When starting out, getting a surfboard that helps you to progress quickly and easily is key to having fun out in the surf and learning.
With so many different surfboards on the market, many people want to know which length of surfboard is needed to learn to surf on and whether bigger boards do help with surfing progression.
So, are long surfboards better for beginners? Yes, longer surfboards are better for beginners as they have more float and help you to catch waves more easily. However, for some beginners, shorter boards can also work – as will be explained below.
Let’s have a look at all the factors for why longer surfboards are almost always better for beginners, as well as who they might not be better for.
Is a longer surfboard easier?
Generally speaking, the longer the surfboard you ride, the easier it is. This is because boards that are longer have more surface area and then float you that much more.
The surface area from the bottom of the surfboard in the water means that it will glide through the water and float extremely well.
This added glide and float is great in a couple of ways.
Firstly, because it helps you to paddle more quickly. Having an easy board to paddle can help you to get out into the right position faster, as well as with catching waves or just getting out of the way of others.
This is really noticeable when first starting since your paddling strength and technique won’t be that developed, meaning that you might struggle to paddle.
Any extra help is therefore definitely welcome.
The second reason why having an easy board to paddle on when learning to surf is because it helps you to catch waves more easily.
Catching waves more easily therefore means getting more waves each session. As I am sure you can already figure out, catching more waves more quickly means faster progression and learning when surfing! It’s also a heck of a lot more fun to catch lots of waves than to be sat there flailing for a long time (we’ve all been there!!)
Longer Surfboards Made for Beginners
You will also see that longer boards are quite often made for beginners. You can tell this from a few things in their shape, design and materials.
Longer surfboards that are perfect for beginners will have a wide template and rounded nose and tail.
They will generally be 7-9 feet in length and should state that they are good for learning on.
Many of these longer boards will be referred to as ‘funboards’, ‘mini mals’ or perhaps even as ‘eggs’.
You will also see that a lot of them have a soft foam top. This is a great option for beginners since the foam makes them much more forgiving in a couple of ways.
Firstly, when you fall off a soft foam top surfboard, they won’t hurt as much if they hit you. You might also find it hard to fall off properly the first couple of times and end up landing partly on the board when falling, which can hurt on a normal board but won’t be a problem on a soft top.
The second reason is
Why Longer Surfboards Aren’t Always Better for Beginners
Although being a good option for many, longer surfboards aren’t always the best type of surfboard for beginners, as I’ll explain below.
The main reason for this is size or volume. As a surfboard gets longer, the volume of the board increases. With more volume comes more material and therefore more weight.
This added weight can be a problem as some longboards can weigh as much as 23 pounds (10kg).
Although that might not sound like a huge amount, when it comes to carrying a 9 foot long surfboard down a beach that is both wide and awkward to hold, things can get quite hard! Throw into the mix a bit of wind and carrying it can be a real problem, meaning that you might drop it or just be put off using it, which you definitely don’t want to happen!
This issue of weight also then leads into our next point, as explained below.
Height and Weight of the Rider
Shorter and lighter riders probably won’t want to get a longer board to learn to surf on.
In the case of kids, a longer board is going to be very heavy to carry and their arms may not be able to actually fit around the board to hold it in the first place.
This means that they will always need help to carry a bigger board, and also will be a bit more intimidated by it when they are out in the surf.
In a similar vein, shorter, lighter adults may struggle with extremely long surfboards, especially ones that are longer than about 8 feet in length.
To give you some context, my wife bought herself a beautiful new longboard that is 9’2 in length, but with that length comes 22.75” of width and 2.75” of thickness, with a hefty amount of volume at 66 liters; all this has a good amount of weight to go with it, probably around 23 pounds (10kg).
Now, my point is that I am 6’0 tall and about 165 pounds in weight, yet I can barely carry her longboard down the beach! My wife, by comparison, has a rather petite frame and is only 5’3” tall, meaning that the only way that she can carry the board is by putting it on her head or taking some kind of sling to carry it with.
If we know that height is proportional to ‘wing span’ or the length of your arms, then shorter learners will definitely struggle with longer boards.
On the flip side, being shorter will usually mean also being lighter in weight, which is a bonus since boards shorter in length should float shorter riders just fine and will be good for learning on.
Shorter boards are also cheaper, so that’s another bonus of riding a shorter board when starting out on your surf journey.
How Long Should a Beginner Surfboard Be?
As recommended previously, you can follow these general rules to get the right size surfboard for you (or a friend) to help you learn to surf more quickly:
|Surfboard Length||Rider Weight||Rider Height|
|>9 feet||>190 pounds (>86kg)||>6’0”|
|8-9 feet||120-190 pounds (54-86kg)||5’5”-6’2”|
|7-8 feet||<120 pounds (<54kg)||5’-6’ (1.5-1.83m)|
|<7 feet||<100 pounds (<45kg)||<5’2” (<1.57m)|
Remember that quite a few beginner surfboard product descriptions will provide a weight guide, so be sure to check those out before actually buying a board.
There is still quite a lot of room for flexibility in the guidelines above so keep these as a rough estimate rather than a fixed number.
You should also consider the volume of a surfboard before buying, too, as this will give you an indication of how much float it will have.
Remembering that a long but extremely narrow and thin board won’t help you to learn should be a good guide, but for more detail, see my in-depth guide to beginner surfboards!
Are soft top surfboards easier? Soft top surfboards are generally easier to learn on because they float extremely well and help you to stay really high up on the water. This added float means that it is easier to paddle and catch waves on a soft top surfboard compared to many other types of board.