How To Choose A Surfboard - 13 Pro Tips
You’re ready to make the dream of owning your own surfboard become a reality. However, you’re a little overwhelmed by the choice on offer. Do you select one with a round or pointed nose? Should you opt for a beginner’s surfboard or go all out with a surfboard to suit all levels of experience?
Knowing how to pick a surfboard prevents you from wasting money on the wrong Knowing how to pick a surfboard prevents you from wasting money on the wrong choice. Here, we’ll show you how to choose a surfboard that meets your budget and needs, as well as revealing the very best pro tips for picking the surfboard of your dreams. First, it’s important to make a few considerations.
What Are the 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying a Surfboard?
‘W‘What surfboard is right for me?’ is one of the most common questions people ask when buying a board. Knowing what surfboard to get can be a challenge. After all, there are surfboards for beginners, those for more experienced surfers, and varying shapes and designs to contemplate.
Here are a few considerations to make when buying a surfboard:
- Size of waves you’ll be riding – will you be opting for slow and soft waves or big and fast waves?
- Your current surfing ability – are you a complete beginner or do you have some surfing experience?
- Your fitness level and physique – more experienced levels of surfing require good fitness levels. If you have a fitter physique, this will influence the type of board you choose.
- Your height and weight – this will impact the volume of the board you choose.
- Your overall budget – how much you have to spend will impact your selection.
Tips for Choosing Your Surfboard
To help you know how to choose your surfboard, we’re revealing the differences between certain boards, how to pick a surfboard that suits your height and weight, as well as the types of surfboards on offer and if they’re the right choice for you. Here are some pro tips to consider when you’re choosing your surfboard.
1. Ability Level
Surfing has lots of health benefits for all ability levels. If you’re only just getting started with surfing, it’s best to purchase a beginner surfboard. A surfboard for a beginner will help your skills to progress. For example, you should consider one with good stability and volume to help your balance. An ideal board for the majority of people will have a width of around 22 inches and a height of about 7 feet. It will also have a thickness of around 3 inches. This surfboard volume will assist you when paddling into waves. Alternatively, you may want to contemplate purchasing a soft top surfboard as this type will provide great stability for a beginner.
For a beginner, choosing the right board is important and there are multiple aspects to think about. Most beginners tend to work on staying upright and riding smaller waves. This means a wider board will work best. However, it’s also important to think about some of the other aspects on our list.
2. Design Characteristics
The characteristics of a surfboard’s design are intentionally made for specific performance. Before reading further tips, which impact your overall selection, let’s take a quick look at some common characteristics to start mulling over. One of the first things you may hear about in terms of characteristics is thrust. This helps to send water from the base to the tail, essentially moving you forward. The drive of a surfboard is related to its capability in terms of how the wave and surfer move the board forward.
How much drive is provided depends on the board’s flex, tail grip, and rail engagement. What are rails? This is associated with the thickness of your surfboard. Softer rails help you to float better on the water, while harder rails can assist in how you manoeuvre your board. Most boards will feature a combination of design characteristics to deliver the very best performance on the water.
3. Waves – Size and Type
What type of waves do you enjoy surfing? The majority of surfers enjoy catching waves using different types of boards, rather than just owning one. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time surfing, you may want to invest in more than one surfboard. Naturally, the type of waves you’re riding will depend on your skill level.
Beginners will opt for smaller waves that are less powerful. As a beginner, you’re learning the skill of riding waves and staying on your board so it’s best to choose a surfboard made for these types of waves. One type of board constructed for small waves is the grovel surfboard. It provides great speed, stability and easy paddling. Another good type of board for small waves are high-performance shortboards which are designed for intermediate to highly experienced surfers. These provide great acceleration alongside the ability to manoeuvre them in the waves.
For waves between 2 to 6 feet, an all-round performance board offers control in all types of waves. These are most suitable for intermediate and advanced surfers. When it comes to big waves, experienced surfers require something which will handle powerful swells. In this case, a step-up performance board is excellent for waves between 4 and 8 plus feet.
4. The Cost
As with any purchase you make, the cost is going to affect your overall decision. If you have an unlimited budget then you can simply choose a board based on other aspects, such as waves, your height and weight, as well as ability and fitness level. However, if you have a specific budget in mind, then you’re going to be more restricted in your choice. The good news is that you can still purchase a great surfboard on a budget. Foam boards are a great choice for beginners, and they are relatively affordable. For surfboards for more advanced surfers, you’re likely going to have to spend more as these are designed to give you ultimate control in the water.
5. Your Height and Weight
Height and weight play a key role in choosing the best board. An approximate guide for beginners considers your weight. This naturally works best if you are of average weight for your height. Up to 55kg (usually a child), a surfboard of between 5”6 to 6”6 should be considered. Weights up to 70kg should choose a board between 6”8 to 7”2, up to 80kg should contemplate a size of between 7”2 to 7”6. If you weigh up to 85kg, select a size between 7”6 and 8”6, while up to 90kg can choose between 8”6 and 9”2. Weights of up to 100kg or more should consider a size of 9”2 or more. This isn’t a definitive guide but it’s a good starting place if you’re ready to invest in your first surfboard.
