Learning to surf can be daunting and highly challenging. However, for many surfers, choosing the right beginner surfboard to learn on is the most influential factor in how quickly you progress in your surfing.
The problem is that the options available can be overwhelming when you are a beginner.
Our beginner surfboard guide aims to help you select a board that will help you make the most progress when you are learning to surf.
What to consider when choosing a beginner surfboard?
These days there is a wide variety of beginner surfboards on the market. As a result, making the right decision to buy your first board can be difficult. What’s important to know is that there are three main elements when it comes to beginner surfboards. All three elements will play a part in your decision to buy a beginner surfboard most suited to you.
Firstly, the surfboard shape is important when selecting a surfboard for a beginner, as each board shape will help you progress in different areas as a beginner surfer, as discussed below.
Similarly, the board size – related to the board shape – is another critical factor when selecting a surfboard as a beginner surfer.
Lastly, the surfboard material or construction of the board is also an essential factor to consider when buying a surfboard. Overall, we recommend all beginner surfers start surfing on a soft top surfboard, as they are the safest and easiest boards for beginner surfers to learn. The reasons for this are explained below.
What is the best Beginner Surfboard Shape?
There are three main shapes of surfboards. All three are suitable for beginner surfboards.
The Longboard, Minimalibu (or Minimal), and the Shortboard. Other shapes, such as the Fish and Funboards, have recently emerged. Although, these board shapes are often generally referred to as Hybrids.
Traditionally beginner surfers have surfed longboards and Mini Mals. However, as foam surfboards are now made in shortboard versions, many beginner surfers also start on this board shape.
The birth of surfing is in the longboard. In the 6th century Polynesians began riding solid wooden longboards which ranged from 9-30 feet. As surfing began to spread across the pacific rim eventually reaching the US and Australia in the early 20th century, boards changed in material from solid wood to hollow balsa wood.
By the 1950’s the classic longboard was being made using polyurethane foam and fibreglass. These more modern boards tended to range in length between 9-12 feet. The most well known longboard in the modern is the Malibu deriving from California. It’s narrower than most longboards which gives it better manoeuvrability and performance.
Longboards are more suitable for beginners because of the board’s size and ease of catching waves. Compared to the shortboards, longboards are much easier to learn on as they are offer greater stability when popping up. They are also easier to paddle faster on, thus allowing a beginner surfer the chance to catch the wave as early as possible.
A good beginner long board is the 9ft foam EZ Rider by the Wave Bandit. It comes with a leash and a tri-fin setup and has a slick bottom. Due to it’s and length and overall volume (98 liters!) this board will be very buoyant in the water and allow you to catch waves with ease in the smallest of surf.
Mini Malibu (Mini Mal)
The Mini Mal is the smaller brother of the Malibu longboard. Mini Mals range in size from 7’0″ to 8’6″ and give a surfer more performance. They also offer the stability that a traditional longboard provides. It is for this reason that Minimals are now the most popular surfboards for beginners.
By starting on a Mini Mal, beginner surfers are able to more easily transition to a shortboard in the long run. This is the main reason why Mini Mals make suitable beginner surfboards.
One other reason for the popularity of Mini Mals with beginner surfers is that they are less cumbersome than traditional longboards. This makes them easier to transport, carry to the beach and also handle in the water. If a wave comes and you’re out of position, it’s much easier to manoeuvre a Mini Mal into position than a longboard.
One misconception however is that Minimals are easier to get through the surf than longboards when paddling out. This is not true as both types of boards require one to roll under the board (turtle roll) when attempting to duck under a wave. The difference in resistance is negligible.
If you’re looking for a Mini Mal at the upper end of the height scale then we recommend the 8’2″ Crocodile Groove Soft Top by Raystreak. With 75 litres of volume this board is going to offer you a load of fun in a range of different waves.
It comes with a leash and three fins. What’s also nice about this board is that is has crocodile grooves to help provide more grip when standing up. The board also has reinforced foam protection on the nose and tail of the board which helps to add durability.
If you want to surf a slightly shorter Mini Mal which sits somewhere in the middle of the size range, then we recommend the Wave Bandit EZ Rider 8’0″.
This surfboard is exactly the same shape as the EZ Rider 9’0″. The only difference is that this surfboard is 1ft shorter and 12 liters less in volume. The egg shape makes for a really fun ride for both beginners and more advanced surfers.
u are after a short Mini Mal then we recommend surfing the Odysea Plank 7’0″. This board rides more like a traditional log as it’s a single fin, rather the standard tri fin that most soft top surfboards have.
This surfboard is made to exemplary standards with a dual composite core and triple maple-ply stringers. The stringers give the board extra rigidity and strength. Even though this board falls into the Mini Mal category, it rides just like a classic longboard due to it’s volume and single fin setup.
