought a wetsuit, but the dimensions seem to be a few inches taller than me,but everything else is right, is that okay?

  27. I bought a Teedeekay 8’6″ longboard used for $350, near perfect condition, I’m 6’2″ 165lbs. It’s been great so far, gotten a lot of great rides, i’m a beginner, first board. I’ve just been questioning whether it is too short? the salesman assured me that it will give me more control in terms of turning etc, but do you feel I may miss out on something in terms of riding the nose or catching waves? I’ve heard you can have your nose go underwater while catching a wave which has only really happend once to me. Ive gotten pretty far on the nose but not hang 10, im hoping because of my low skill level. Any thoughts? Great info thank you

  28. Awesome site! From the beginner’s guide to all the surf tips (especially the one about looking down the line) this site is awesome. Thanks a lot for your work.

    Just thought I would give some info as I am a beginner surfer and there are a lot of questions here about boards. I have been surfing about 5 days a week for just over 6 months now. I first bought a soft board simply because it was $100, but i quickly outgrew it and started using one of my friends’ 8ft Blue Funboard. I’m 5’7 130lbs and decently athletic. This board is relatively cheap to buy online and is a good board to grow on. The difference between this board and my soft board are night and day, much more responsive. I wouldn’t waste my time with a soft board if your going to take surfing seriously. After continually borrowing my buddy’s board I decided it was time to get my own. I found a used but in mint condition 7’6 McTavish Carver. Wow, its a great board! My friend has used it and says it maneuvers almost like a shortboard. That being said I can see how this board can be a little harder to learn on than the Blue Funboard simply because it is more responsive and makes tighter turns. However, if you are taking surfing seriously and are decently athletic I highly recommend it. It is a bit pricey new ($600-800) but you will never outgrow this board, its great fun for small days.

    I know I’m a beginner and don’t have years of experience under my board but I have gone through the same process as many of you have in regards to finding the right board. I’ve had the chance to try a few other boards (mostly long boards) and I am glad I came across the Carver, huge wave count and very maneuverable compared to similar boards I have tried. Also, both Blue Funboards and McTavish Carver’s come in bigger and smaller sizes so there are options.
    Hope this helps

  29. Hi, I’ve already learned to catch smaller waves on a beginner board (foamie).

    I’m feeling this is the time to get my own board and dedicate some more time to surfing. I was thinking of getting a funboard, even though I’ve heard I’ll be a beginner again :)

    My questions is the size. I’m 5″8 girl and weigh 144 lbs – what size of a funboard am I looking at?

    Thanks!

  30. Romi,
    I would go a little bit smaller than a 7,8. With your size in the big surf it will be very difficult to get to the lineup. Maybe try a 7,2 or 7,4. The ride is almost the same and it will be easier to duck dive. It’ll be harder to duck dive on a fun board than a short board, but you will still be able to get under the wave.

  31. Hi, im a beginner and looking at getting a board. I did 3 days at a surf camp but was catching waves in the first 10 mins, we were using 7″8 foam boards. my question is what sort of board should i look at because the boards we were on i felt were huge, slow and didn’t turn well and i wanted to actually ride along a face(plus i got sick of only catching waves straight to shore) cheers

  32. hey im 5’6 and weigh about 130. i took a 2 day surf camp and was catching waves no problem on a 7’8 foam board. i really want to get into surfing and start competing eventually. so what size would you recomend if i want to go shorter so i can duck dive but still catch waves. also should i stay with the foam boards or try something else?

    Thanks!

  33. I’m 10 and would love to try surfing. Great information! I can’t wait to give it a try. But what size board would I use? I’m quite small form my age. Almost the smallest in my grade! I weight about 60 pounds and I’m 4 foot 5. Thanks

  34. Nuts. If you want to learn, guys go over 8′, most girls between 7’6″ and 8 will do. It’s all about paddling. Longboarding is an entirely different art- they are weapons in the water under the wrong feet. Thrusters only. Don’t bother with the foamies, and blue surfboards and mctavish and walden (all that global surf industries) all have really thin glass jobs and ding easily. For the teen boys, nice shiny surfboards look cool but you’ll never stand up on one.

  35. Hi,
    I am a 5’11” girl, not much in the muscle department and get injured easily due to a medical condition. i live in new zealand so i’m not sure how this affects the board type i should go for. i just had my first surf lesson this weekend and want to start it up properly. I was wondering if i should start off with a foam board but the one i was learning on was very heavy and also i don’t wanna get laughed at by the more experienced surfers. any ideas on what i should go for?

