Purchasing a surfboard can be a daunting task.
For one, boards don’t run cheap.
For two, with such a sophisticated market of diverse designs for shredding your fair share of surfing conditions, it can be hard to know where to begin.
Whether you’re a beginner surfer looking to purchase your first board, an experienced wave rider looking to upgrade your game, or an old pro shopping for your next custom shape, it’s good to have a plan when visiting your local shaper or board house.
Read on to discover the plethora of potential in purchasing your next surfboard, and to arm yourself with the info necessary to match affordability, quality, and class.
Beginner Surfer Board Size
Oh to be a beginner surfer in adulthood; getting thrashed through unfamiliar currents and conditions.
Beginner surfers are some of the most resilient, and often kooky, people out there. I’m not sure that if I had discovered surfing in adulthood that I would continue to pursue the sport to the length that I have in my life.
That said, those brave enough to head into the water for the first time 30+ can still find the equipment they need to be successful in the ocean.
Learning to surf in childhood is a different animal. Kids bounce back, regardless of how many times they’ve hit bottom. Kids also seem to have a certain sense of joy that lacks shame many beginner adult surfers experience in the water. Young people should also heavily consider the board they are purchasing and make sure it is something that can last a lifetime in the ocean.
Many surfers prefer to start on a longboard. This preference is because when learning to surf buoyancy and momentum is critical. It’s much easier to paddle a longboard in the water than it is a shortboard, notably when dropping in on your first wave. Another thing beginner surfers should obviously consider is safety. Many surfers prefer to start their journey into the ocean on a soft top. These days there is an abundance of soft-top manufacturers globally that provide high-quality surf crafts for anyone, not just beginners.
There’s no shame in extra support. Surf schools, guides, and instructors around the world are here to keep you stoked with safe and fun experiences in the water. Check out the International Surfing Association’s accredited surf schools for high-quality surf instruction guaranteed.
I remember an old saying from when I was a kid: longboards suck, unless it’s flat, your fat, or over 50.
While I may carry a couple of extra bagels around the middle, and I’m not entirely pushing middle age, I see a longboard as a quality surfing tool for specific types of conditions.
My take-away: every self-respecting surfer deserves a longboard for those days when there’s not enough swell to shred your fish or standard thruster. When picking out your longboard, try and have some foresight about when, where, and how you will be surfing.
Maybe you’re paddling out in knee-high rollers during the off-season, or perhaps you’re 300 metres out on a big day at your favourite point break.
Are you prone paddling, knee paddling, or standing up?
Whatever way you choose to surf, you want to ensure that your board is ready for action.
What size longboard surfboard should I get?
Most adult surfers are hoping to prone paddle love a 9’0” or longer. Anything under 9 feet might as well be considered a fun board.
If you’re looking to knee paddle, you should find a board with a deck patch to prevent pressure dents from hour-long sessions and something closer to 10’0”.
For stand-up paddling, you can expect anything from 7 to 12 foot long depending on how you’re hoping to ride. SUPer’s get a pretty bad rep in the line-up, but standing up can give access to surfers who might not otherwise be riding waves. Innovated in part by the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, SUPing has taken on the global surfing community like a firestorm. My advice? Remember to share the peak with us lowly prone paddlers.
A lot of purist short boarders might say that a longboard hinders your maneuverability, and in some cases, you might be right. The shape of your board, beyond the length, will make a big difference in how you’re surfing.
Pin-tail, squash-tail, swallowtail, whatever you choose for your extra-long stick should sync with your surf style, ability, and favourite spots.
If you’re looking to have plenty of maneuverability and still ride the nose, consider something around 9’6”.
A good rule of thumb for choosing your surfboard is the more angular your tail, the more angular your turns will be.
→ Swallowtails typically allow you to hug the rail after quick and sometimes abrupt bottom turns and cutbacks.
→ Pintails are likely to help you round out your turns smoothly while maintaining speed.
→ Squash tails, by comparison, will allow you to stall towards the end of your cut back before reintroducing to the face and heading back down the line.