The shortboard constitutes any surfboard that is under 7 feet in length. Classic shortboards have narrow tails, pointed noses, thinner rails and a fair amount of rocker. The classic shortboard is designed to be ridden aggressively on powerful, larger waves.
As surfboard design has evolved over the last several decades so a much larger variety of shortboard shapes has begun to emerge. These days surfers will often have wide range of boards in their quiver, each to suit different types of surf.
Historically, the shortboard has been the preserve of the intermediate and advanced surfer. With the advent of foam surfboard technology, many shortboards are now being ridden by beginners as well.
The team here at Beginner Surf Gear encourages beginner surfers to learn to surf on a longboard or Mini Mal. Once you’ve picked up surfing then progress down in length from there.
If however you feel that you’d prefer to jump straight onto a shortboard, then we recommend getting yourself a hybrid. Hybrids make for the most suitable short beginner surfboards.
Hybrid surfboards are similar in length to a traditional shortboard. They borrow the attributes of thickness, width and volume from a longer board. This means that they are designed to replicate the the ease of turning of a shortboard.
They also provide more stability and speed due to their volume and width. These attributes make hybrids excellent beginner surfboards. The two most well know types of hybrid surfboard are the fish and the funboard. Fish surfboards can be surfed with a 4, 3 or 2 fin setup depending on what kind ride you’re looking.
The less fins the more speed you’ll have, but with less stability. More fins means more stability, but less speed due to the added resistance in the water.
If you’re looking to get started on a board which is longer than average, we advise going with 6’6″ Wave Bandit by Catch Surf. It’s a fun fish shape with a swallow tail. It’s made with an EPS core and double maple wood stringers. It comes with a tri-fin setup, but no leash. Catch Surf advise buying wax for this board to give it extra grip underfoot.
If you are after a mid length board then we recommend buying the little brother of the Wave Bandit which is 6 foot in length.
If you’re after an aggressive surfboard which will offer easy manoeuvrability and duck-diving then we recommend going for one size down on the on the Catch Surf Wave Bandit which is 5’6″ long.
If you want to hack around on a funboard then we can recommend the Stump 5’0″ Quad by Catch Surf. At only 5 foot long with 4 fins this little guy is going to rip.
What is a good beginner surfboard size?
A good beginner surfboard size is typically between 8 and 9 feet long, 20 to 23 inches wide, and at least 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick. A board of this size will provide the necessary stability and buoyancy for a beginner to learn how to catch waves and stand up on the board.
Longer boards are generally more stable and easier to learn on, as they provide a larger surface area for the rider to balance on. However, a board that is too long or too wide can also be difficult to maneuver in the water.
It’s important to keep in mind that the ideal size for a beginner surfboard will depend on factors such as the rider’s height, weight, and skill level, as well as the type of waves they plan to surf.
Many beginner surfers often want to transition to a smaller board early on in their journey as they are easier to maneuver in the water. While this is often a tempting option, quite often beginner surfers will struggle to catch waves on a smaller board so it is best to stick to a longer, wider board until you can consistently catch green waves and stand up.
If you’re unsure about what size board to choose, it’s always a good idea to consult with a local surf shop or a knowledgeable instructor who can help you select the right board for your needs.
What is the Best Beginner Surfboard Material?
These days there are three different types of surfboards when it comes to surfboard material. Fibreglass (PU), Epoxy, and Soft Top boards. PU (Fibreglass) and Epoxy are the most similar in construction and performance and are oriented to intermediate and advanced surfers. Foam or Soft Top surfboards are better suited to beginners.
Soft top surfboards
Soft top surfboards are the new comers to the industry. It could be argued that surfboard manufacturers looked at body boards and thought there was potential to lengthen the body board and create a foam surfboard.
These surfboards are traditionally made from an EPS foam core, have fibreglass or epoxy wrapped around this foam, and then finally have another think layer of foam that covers the board.
In recent years soft top surfboards have soared in popularity with beginner surfers and surf schools. This growth has also led to surf companies making foam surfboards for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Hawaiian surfer, Jamie O’Brien has several videos on YouTube of him surfing soft top surfboards and has his own brand called Catch Surf.
The three main advantages of soft top surfboards are the following:
Cheap – Traditional PU and epoxy surfboards usually start at around $400 and go up from there. These surfboards start for as little at $60 on Amazon and usually go up to around the $400 mark. Needless to say, the advent of the foam surfboard has liberated the surf market. It has made the sport of surfing accessible to many more people.
Safe – Having a soft outer core makes these boards relatively safe to surf on. When we speak of safety in this context, we are referring to both the surfers personal safety and the safety of those around him/her in the water. Surf injuries are fairly common, particularly when one is learning to surf and wipeouts happen more frequently.