  36. Good information! Board advice is spot on (though I might steer a beginner towards an epoxy longboard over standard construction – re: longevity – if they get hooked, they’ll get another board, have a trusty back up, and the beginning of a quiver!)

    As a 30yr SoCal vet, I do have 3 additions:
    1. Learn lineup etiquette. (SAFETY & manners)
    2. Take an experienced surfer / get lessons.
    3. Learn lineup etiquette.

    When a beginner shows that they understand lineup etiquette (trust me, experienced surfers KNOW you’re a beginner) it goes A LONG WAY towards acceptance at any break. My best bud’s daughter recently apologized for getting in the way of a really good local while we were out. His response was to tell her to paddle for any wave she saw him on. He was actually screaming “Paddle, paddle, PADDLE!!!” to her every time she was around him!

    Learn your manners.
    Following that – HAVE FUN!
    http://www.surfinghandbook.com/knowledge/surfing-etiquette/

  37. Thanks this page is heaps helpful :)
    Question, what if you are less than 100lb and just learning, is the 7’6″ to big?

  38. I took your advice — I’m a beginner (5’2″, 125 lb female) and I went for a 7’6″ fiberglass egg. I stood on my first trip out — but with a ton of fun and focus and effort. It was the perfect mix of fun and challenge. This blog was INCREDIBLY helpful, and the most well-rounded advice I saw out there. Thank you!

  39. I have a 4year old that loves the waves and loves the water…quite an astounding swimmer. I want to start him out surfing as he tries on his boogie board. Can anyone give me advise as to what kind of board I should get for him. I understand to start with a used one/foam….but not sure of length….he is 40lbs. Thank you!

  40. Just wanna make sure I am on the right track. I currently have a 9’6″ fiberglass longboard. My surfing friends are telling me I am ready to advance to a faster, shorter board. I am 5’7″, 132lbs. Should I go for a 7′ or 7’6″-7’9″ board. I am thinking about a funboard, tri-fin.

    Any thoughts or suggestions? I am still a beginner, and approaching the intermediate surfer level.

  41. Hey, Im 15, Im around 155 pounds and around 5’9. Ive took 2 surfing lessons and I really like the sport. My dad said he would get me a board. Could someone help me with what board i should get? What size and what type? :)

  42. ok so im 6’3″ about 200lbs. im a swimmer/ polo player that just moved to the coast. im thinking a 8′ or 8’6″ fiberglass board. its cold water here around san luis obispo in the 50’s any recomends on a wet suit. keep in mind im a broke college student.

  43. I’m looking to upgrade from my 6′ foam board and get a more performance fiberglass board. I have been surfing for the past to summers and can easily ride my foam board. I am 6 years old, 48″ tall an weigh about 48 pounds. Can you recommend the size and type of board that would best fit me know and as I get bigger.

    Thanks, Nicky

  44. whats up guys im 5’8 245 do you think i will still be good on an 8’0 or sould i definitly get a long board, what length is considered a long board. do you think i would be good with a 9’0.

  45. Below is a link to some more tips on buying a foam surfboard along with the best deals I’ve seen for foam boards.
    http://www.squidoo.com/foam-surfboards

  46. Hi! I’m a 13 y.o. Australian girl; 1.7 metres (~5’7″) and around 57kilos (125lb). I’ve recently learned to surf on a foam longboard with my school. I’d like to look into a surfboard just for casual use, probably not too frequently. I’m not sure what to get – nothing too expensive. I’m really scared I’m going to kill myself, I’m not particularly balanced and definately not experienced!
    Are there any suggestions as to size and type of board? This site is great, by the way!
    Thanks, Summer

  47. My daughter really wants to learn to surf. She is 6 1/2 years old, 120cm tall and weighs 20kg. She swims and paddles well, and has been boogie boarding for 2 years. We will get her a little foam board for Christmas, but what length should we get?

  48. I’m a 17 year old girl living in the Oakland, I’ve been surfing at Linda Mar sporadically for about a year, renting from Nor Cal surf shop. I think I’m ready to get my first board and wetsuit, I’ve been practicing on 8-9′ soft boards. I was thinking about getting a used 8′ blue funboard, or something like it. Any suggestions? I want a board to learn on, but that’s very stable and will grow with me. I can consistently catch waves straight in to the beach.

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