Surfboards come in many different shapes and sizes – each designed to perform at somewhat specific surf conditions. When choosing the right type of board, you should take into consideration the following:
How To Choose a Surfboard?
1. Riding preferences.
2. Frequency of use.
3. Surfboard TYPE.
4. Surfboard material.
5. Surfboard Size.
This guide will help you save tons of time & energy towards your progression
1. Riding Preferences
The first step when choosing a new surfboard is to make sure where would you like to progress. What kind of riding do you like the most?
Are you an athletic individual who’s busy doing other sports as well, or are you generally in a good shape, love the ocean, and would like to have fun in the waves?
- Small waves only?
- Small to medium waves?
- Any kind of wave, the size and conditions won’t matter.
- Medium to large, fast & hollow waves?
2. Frequency of use
How often are you planning to surf? You need to be honest to yourself here as this determines the end-choice.
- Once or twice a week – Get a more relaxed board, such as a hybrid, mid-length, or mini-mal. Why not a longboard?
- As much as possible – A fish and shortboard are a great combination for everyday riders.
- Few times a month – Whether you are in a great shape, a mini-mal will be fine. If not, any kind of normal-sized foam board.
3. Surfboard Material
Often surfboards come in a specific material, depending on the type they were shaped to. For example:
- Foam surfboards
Made of foam, all the way through.
Beginner-friendly. Cheap, and won’t hurt as much in case you happen to fall on the board. Surfboards made of foam also don’t ding as easily as other boards. Therefore, this type is easier to carry around without extra care and protection – in and out of the surf.
PU – Polyurethane foam core, fiberglass resin, wooden stinger in the middle.
This has been the main surfboard material during the modern history of surf culture. Fiberglass surfboards are preferred as they have a distinct ‘feel’ to the board due to their flexibility on messy conditions and larger waves. Wooden stringer in the middle adds extra durability since fiberglass boards actually flex quite a bit that goes unnoticed.
EP – Polystyrene foam core, epoxy resin, NO wooden stringer in the middle.
A new technology that has taken over the markets in the past decade. Epoxy boards are known for their stiff, responsive, and durable feel. This means those boards actually have a slightly better speed. EP surfboards have a direct feel, making it easy for sharp turns. As a downside, they are not as responsive to messy conditions such as choppy waters.
Wood, glassed with resin.
Surfboards made out of wood are where the whole history of surfing started in the 12th century Polynesia. Today, there are only a small minority of shapers that make wooden surfboards. A longboard is the main type around, but you’ll also find out other types as well – such as – hybrids, mini-mals, and even fish board. As you can imagine – wooden surfboards are heavy, like a watercraft. Most natural type around, a niche product for sure.
4. Surfboard Types
Having the right surfboard type to your needs and preferred riding style is the most crucial step when choosing a surfboard. To get started, first determine which kind of riding are you planning to do in the long run: cruising, casual, performance, or fun.
Would you like to surf small to medium size waves?
- Longboard – Largest board available. Fast to paddle and great to ride small but good quality waves.
Cons – Difficult to duck-dive.
- Mini-mal – A great beginner’s board due to its round shape and extra volume. Fast paddle and easy to turn.
Cons – Hard to duck dive and heavy.
- Fish – A popular trend and choice for intermediate to advanced surfers. Plenty of volume and round nose, easy maneuver on waves.
Cons – Takes some skill to master maneuverability due to its small size.
- Hybrid – A do-it-all board for all kinds of waves – big and small, fast and slow.
Cons – Not as fast to paddle as on a mini-mal or a longboard.
One of the most universal boards around. Great for intermediate surfers who like to go out whether the waves are small or big, from 3ft to 8ft.
Would you like to ride the most demanding waves? If so, a shortboard is going to be your best bet. Although bear in mind that getting a shortboard too soon while you are still practicing your skills, courage, knowledge, and stamina – you can simply stop your progression. A hybrid of a fish and shortboard is another great way to find a smooth transition later on.
Performance surfboards are hard to paddle but super easy to duck-dive under the incoming wave, and also ideal for late take-offs, sharp carves, etc.
- Hybrid (Fish & Shortboard mix)
- Soft-top – Best suited for beginner or inactive surfers.
- Beater – Fun for all skill levels.
- Egg – Best for experienced/intermediate surfers due to its small size.
- Fish – Great choice for those who have built up the stamina and skills to enjoy a compact board for various conditions.
5. Surfboard Size
Choosing the right size is one of the most important steps when choosing a new surfboard. And by size, we don’t only mean dimensions, but also the volume (Volume varies by board type – A 6’2″ shortboard might have 32L, while a 6’2 Hybrid has 45L).
Surfboard size determines the overall performance and satisfaction.
*A board that’s too short tends to nose-dive.
*Too little volume requires more effort to paddle.
*Too much volume makes it more difficult to duck-dive.
*Larger boards are harder to maneuver in waves.
When you are in-between two board sizes, pick a larger board if you are taller than average, and vice versa.
Performance shortboards obviously have the nicest of designs, fins, and overall shapes – but you’ll have to work your way up there, step-by-step. The same goes for longboards which might seem easy to ride, but they need extra care and knowledge to handle one.
Which is the best surfboard type for a beginner?
Mid-length, hybrid, or mini-mal are the best surfboards for beginners due to their above-average volume, and accessibility to riding all kinds of waves – big and small, fast and slow. Those are a great option once you’ve tried out the foam board and learned the core basics.
Is a longboard surfboard a great choice for beginners?
Longboards are the only kinds of surfboards besides SUP boards that allow starting surfing the wave early on, often before the wave even breaks. It can only be a suitable choice for a beginner once they know how to handle the board in and out of the surf. If you are not aware of the basic surf etiquette, it can cause a lot of risk for other surfers nearby. Also, longer boards need extra care for transportation and storage, therefore a beginner should know how to handle any surfboard outside of its natural habitat.
Is a shortboard surfboard a great choice for a beginner?
No. In order to maximize shortboards’ full capability and purposed field of use – you’ll have to have the skills, knowledge, and stamina to really enjoy riding one. It takes a great deal of effort to paddle one for hours on end.
Hope this article answered some questions. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.
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I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.