6. Fitness Level
Your fitness level influences the type of board you buy. After all, the fitter you are, the easier you’re going to find riding your board and handling getting on and off it. If you’re new to surfing or you feel that you won’t have much stamina in the water, opt for a surfboard that is wider and thicker than you would have normally chosen. By choosing this, you’ll be able to get enough power on your board even if you’re unable to paddle into waves. Alternatively, you may want to select a surfboard with a thicker volume as you can use less energy when paddling into waves. Consider the other tips on this list before making your decision as your height and weight may also affect your overall fitness and endurance in the water.
7. Surfboard Nose Shape
Does nose shape have an impact on your surfing? Yes. The front section and the nose of your surfboard is the first thing that hits the water. A surfboard with a pointed nose cuts through the water as you’re paddling, reducing the drag. Additionally, it diminishes the amount of swing weight as you’re turning. A rounder nose tends to be wider, meaning there is more volume. This can provide better paddling, making it best for beginners.
The shape of the tail, as well as the back section is a good indication of the movement of the board while standing. Ultimately, the tail shape suggests the amount of the surfboard’s rail in the water. More rail generally means the board is more stable when standing. However, this also means that it’s much more challenging to turn the board. Wide tails like square and squash shapes can provide better lift in smaller waves, whereas narrow tails, such as pin and round shapes can manage speed in big waves. If you’re riding small waves, pin tails can give an under-par performance, so this is something to consider when thinking about your favourite boards and your ability level. If you are looking for the best of both, you may wish to choose a swallow/fishtailed surfboard as these offer a good lift in smaller waves and the ability to manoeuvre as you’re riding more powerful waves.
The construction of a surfboard will affect the price but it’s an important aspect to think about when making your purchase. You may be wondering if the type of material used impacts the board. There are several materials but the most common type tends to be traditional foam, covered in fibreglass. This type is more fragile than others and needs to be treated with care. These high-performance boards offer exceptional performance and are highly recommended for intermediate to experienced surfers. An alternative to fibreglass is epoxy. Instead of being coated with a thin layer of resin, the board is covered with epoxy, providing a harder exterior. Foam boards are softer and more durable so you don’t need to take quite as much care with them. Some surfboards use cork instead of foam but they both offer a softer impact if your body hits them in the water.
The perfect volume depends on each individual surfer. Many professionals consider volume to be the main factor when choosing a surfboard. However, it really depends on your weight and height as well. Volume is measured by multiplying the length with width and height. In other words, height x length x width = volume.
Low volume surfboards mean that your board volume is lower than the recommended volume for your weight and height. Based on your ability and weight, a beginner should opt for a board with 2-3lbs per litre of volume. For intermediate surfers, this should be 4lbs per litre of volume, while advanced riders should choose 5lbs + per litre of volume.
Lower volume boards are best for intermediate to experienced surfers as the board will be lower in the water. This type of board works well in small and medium-sized waves as there is less speed and more drag. On the opposite end of the scale are high volume surfboards. This is when your suggested volume is less than the surfboard’s volume. These boards are ideal for beginners and are regularly used to teach those new to surfing. That’s because they are easier to balance on and offer better support for your body. If you don’t have much experience in the water, a high volume board is the best option for you as you’ll find them more straightforward to ride.
You can also take surfboard shape into account when buying your board. Different shapes are suited to different riders. As beginners tend to practice in small, short waves, a mini malibu can give you the best experience. These are long, high volume boards that are simple to paddle and are relatively stable in the water. Hybrid boards have the best features of varying surfboards. They tend to have a wide nose and less wide tail, offering flexibility for both small and large waves. Hybrid surfboards may be best for intermediate riders who are growing their skills in the water. Shortboards are perfect for fast surfing. They have a pointed nose, sharp rails and less volume so they provide a powerful ride. Finally, longboards boast a narrow tail and round nose. They are 9 feet in length or more, offering a smooth experience for surfers. Despite having a lot of volume, these boards are better for more experienced riders as they can be challenging to handle, particularly due to a lack of dynamics. While they are easy to paddle on, a complete beginner may struggle to stand up and ride waves.
12. For Kids
For children, the type of surfboard to buy will ultimately depend on their age. However, a soft top surfboard is a good investment for younger children as they help to cushion the body when falling over. This will boost their confidence when growing their surfboarding skills. Soft surfboards normally have a height of 5 foot 6 inches and up. If you have a child that isn’t a beginner to surfing and is progressing their skills, you may want to contemplate a size of 6 foot 2 inches and upwards as these are much easier to turn. Ensuring that their surfboard is light enough for them to control in the water is essential for most children.
When it comes to brands, you’ll find several that offer great quality surfboards to invest in. You may already have your preferred brands, especially if you’ve surfed before. Every surf shop has plenty of boards to choose from. Some of the brands you’ll discover include Bic, Torq, Takayama, ABC, Hold Fast and Softech. All of these offer different types of sizes and volumes for beginners and those who are more experienced surfers.
Knowing How to Choose a Surfboard Is Easy with Our Top Pro Tips
By using our top professional tips you now understand how to pick a surfboard that suits your personal requirements. Whether you’re choosing your very first surfboard or are looking to upgrade your equipment, follow our advice to get the very best board for your budget and your desires. To get inspired before hitting the waves, check out our list of the best surf documentaries.
Now You’ve Got Your Surfboard Sorted, You’ll Be Needing Surfwear
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Indie Bornhoft is a personal trainer and watersports coach, who encourages her clients to make movement their mantra. She has coached every ability in wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP fitness, and windsurfing for over ten years, and is highly qualified in all disciplines. Discover more about her drive to just keep moving and be inspired to connect to the raw power of body & spirit through fitness.