Expert tips: keep it above 8 feet, don’t place your fin too far back, and unless your Wingnut or Joel Tudor, calf leashes are for kooks.
Mid-length boards go by several different names from eggs and fun-boards to retro style single fins and mini-guns. These are ideal for intermediate to hell-man kamikaze-style surfers.
A mid-length board comes with a certain amount of style and allows you the opportunity to step up when waves get extra big or extra small. Surfers who choose a mid-length may be looking for a session void of spaghetti arms and filled with well-rounded maneuvers.
A thruster pushing 6’8” with a little extra volume will give you the chance to drop in early on especially hollow days or long slow rollers. While a 7’0” round pin might win a few extra points on a smaller day and won’t be a hassle to paddle in big surf. Many mid-length surfers look for something with just a little bit of rocker, or curvature towards the nose, while others may prefer plenty. A board with less rocker will plane on to the face quicker when paddling into small waves while extra volume with plenty of rocker will keep you dropping in on steep faces and hitting the lip.
Depending on the shape that you select, you may not be compromising maneuverability at all. You can expect to shred the face just as well as your 5’8” fish. Speaking of fish, while not precisely a mid-length board, many shorter fishes are an excellent substitute for Longboards or mid-lengths on smaller days.
You can expect whiplash-inducing maneuvers regardless of shape or speed of the wave you’re riding. A fish with a little extra volume can again help with your paddle strokes and maintain your maneuverability without compromising your street cred.
Expert tips: Consider demo-ing a few boards at a local surfing event or surf shop before settling on the mid-length board of your choice. If you’re not looking to break the bank – head for your nearest garage sale or website that sells used surfboards.
Short Board Surfboards
With the complexity and sophistication of surfboard design these days, it’s hard to lump all boards under 7’0” in the same category.
On the marketplace today you’re likely to find an assortment of elliptical, asymmetrical, and even rectangular surfboards. Again, before purchasing your board, you’ll want to consider the conditions where you hope to surf, and your personal preference or surfing style.
Are you hoping to carve down the face, drop-in late to the barrel, or throw the occasional pop-shove-it.
The most significant difference between a shortboard and a longer board is that short boarders need to strategically place themselves on the face of the wave to build, release, and redirect speed.
On smaller days, you may see surfers thrashing up and down the face to build momentum for a straightforward cutback.
While under fast and hollow conditions, you’ll find short boarders stalling for the tube and lengthening bottom turns to cut back across the lip.
Shortboards give you a higher command of your maneuverability, for better or worse.
For this reason, many new and beginner surfers might find shortboards unappealing.
Shortboards aren’t as forgiving to rolling down the windows and involuntary body movements. Surfers on a shortboard need to be comfortable, quick, and intentional to maintain momentum and stay in a good surfing position.
When you’re first learning to paddle, drop-in, or cut down the line, building speed to stay ahead of the section might be a bit outside your learning curve. Intermediate and experienced surfers may prefer to ease down towards a shorter board through transitioning toward a mid-length.
While building speed is essential, the most important lesson to learn before paddling out on a shortboard is wave-sense. Shortboarders need a steeper wave face to drop-in. Wave-sense keeps surfers from taking too many on-the-head or hugging too close to the shoulder.
What size surfboard do I need?
If you’re new to surfing and you’re dead-set on buying a shortboard, check out some of the volume guidelines online. While your body height and weight don’t always correlate directly with the ideal board for you, it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to paddle the board you’re buying.
Whatever surfboard you’re hoping to purchase, you’ll want to keep your priorities tuned to your surfing style and local conditions.
While it might be tempting, I don’t recommend going out to buy a new board for your next surf trip. The one exception could be if you’re able to find a board with near-identical measurements to your favourite stick. No one wants to be out in an unfamiliar surf-zone, with un-familiar waves, on an unfamiliar board.
Whether you’re a first-time surfer, or you’re throwing airs out the back, purchasing the right board can be the difference between a successful session and a complex series of frustrations.
Take a peek at some of the sites we’ve referenced in this article for starting your surfboard search and where-ever you may be, stop to check out the rubbish sale down the street.
Written by Scott Shepherd.