Getting The Best Beginner Surfboard
The first thing you need to start your surfing career is the best beginner surfboard you can get your hands on. 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 beginner 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 beginner surfboards. The price and technology has come way down over the years, with the world-famous Wavestorm being the most popular.
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.
Honestly these days I recommend most beginners get a soft top surfboard to learn the basics. You will advance quickly, suffer fewer injuries, and be less dangerous in a crowded lineup.
Fiberglass & Epoxy 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.
You can get a used or cheaper new board if you want to jump right into something a bit more authentic than a soft top. I learned on a fiberglass board and was totally fine.
“Pop Out” plastic boards are another option. Bic boards are a good example of this. These are also a good option as beginners surfboards, but they’re getting harder to find in favor of soft-tops.
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.
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 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, shortboards might look cooler, but you won’t look so cool when you can’t catch any waves.
The best beginner 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.
What about these sharp pointy things?
Those are called fins. Fins are essential, and you might have to pay extra (not all boards come with fins these days, the times they are a-changing).
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 look into 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.