The first required aspect of learning how to surf is finding the perfect beginner surfboard.
If you are just getting into surfing, then you probably don't know much about the equipment, but the good news is that with a little direction it's actually really easy to find a surfboard that won't break the bank, and that will set you on the right track to mastering the basics of surfing.
From soft tops to used beginner surfboards, we are going to cover it all so that you can buy your first board with confidence and so that you can spend time where it matters the most; in the water!
When learning how to surf, it is important to first understand that you want to start riding on a board that is known as a ‘funshape’ or a ‘longboard’, preferably one that is around 8-9ft in length, as these are the best beginner surfboards.
Because fun shapes and longboards are nice and long, this means that the surfboard has more surface area and more foam. More foam increases the volume, the thickness, and usually the width of the surfboard (these measurements are known as dimensions) which all promote the overall stability in the water.
Stability is essential as you learn the mechanics of paddling, and this increased buoyancy will help you to catch and stand up on your first waves.
Shorter surfboards, categorised as ‘shortboards’ and that are smaller than 8 feet, are the kind of board that you want to work up to with experience. These surfboards are much smaller, which makes paddling, catching, and surfing waves slightly more difficult; but once you get the hang of them, this allows you to perform the radical manoeuvres you have probably seen in surf films or when watching talented surfers from the beach.
Now that you know you need to find a board around 8-9ft in length, so begins the search to find the right one. One of the best places to start is to purchase a surfboard called a ‘soft top’ or a ‘foamie’.
Standard surfboards are made from either epoxy or polyester, and although you will eventually need to progress into these types of boards, they can be a lot more intimidating than a soft top as they are much harder to the touch.
Soft tops are instead made from a special type of water-resistant foam, and the tops of the board are not coated in a layer of epoxy or polyester resin, so they are super soft.
The truth is that you simply won't have good board control when starting out, and this can make you feel scared of the surfboard which will adversely affect your surfing. Plus, you want to look out for your own and other surfers' noggin, so soft tops help to reduce your chance of getting hurt by the board itself.
When it comes to the functionality of the surfboard, soft tops are a ton of fun. Bringing us back to buoyancy, these boards are small wave catching machines.
This helps you to effortlessly paddle into the small waves you need to learn how to pop up on before trying to surf larger waves.
And once you catch the wave and stand up, soft tops won't hold you back, as you can still learn the introductions to riding down the face of the wave and practising your first turns; providing an element to your board control that is a keystone to the future progress of your surfing.
When looking to buy your soft top, you will then be presented with multiple kinds of soft tops. When going through the varying options, keep a few things in mind.
A quick search of soft tops for sale online and your eyes will probably see the classic soft top beginner surfboard sold at none other than Costco. These soft tops are called “Wavestorms”.
And honestly, Wavestorm surfboards are great. They are really, really affordable, which is important before investing in something you might not even like. But the truth about Wavestorms is that, once you learn to paddle and stand up on small 1-2 foot waves, you really won't be able to do much else at all.
Wavestorm surfboards aren't necessarily crafted by surfers, and they aren't made to surf well. So once you learn those basics, you will be right back to square one in finding yet another beginner surfboard to help you progress into larger waves and turning the surfboard.
To avoid this, think to purchase a high-quality foamie instead. They might require a slightly larger investment, but it's absolutely worth it. A high-quality soft top, like this 7’11” Kookapinto Soft Top or a Storm Blade surfboard, will not only make learning how to surf easier in the first place, but it will also allow you to progress much further into your surfing as well.
These kinds of soft tops are shaped like actual surfboards. Their tail shapes, nose shapes, and dimensions are crafted by surfers and for surfers, which means these boards can actually rip in the water. So once you learn the basics, you can also learn and progress your turns, getting more out of your surfboard and more bang for your buck.
More than half the price of a regular funshape or longboard, a high-quality foamie will last you years, well beyond just your learning curve, and they are much more durable than a classic Wavestorm surfboard.
I mastered the soft top, now what?!
Once you feel pretty good on a soft top, or if you simply want to skip the soft tops completely and head straight for a standard board (which isn't a bad idea), then you can find a plethora of nice used surfboards for at or under $300. And yes, you can even find used soft tops.
When looking for a used beginner surfboard, start with your skill levels.
If you feel great on a soft top and want to progress into face rides and turns, then you might want to try and find a slightly smaller used funshape around 7-8”. You will notice immediate benefits in the thinned out tail and improved board shape as they are much easier to initiate directional changes when surfing.
If you are just starting out with surfing, then again keep it 8-9” ft in length.
Standard surfboards are shaped with either epoxy or polyester. When looking at used surfboards, keep in mind that epoxy boards are generally more beginner-friendly as they are lighter, they float better, and they are more resistant to dings.
Used surfboards for less than $300 or so can be in great condition, but you still want to give them a good run down before purchasing. Unless purchasing from a used surfboard site that you can trust, if you see the board in person then look at it closely.
Run your hands down its surface and its rails (the edges) to make sure that there are no bad dings. Small dings can be fixed, but if you notice massive patches of white that indicate a lot of past repairs, or if you notice a large ding in the board's surface, then you might want to steer away.
If the board feels oddly heavy and it is also dinged, then the used surfboard might be waterlogged. This makes the board sink deeper into the water and become more sluggish, not ideal for a beginner surfer who needs all the paddle ability he/she can get.
A quick search of “used surfboards for sale” on local marketplaces or a visit to a local surf shop should provide you more than enough options to choose from.
If you are learning how to surf and have a friend who already surfs, then chances are they have an old beginner surfboard lying around for you to try. Go ahead and ask them to give it a go before buying anything!
Between figuring out if surfing is something you want to pursue, and also figuring out your first board choice, this might direct your next purchase greatly.
This allows you to feel out different shapes and sizes, and as you continue getting better at surfing, using your friends' boards is a great way to understand what shapes work best for yourself.
Just be careful with their surfboard and treat it as your own, and thank them for letting you try it out, as you will soon learn that surfboards are the love of a surfer's life!
Let's finish this up with a simple and straightforward step by step of choosing a beginners surfboard.