Hard PU and epoxy boards can cause serious injuries. In the past I have taken a fall on a mid size wave, landed on my board and cracked two ribs. It’s also very important to acknowledge the safety of those around you when surfing. The risk of injuring someone close to you in the water is substantially lowered when riding a soft top surfboard.
Durable – This is another key feature to look for when buying a beginner surfboard. PU surfboards pick up dings and cracks very easily. In some cases these dings have to get repaired.
This can cost anywhere from $20 all the way up into the $100’s. Based on the amount of times beginner surfers fall, and often do not fall away from their board, having a soft top surfboard will save you a lot of money in ding repair down the line.
Heavy – They are heavier than traditional PU or epoxy boards. This means carrying them long distances can be tiresome. We recommend using a surfboard sling for soft top boards that are longer than 8ft.
Rash – some brands of soft top surfboard can give you rash on your chest. If you’re wearing a wetsuit then this is not a problem. If you’re surfing in tropical water then we advise using a rash vest.
PU of Fibreglass surfboards are made from a polyurethane/foam core. PU surfboards have a wooden stringer running down the center of the board. They are wrapped with fibreglass cloth and polyester resin.
They were the first construction in the era of modern surfboards in the 1970’s. Fibreglass surfboards are still the most popular type of surfboard to ride today due to their feel, and natural flex patterns.
Epoxy surfboards also have a polyurethane/foam core, but in most cases do not have a stringer running down the middle of the board. Moreover, they are only coated with epoxy resin. Epoxy construction surfboards came about in the 90’s.
They are seen by many in the surf community as an advancement in surfboard construction. This is due to a multitude of reasons. Firstly, epoxy is more environmentally friendly than fibreglass. For years shapers have toiled with inhaling toxic fibreglass residues when shaping surfboards.
Epoxy emits 50-75% fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than polyester resin, which translates into a decrease in harmful chemicals both in the shaping lab and the shop. Moreover, epoxy is a common household item, safe to use without a mask and with only moderate ventilation.
Secondly, epoxy surfboards tend be lighter, stiffer and more buoyant. This makes the faster to paddle and ride waves on. They are also more durable which makes them less prone to dings and cracks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Surfboard is Best for Beginner Surfers?
The best surfboard for beginners will depend on their overall general fitness, mobility, balance and strength. For example, a short board with less volume may be appropriate for beginner surfers who are pretty fit and have experience with other board riding, such as body boarding, snowboarding or skateboarding.
However, for most beginner surfers, the following guidelines should be considered:
- Size: A bigger board is generally better for beginners as it provides more stability and buoyancy. Look for a board at least 8 feet long and 20-22 inches wide.
- Shape: A board with a rounded nose and wide, flat midsection is ideal for beginners as it provides more stability and makes it easier to catch waves.
- Material: Soft-top boards with a foam core and a soft outer layer are great for beginners as they are more forgiving and less likely to cause injury if you fall off. They also tend to have more buoyancy than fiberglass or epoxy boards.
Can a beginner surfer ride a shortboard?
It is possible for a beginner surfer to ride a shortboard, but it is generally not recommended. Shortboards are designed for more experienced surfers and are typically less forgiving than longer, wider boards. They require more skill and technique to ride effectively and can be more difficult to balance and control.
Beginner surfers should start with a board that is longer, wider, and more buoyant, such as a foam board or a longboard. These boards are more stable and easier to balance on, making it easier for beginners to catch waves and get up to their feet. As beginners progress and improve their skills, they can transition to shorter boards.
It’s important to remember that surfing is a challenging sport that requires practice and patience. It’s better to start with a board that is appropriate for your skill level and work your way up as you gain experience and confidence in the water.
How much does a beginner surfboard cost?
The cost of a beginner surfboard can vary depending on the size, material, and brand. Generally, beginner surfboards are more affordable than high-performance surfboards because they are often made from foam or other inexpensive materials.
A basic beginner foam surfboard can cost anywhere from $100 to $300. These types of boards are often sold as complete packages that include the board, leash, and sometimes even a set of fins.
Longboards, which are also a great option for beginner surfers, can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 or more. These boards are typically made from fiberglass and foam and are more expensive than foam boards.
Keep in mind that while it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, investing in a good quality beginner surfboard can make your learning experience more enjoyable and help you progress faster. A high-quality board will be more durable, provide better performance, and last longer than a cheaper, low-quality board.
It’s a good idea to shop around, do some research, and consult with a knowledgeable salesperson or experienced surfer before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting a good value for your money.
What other surf gear does a beginner surfer need?
Once you’ve decided on the surfboard you think is best suited to you, we also have a Wetsuit page which comprehensively explains what you need to look for when buying your first wetsuit.
And once you’ve got both a surfboard and a wetsuit check out our Accessories page to find out about the essential surf accessories needed to complete your setup. You may also want to put this equipment to use by going on surf holiday, so head over to our Surf Camp Guide page to find the right surf camp for you.