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If you’re just learning how to surf, this is our guide to buying the best surfboards for beginners. We’ll cover the top picks available right now and what to think about when choosing the right surfboard for you.
A few of us at The Salt Sirens made the mistake of choosing a board that was too small at first. It might’ve looked cool, but it barely floated! Others of us chose a board that was way, way too big–an unwieldly beast impossible to handle in the surf. Fortunately, with this advice, you won’t make the same wrong moves we did.
The Catch Surf range of soft tops has been made famous over the years by Hawaiian free-surfer extraordinaire Jamie O’Brien. He has surfed Pipeline, Waimea and Log Cabins on his Catch Surf log, and has gotten enviously barreled in the process. This is often the best retort when people wonder if their progress will be stunted with starting on a softboard.
The 8′ or 9′ Log is a great board to learn to surf and have fun, without the risk of getting hurt. It has nearly one hundred liters of volume, and you will catch anything that moves on it. It is on the high end, price-wise, but it’s well-made, sturdy, and likely to hold its value if you want to resell it in the future.
Length: We recommend the 8 foot or 9 foot Width: 24 inches Thickness: 3.5 inches Volume: 98 liters Surfer’s Weight Range: max 100 kg
When the Wavestorm model of surfboards was introduced, they took the world by storm, literally, and soon became some of the most popular beginner surfboard brands out there. Their 8′ model is one of the most popular in their range and it’s rare to go to the beach without seeing a few of them floating around. While we’d love to hate on it, it is a solid board — super fun to ride — and can handle surfers of all abilities. It has a rigid three-stringer system and has a soft water barrier system deck. Highly durable, a fair price, and does the job when it comes to catching waves.
This board is super fun, with a soft-top, thruster setup and nice entry-level rocker, so no nosediving. This is a great advantage for beginners, as no one wants to nosedive and have the whole ocean flood their sinuses. This board also comes with a heat release valve for hot climates. At 7′, this beginner-friendly surfboard is great for maneuvering in easy wave conditions and will allow you to progress quite a bit before needing to move onto a more intermediate board.
This board comes in much smaller than the regular beginner boards, at six foot, but it makes up for it with volume and thickness. This is a great beginner board for kids and petite surfers who want a little more agility in their board. Plus, it also happens to be one of the most affordable surfboards in our line-up of top picks.
The Paragon 8′ or 9′ Noserider Longboard is a beginner friendly high-performance surfboard. We know that may sound a like an oxymoron, but it’s true. This board is made from ParaLite Epoxy and is highly durable. We have a similar board in our quiver and it’s the first one we lend out to visiting friends and beginners — they’re essentially bombproof. But, you’ll get more performance than you would from a soft top surfboard, like the Wavestorm. This allows surfers who don’t mind having a hard board to progress their skills from learning to stand all the way to nose riding.
What to Look for When Choosing a Beginner-Friendly Surfboard
If you’re just learning to surf, there are a few features you’ll want in a surfboard. Some are optional while others are mandatory.
Beginner surfers should err bigger rather than smaller when it comes to choosing a surfboard. If you weigh over 50 kgs (110 lbs), choose a surfboard at least 7′. As a general rule, 8′ and 9′ surfboards can float larger surfers while still being decently manageable in the water.
A width of over 20″ also allows some stability for when you pop up.
As for thickness, thicker surfboards tend to offer more floatation. You’ll want at least 2.5″ in thickness.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a board at least two feet taller than yourself, with plenty of foam and up to three inches thick. Longer, thicker boards float you better, but are slightly more unwieldy than a shorter board. When you are learning, however, you won’t be turning too much for this to make a huge difference.
Beginner surfers often lack paddle strength, and need a little more forgiveness when it comes to wave selection. Opt for a round shape, especially around the nose. This will ensure your board catches the wave and planes rather than nosedives. More foam under your chest will help you paddle faster for waves, making them easier to catch.
Soft Top vs. Hard Top
Soft top surfboards are usually made from foam with a soft plastic base. These are safer in general, as the name implies, because they’re soft. You also don’t have to worry as much about dinging a soft top board. If you hit the shore, a rock, or the reef, it might chip the foam, but it probably won’t make the board un-ridable. In this sense, soft top boards are amazing for kids and beginners.
Hard top boards are made from fiberglass or epoxy.
Epoxy surfboards are solid, durable, and offer more performance than a soft top surfboard. They’re a little easier to get going in terms of momentum, and easier to turn once you’re on the wave.
The standard fiberglass surfboard is the basic makeup of all surfboards. These boards are firm and hard, they can get damaged, and they can hurt people. They are very stable, and they quickly gather momentum and get you up and riding on any small wave. They can hurt, though, and getting a fiberglass surfboard connecting with your body or head can be a painful experience.
If you’re a beginner, we recommend going with a soft top or epoxy surfboard for their blend of performance and durability.
Once you start surfing, you might soon realize that buying surfboards can be addicting. You might pick up a secondhand one here, place a custom order there… before you know, your garage is overtaken by a slew of surfboards.
We recommend beginner surfers take a look at the local secondhand surf market before buying a new board. Sometimes, you might see a Wavestorm pop up on Craigslist or Gum Tree–especially at the end of summer when families try to downsize their toys. If you are buying a soft top surfboard secondhand, check that it’s not buckled (you’ll see a line across the board) or that the fin boxes aren’t broken. For any hard top surfboards, ensure there’s no dings that need to be repaired. Surfboards are becoming more and more affordable as more people pick up the sport, so haggle down about 30% from any secondhand listed price.
Learning to surf should be an exuberant experience, and everything about it should be about having a great time. The first ticket on your way to having that fun is finding the right beginner board for your body size and skill level. If you can make the right decision, it will open up the world of surfing to you with relative ease and simplicity.